We were all informed as kids that milk is good because it is rich in calcium. If we wanted to have strong bones, we should drink up! So what is calcium and why is it beneficial for your body?
What is calcium?
Calcium is an essential element that aids in the modelling of our bones, assists in smooth and skeletal muscle contractions and helps balance our body’s pH levels.
What are the greatest sources of calcium?
The top 3 calcium rich foods are:
- Raw milk/Yogurt/Kefir
- Broccoli (cruciferous vegetables)
Who is at risk of developing a calcium deficiency?
- Vegans and vegetarians (the oxalic acid and phytic acid from spinach and legumes reduces the bio-availability of calcium)
- Females who are menopausal. Calcium levels will decrease when a female enters menopause due to a decline in intestinal calcium absorption and an increase in urinary calcium excretion. It is estimated that menopausal females will lose (2%-3% per year) bone mass more rapidly the males.
- Elderly people.
Optimal levels of calcium (according to the Australian Nutritional Guideline):
Male and Female Adolescents (12-18 year old): 1300 mg per day
Male (19-70 years old): 1000 mg per day
Male (70 years plus): 1300 mg per day
Females (19-50 years old): 1000 mg per day
Females (51 plus ): 1300 mg per day
Health benefits of Calcium
- Calcium’s biggest claim to fame is its ability to act as a building block for bone deposition. Low consumption of calcium rich foods leads to the body extracting calcium from the bones and delivering it to the muscles (priorities are given to the function of smooth and skeletal muscle contraction).
- Calcium assists with smooth muscle contraction. This is particularly useful for people who have high blood pressure (hypertension).
- Calcium aids in skeletal muscle contraction. Without calcium, we would not be able to develop muscles to assist in heavy lifting exercises.
- Calcium can decrease your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer.
Is Calcium supplementation bad?
Many people have contacted me regarding previous studies that suggest that calcium supplementation has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. I’ve even gotten into heated debates with rheumatologist over this subject. It is indeed fact that large doses of calcium (1000 mg plus) through supplementation can have adverse effects, primarily causing what is known as arterial calcification. This is where calcium solidifies in the blood; forming small bone spurs that build up as plaque. Once the plaque ruptures, it can form a clot which in turn leads to a heart attack or a stroke. However, calcium supplementation is not harmful if taken with Magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K2. This is an important point to remember as vitamin D is needed to help absorb both calcium and magnesium through the GI tract and vitamin K2 is necessary to activate a protein called Osteocalcin. Think of this protein as a taxi; it carries the calcium and magnesium from the blood and delivers it to the bones/muscles. If the vitamin K2 and magnesium were not present, the calcium would be left to lurk in the blood; causing the build up of plaque.
The take home message is never consume a calcium supplement by itself. Rather consume a high quality supplement that contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D.
- When supplementing with calcium, make sure to not consume it with foods rich in phytic acid and oxalic acid (legumes, lentils, beans, leafy greens) as it can hinder its absorption.
- Less than 500 mg of calcium is best to be supplemented at any given time as only 5-10% of additional calcium will be absorbed. If possible, take 500 mg of calcium in the morning and 500 mg of calcium at night.
- Always choose calcium in the chelated form as it has a superior bio-availability compared to the salt form.
This is information that I have gathered from journal articles and my experience. Please seek advice from a holistic GP to determine what is best for your health.
Please contact Dr. Daniel Lombardo for more information or if you have any questions about calcium supplementation.