Calcium is back in the news. But the news isn't surprising to me or my subscribers. I've been saying for years that too much calcium causes brittle bones.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared studies on calcium and hip fracture from 1966 to 1999. It found no association between the amount of calcium women consumed in their diets and their risk of hip fracture. None! Previous studies showed that taking calcium supplements weren't protective, either.
Now another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (February 2006) is saying that calcium and vitamin D supplements give only limited protection. Still, most of what we hear from the media is to eat more dairy products and take more calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis. What's going on?
This question takes me back to a concept that many women have difficulty understanding. It's one I've been talking about for 21 years. I find myself explaining this concept over and over again, as it goes against the conventional wisdom.
But here goes: If you take too much calcium, whether from your diet or supplements, it will cause your bones to become brittle.
Yes, calcium will make your bones dense. But it will also make them so brittle that they're actually more prone to breaking. And unabsorbed calcium can cause kidney stones, arthritis, and heart disease.
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Fortunately, there's an easy way to create strong, flexible bones. Take more magnesium along with your calcium.
Take a look at your multivitamin/mineral and see how much calcium and magnesium are included. Most supplements contain twice as much calcium as magnesium. They're too high in calcium and too low in magnesium to form flexible, youthful bones. And if you're eating a lot of dairy, you're getting even more calcium. Dairy products are very low in magnesium, causing a wider gap between these two minerals.
Action to take: Go easy on the dairy, and make sure you eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables. If you take a supplement, make sure you take one that has equal amounts of calcium and magnesium. A good amount is 500 mgs of each. One brand that has the right amounts is Vitality Plus .
Remember, bone density is not the only issue. The problem is in bone brittleness – something that can't be measured by even the most sophisticated diagnostic tools.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Xu, L., et al. "Does dietary calcium have a protective effect on bone fractures in women? A meta-analysis of observational studies," British Journal of Nutrition, 2004, April;91(4).