Last week, I showed you how you can completely avoid dairy and still have healthy bones. You can find calcium in a lot of foods, not just dairy. And many take calcium supplements to make sure they get enough. One subscriber who had done just that recently wrote me asking which form of calcium she should take to prevent osteoporosis. My answer was “magnesium.”
That’s because most of us need more magnesium than calcium to prevent bone loss. You need magnesium to drive calcium into your bones, which is where you want it. And, unlike calcium, most people don’t get enough in their diets and dietary supplements.
Doctors tell us to take 1,200-1,500 mg of calcium a day. I disagree. Studies show this is much more than you need. The issue is calcium absorption, not quantity. Most diets contain plenty of calcium — even when you don’t eat or drink dairy products.
But magnesium is NOT the only supplement you need for healthy bones. You also need vitamin D. Like magnesium, your body needs sufficient vitamin D before it can absorb calcium. So just how much vitamin D do you need? And how much calcium?
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The results of a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research may surprise you. It looked at around 10,000 people of all ages and found that getting enough vitamin D was more important than getting high amounts of calcium. In fact, it concluded that women don’t need more than 566 mg of dietary calcium a day (and 626 mg for men).
That’s right. Dietary calcium. This study found no reason to take high amounts of calcium in supplements. In fact, the researchers suggested that taking more calcium may be important only for women with vitamin D levels less than 50 nmol/L! And this you can get from your diet.
What did they consider to be enough vitamin D? Not 30 nmol/L as many say. Not even 50 nmol/L. You need at least 75 nmol/L. The most common result I’ve seen in patients is around 30 nmol/L. That’s way too low to protect your bones, your heart, and your immune system.
Calcium deposits from high consumption can lead to arthritis and heart disease. Instead of depending on calcium to keep your bones strong and healthy, get your vitamin D level checked through a simple blood test any doctor can order. Then, if your level is lower than 50 nmol/L, start by taking 5,000 IU per day in supplement form. Re-test after three months. You can find 5,000 IU of vitamin D in health food stores and through Advanced Bionutritionals. Make sure you get vitamin D3, the most active form.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Science Daily, March 15, 2010.