Killing with Calcium

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If a little is good, a lot must be better, right? How else to explain the medical profession sending people (women mostly) off to take 1200, 1500 and even 2000 mg of elemental calcium per day. Even the medical profession will acknowledge that all the calcium in the world won’t rebuild bone-mass, but, at best, simply forbid further withdrawal. Yet they continue to promote absurd amounts of calcium, without any evidence to support their position, and in the face of evidence that suggests that huge amounts of calcium are in fact dangerous.

Why do they recommend such high levels of calcium? Well it all started in the 50’s and 60’s when studies were done using calcium carbonate without any co-factors. Now they have finally allowed that vitamin D might be important, but they have yet to clue into the relationship between calcium and magnesium. Since their original reference studies used the most difficult calcium to digest (carbonate) given on an empty stomach, in a tablet, without magnesium, let alone other co-factors such as zinc and potassium, they needed to get subjects to consume huge amounts of calcium before they could register any noticeable benefits.

Calcium carbonate is the same material that chalk is made from. “Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed a stark contrast between calcium taken as part of the normal diet and mega-dose calcium in the form of chalk. The more calcium the women took in the form of chalk, the higher the incidence of kidney stones; the more calcium in the form of food, the lower the incidence of kidney stones.” Beyond Aspirin; Thomas M. Newmark & Paul Schulick; Hohm Press, 2000.

Magnesium is so important to calcium absorption that a study done not long ago with post-menopausal women, gave them only magnesium, without calcium, and halted bone-loss. Why? Because most people in the West consume dairy products, and thus get plenty of calcium, but don’t consume enough dark leafy greens, to get enough magnesium to fully assimilate the calcium. And calcium is so dependent on magnesium that in its’ absence calcium will actually leach magnesium out of your system. This put you into heart disease territory, since the heart depends on magnesium to beat regularly. Thus an irregular heartbeat (or “flutter”), can usually be rectified by increasing ones’ magnesium intake. Another symptom of low magnesium is muscle cramps (“Charlie horses”). So, what happens when you go to the average doctor and tell him you have muscle cramps? He sends you off to buy calcium. The fact is: calcium contracts, and magnesium relaxes. Magnesium sulphate for example (Epsom salt), is used in a bath to relax muscles.

Now, the other problem with excessive calcium intake is the tendency of the body to deposit it in joints, creating arthritic conditions and bone spurs. If anyone has calcification anywhere in the body, the natural treatment is to stop ingesting calcium as supplements and from dairy products, and to simply take 500 to 600mg of magnesium per day (as citrate) for a few months, until the magnesium has emulsified the calcium deposits down to a level that eliminates the symptoms. This calcification in the joints can be one reason why glucosamine doesn’t work for some people’s arthritis. There is no room in the joint for the glucosamine to get in and rebuild the cartilage. Supplements containing “saponins” can be of benefit here, as they function like an internal detergent to wash cellular debris, like calcification and uric acid crystals, out of the joints. Such items include alfalfa, yucca, ginseng, aloe, soybeans, olives and quinoa.

Every 2 parts of calcium uses approximately one part of magnesium. Thus most cal-mag products are in a 2 to 1 ration (eg: 300mg calcium to 150mg magnesium). And this is fine for those who don’t use dairy products, but for those who do use them on a regular basis (almost daily), I feel it is more important to pay attention to their magnesium intake. For the average dairy consumer, I will suggest a one to one ratio of calcium to magnesium, ideally about 500mg of each, in a capsule or liquid form, since tablets generally are un-digestible. Now this ratio only works for people who are comfortable with that amount of calcium, since once you get much above 500mg of magnesium, you can find yourself in laxative territory.

Why would you be satisfied with only 500mg of calcium per day? Well, the historical average intake of a human in a traditional diet is from 350 to 500mg per day. These are cultures that rarely show signs of osteoporosis. Yet we in the West get more calcium than at any other place or time in history, and yet have more osteoporosis, and dental decay than any of these so called primitive societies. Consider it a loose conspiracy of bad science and dairy-board propaganda. So, we take in 500mg elemental calcium with an equal amount of magnesium (and remember, this is for those already consuming some dairy products on a regular basis). Half of that magnesium is going to be used right away by the calcium, but half of it is still going to be available to help your body absorb the calcium found in the rest of your diet.

Now instead of overloading the system with too much of one element, calcium, we will add substances that are powerful co-factors in the absorption of calcium, items that actually will channel the calcium back into the bone mass and contribute to rebuilding it. The two best substances are the trace minerals boron and silica. Silica is available in a few different forms, but currently I would recommend it in the form of aqueous extract of bamboo or horsetail, for the purposes of bone rebuilding. Silica also keeps your arteries flexible, skin elastic, and strengthens hair, teeth and nails. Boron has also been used to treat arthritis, has been shown to protect against prostate cancer and may have benefit in regulating estrogen in women and testosterone in men (3mg per day).

When we see how these trace mineral can help absorb the macro-minerals, it becomes obvious how ridiculous it is to suggest as many doctors do, that you take your isolated calcium, maybe with vitamin D, on an empty stomach, before bed. Calcium in food will exist with countless other elements (there are 70 to 90 trace minerals alone in topsoil), and if we know that magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, potassium, silica and boron all improve the assimilation of calcium, then it stands to reason that many other dietary factors may also be important to fully absorb and utilize this important mineral. So take it with a meal, in divided dose (250mg at each of two meals is reasonable: the body cannot absorb anything more than 500mg of calcium at once, so if you are using higher amounts, do not take more than this at one meal.)

If I’ve offended you or your doctor, I’m sorry, and really it’s not their fault. The medical associations prevent them from even talking about supplementation or alternative treatments, and they spend very little time studying nutrition in medical school. But, when we look at the health crisis facing North America as the boomers age en mass, it is apparent that the obvious solution is an integrated medical system that encourages alternative and preventative health care.

Ken Peters

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