Calcium used to be simple to understand.
It was as easy as drink lots of milk – which contains Calcium – and you'll have strong bones and healthy teeth.
Not any more!
Not only is there an epidemic of Osteoporosis raging right across the world, mostly in the 50 years and older age group.
But many research studies have been published showing that, for example, calcium gives some protection against colon cancer and that it may increase your risk a tiny amount of having a heart attack.
A more complex picture of calcium supplements is emerging and challenging some of the old ideas.
So what do we do?
We start with going back to basics – where does calcium come from?
Calcium is found in many plants and foods and dissolved in sea water and plants such as kale and seaweeds such nori and wakame.
In the human body we have a little calcium in the bloodstream but 99% of your calcium is found in our bones.
Calcium rich foods are Yogurt, Tofu and sesame seeds as well as milk, cheese and Whey powder and suprisingly Chilli powder.
So it looks easy to get enough calcium to keep our muscles working and our bones strong but if it so easy to get enough calcium why is there so much Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that shows up after mid life and consists of our bones becoming more porous – ie weaker and more likely to fracture in a fall or accident.
Up to one in four post menopausal women suffer from osteoporosis.
How does all this occur in a country such as America where there is such a culture of dairy farming and drinking milk?
Staying down to the basics – there is a lot more to a bone than calcium. Each of the 206 bones in the body is an organ with a blood supply to the bone cells and fibres of collagen. The structure is complex with ridges for ligaments to attach and anchor our muscles.
Each bone is a living and changing organ and is not just a dead chunk of calcium.
Why does this matter?
Because once we realise that bones are complex we have many ways in which to make them stronger.
How To Strengthen Your Bones With my 1-2-3 Action Plan
First – Weight bearing exercise – many studies have been done on elderly people lifting weights and showing very promising results. Their strength increases rapidly and their bone density increases.
But if you don't fancy pumping iron you can go for a walk. Walking with ordinary shoes on, not trainers or other foot ware that cushions the feet and prevents full benefit from the walking. If pain prevents walking the pain must be healed first so you can get down to that walk.
Walking benefits the bones right through the body – not just the legs and hips, so make sure you get a "Supplement of walking – yeah let's call it "Vitamin W" shall we!
Second – Vitamin D is crucial so you can absorb the calcium in your diet. Most people do not get any vitamin D even if they go walking so a supplement of vitamin D3 is important – dose needs to fixed by your blood level but a minimum is 1000 iu a day and you may need much more.
Third – vitamin K. This neglected and overlooked vitamin may be a major cause of weak bones. Elsewhere I have called vitamin K, the "Calcium traffic cop" because it seems to tell calcium where to go and what to do in the body.
We need K daily and it is found in green leafy vegetables and who eats those every day? I do, but it is good to take a supplement of vitamin K2 daily too.
There is another 1-2-3 too – 3 things that reduce your calcium and your health and they are Caffeine, smoking and alcohol.
Of course it is a matter of degree. if you are drinking soft drinks, sodas then they have no redeeming qualities at all and should be replaced with water, milk etc
And although caffeine may be a small negative feature I am still going to drink one or 2 cups a week!
The positive factors above are very strong, after all.
Beyond the Bones
Whether or not the small New Zealand study of very elderly women that seemed to show that in an increase in heart attacks amongst calcium supplements is valid remains to be seen.
There is much evidence showing the opposite and the study may turn out to be a fluke of have a subtle fault seen only when you go through all the details.
And a much larger American study did not show this effect!
If you avoid calcium from fear of a small number of negative studies you risk more health problems than by taking supplements.
It is always open to you to follow a calcium rich diet and the 1-2-3 Action plan above and take a good multi and a few grams of vitamin C
Feel free to use the comment section below…