Calcium, Osteoporosis and Heart Disease

If there is one thing Iíve learned, itís that when it comes to diet and nutrition, what we’ve been told all along is often wrong. One such thing is that to protect our bones we need more
calcium. It makes sense, right? Donít bones contain calcium? But maybe itís not so simple!

What always struck me as odd is that Americans already drink more milk and take more calcium supplements than just about anyone else and yet also have record rates of
osteoporosis and old age fractures. Could we be missing something?

An article recently published in the journal Medical Hypotheses provides a shocking new theory. According to the authors, a number of studies prove definitively that a lower lifetime
intake of calcium is associated with fewer – not more – fractures in old age and that this is not the result of genetic differences!

The authors then theorize that taking too much calcium somehow inhibits the innate ability of bones to heal tiny fractures that happen inevitably with aging. Once the bones lose the ability to repair these minor traumas, more severe ones ensue. (1)

Of course it is important to realize that if the intake of calcium fell below a certain threshold the number of fractures would increase again, so as for everything else in nature, there is
an optimal balance and more is not better. In my opinion this optimal balance not only relates to the total amount of calcium but, maybe even more importantly, to the ratio of calcium
with magnesium and other minerals.

But this is not all. A second article, also recently published in the same journal, points out that there is enough evidence from numerous published studies to recommend a dairy- and
calcium-restricted diet for people who suffer with atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries. (2)

Of course, atherosclesoris is calcification – or calcium buildup – that blocks the arteries, and I have always thought it strange that conventional medicine decided to only focus on cholesterol and never even consider that calcium could also be a culprit.

Aside from these articles, researchers are seeing atherosclerosis increasingly as the end result of a chronic inflammatory process in the artery walls. This process eventually leads to
abrasion and damage of the artery itself, which the body patches up by laying down calcium with cholesterol acting as glue.

Osteoporosis itself has been described as the result of chronic inflammation, since the inflammatory process needs calcium to perpetuate itself and ends up leaching it out of the
bones. A classic example of this is gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, which is known to eventually lead to osteoporosis in the jawbone and loss of teeth.

In this context, calcium is at least a two-edged sword. The calcium you might take to protect your bones could be instead fueling an inflammatory process that will eventually result in
both heart disease and osteoporosis!

My advice is not quite to throw all calcium out of the window, but to take moderate amounts of it with enough magnesium and other minerals as well as trace minerals that actually
have counter-balancing effects and help reduce inflammatory processes in the body.

1. “Lifetime high calcium intake increases osteoporotic fracture risk in old age.” Med Hypotheses, 2005; 65 (3): 552-8

2. “The case for dietary calcium restriction in patients with atherosclerosis” Med Hypotheses, 2005; 65 (3): 521-4

Comments are closed.