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The Importance of Calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it is “required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions.” Most of our calcium is stored in our bones and teeth, rather than floating around in our blood. Serum levels are tightly controlled by the body and will not fluctuate much, except for in major diseases.
A Nutrient in the Hot Seat
Calcium, from dietary intake to its form as a supplement, is probably most well-known for its relationship to bone health; however, trials on its efficacy are mixed. Some studies only show small increases in skeletal benefits and others report null results.
Calcium has also been a hot topic in many other trials of various diseases. In topics, such as cardiovascular health and mortality, the associations are also mixed. Studies with calcium are vast, some include:
- beneficial associations with ovarian cancer risk and preeclampsia
- prevention of esophageal cancer
- links to heart health and blood pressure (more on this below)
- mortality and renal stones risk
- and more…
This controversy with calcium’s risk versus harms, as well as with other nutrients, is an ongoing debate in medicine. This is for many reasons that I will review in more detail next week, and a few I discuss below.
The Goldilocks Dosage of Calcium- One Reason for Conflicting Effects
As I just discussed on my Healing, Health, and Wellness blog, nutrients need to exist in a delicate balance, not too high or too low. Due to today’s modern environment, many tend to be more deficient in levels of vitamins and minerals that would support optimal health. (You can read more about that here.) This is the case for calcium as well.
Science Daily recently stated, “Calcium is something of a double-edged sword. Too much of the essential element is as dangerous as too little, either case adversely affecting health in animals from humans to mice to fruit flies.”
According to a 2000 study, although the role of calcium is essential and diverse, it must be maintained at the appropriate levels. The authors state, “Cells have a calcium signaling toolkit with many components that can be mixed and matched to create a wide range of spatial and temporal signals. This versatility is exploited to control processes as diverse as fertilization, proliferation, development, learning and memory, contraction and secretion, and must be accomplished within the context of calcium being highly toxic.”
Below are the RDAs, which are based on a general, “normal,” healthy population. As I also explained in the Healing, Health, and Wellness blog, these values do not consider what is optimal for an individual’s unique physiological needs, biochemical individuality, or disease states.
|Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Calcium |
|0–6 months*||200 mg||200 mg|
|7–12 months*||260 mg||260 mg|
|1–3 years||700 mg||700 mg|
|4–8 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|9–13 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|14–18 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|19–50 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|51–70 years||1,000 mg||1,200 mg|
|71+ years||1,200 mg||1,200 mg|
* Adequate Intake (AI)
An article in the Natural Medicine Journal written by Tori Hudson, ND, explained a responsible viewpoint on the need for calcium in the general population. She stated, “Most adults in the U.S. have a dietary calcium intake of 500 mg-1,000 mg/day, which means supplementing an additional approximate 500 mg/day in pill form is recommended. It was never intended that we eat 1,000 mg/day and then take another 1,000 mg-1,200 mg/day.”
This same article also addressed some of the reasons behind the conflicting data associated with calcium and cardiovascular mortality. The original 2016 article in Annals of Internal Medicine was a metanalysis of 4 randomized trials (in 10 publications) and 27 observational studies. Dr. Hudson summarized the conclusions as follows:
- Calcium intake with or without vitamin D either from food or supplements had no helpful or harmful risk for cardiovascular events in healthy adults.
- Calcium from either food or supplements that did not exceed the “tolerable upper level of intake” is safe in relationship to cardiovascular health.
- These conclusions were primarily from observational studies. The two previously published meta-analyses that showed some excess risk in randomized trials were considered unreliable by the current authors and reviewers.
- Dietary sources of calcium may be preferred over supplements because it is easier to avoid any excess. Excess calcium may cause gastrointestinal side effects, increase the risk for kidney stones and interfere with absorption of medications.
These were similar conclusions to a 2017 review of calcium and vitamin D. The authors also went so far as to say that most safety studies were so unreliable, firm conclusions could not be ascertained.
Here’s the summary so far:
- Calcium is essential for our bodies to function.
- Clinical trials for its efficacy are mixed.
- It cannot reliably be blamed for cardiovascular events.
- It may be necessary to supplement it in certain cases and for many individuals with poor diets.
- Caution should be taken on taking large doses of calcium, especially as a single, isolated nutrient.
The Calcium-Bone Myth
For years, many women have been “fed” the line that calcium is the sole nutrient for bone health. Although it may be the most predominant nutrient in bone, it is not the sole determinant of a strong skeleton.
As Susan Brown, “the Bone Doctor,” states:
Bone health depends not so much on calcium intake, but rather on its metabolism and utilization. The major players in this regard are vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium — which are woefully under-publicized in the campaign against osteoporosis.
Dr. Brown states that at least 17 other nutrients are also important for bone health. A 2012 article in Open Orthopedics Journal supported this claim and emphasized several of these key nutrients for optimizing skeletal health. You can read the importance of evaluating all the different factors at play for bone health here.
Later this week, I’m going to discuss a supplement that does account for the many of the factors needed to optimize calcium’s functioning in the body. This includes addressing mineral-nutrient interactions while incorporating other supportive ingredients for bone health.
December 2017 Top Holistic and Integrative Health Reads Highlights and Link
Before this busy month progresses on, I almost forgot to post last month’s Top Holistic and Integrative Medicine Reads… again. As usual, the microbiome headlines peeked my interest with its own special section.
Check out some of my favorite topics on the bugs we love:
- A Poop Pill for C. Diff
- Exercise Effects Microbes in Mice and Men
- Homemade Yogurt May Help IBS Symptoms Resolve- Pilot Study
- A New Method to Classify Microbes That Combines Epigenetics (Methylation Patterns) with Genetics
- Fiber, Mice, and Microbes
- Infant Gut Microbiome Associated with Cognitive Development
My favorite read: Mapranosis- A New Term for Microbes Role in Neurodegeneration. Gotta’ love that new scrabble word!
For the full list of the most recent microbiome studies and other topics in health, nutrition, and medication updates click here. You can skim through the rest of the headlines and topics, read the articles, and/or just give a glance. Happy reading!
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)