Is Calcium Really Dangerous Like We’ve Seen on the News?

There have been several news reports and studies lately saying that calcium supplements lead to an increase in heart disease and that even calcium plus low dose vitamin D leads to an increase in heart disease. In addition they claimed it showed no, or minimal improvement in osteoporosis.   Most are relying on a study published online May 23rd in the journal Heart.

I saw one report in a daily email targeted to doctors that prescribing calcium and vitamin D doesn’t help osteoporosis and leads to increased heart disease, so they are better off to make sure their patients aren’t taking them and they should stay on their prescription drugs for osteoporosis.

So with these kinds of headlines, is it safe to take Calcium and or Vitamin D supplements?  Yes it is, but you need to take a critical look at these studies and understand the basis of how calcium is used in our bodies.

First, Calcium alone can lead to the problems above due to the calcification of soft tissues, like hardening of the arteries and atherosclerotic plaque. What these studies failed to do was provide adequate amounts of magnesium along with calcium. When you eat a well balanced diet you are receiving both calcium and magnesium, unfortunately according to the USDA 57% of americans suffer from inadequate magnesium. Magnesium is a key ingredient to reduce the risk of heart disease because it is a calcium channel blocker.

Second these studies omitted adding vitamin K to the supplements. Studies have shown numerous times that we receive far too little vitamin K in our diets and that once vitamin K levels are raised that there is a 57% reduction from dying from cardiovascular disease  and most of those with blocked arteries and heart valve damage show low vitamin K status.  Furthermore, women taking vitamin K have reduced fractures by 81%.  So vitamin K both helps increase circulatory health and reduces fractures.

So these studies which have looked at just calcium or calcium and vitamin D omitted two other key nutrients which would have completely reversed the outcome of the studies – Magnesium and Vitamin K.

Now if we look beyond just cardiovascular health and also look at skeletal health and avoidance of osteoporosis, which is why most people take calcium in the first place, then three other nutrients are critical to enable your body to move calcium into the bone matrix:

  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D, the new wonder nutrient, enhances calcium absorption in the small intestine and calcium utilization in bone formation. Vitamin D also influences the utilization of phosphorus, another mineral that is important for strong bones.
  • Silicon – This gives stability to all the connective tissues of the body and is essential for proper calcium utilization. Silicone is key to the calcium mineralization of the bone matrix.
  • Boron – Boron reduces calcium excretion and increases the deposition of calcium in the bone.
So if you’re taking calcium supplement for bone health, make sure it also has magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, silicon, and boron. The omission of any of these key nutrients will reduce the effectiveness in the prevention of osteoporosis.
The proportions of these nutrients in your supplement and diet are also important. Ideally the amount of calcium should be twice the amount of magnesium. In the the case of the supplement we use and recommend, it has 800 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium  per serving. (proper dosage is 2 servings per day, so twice the above amounts.)
As always just because the label says it has certain amounts of certain nutrients isn’t necessarily a guarantee that it does. ConsumerLabs has found far too often that supplements are lacking in stated nutrients and often, contain lead as well. Inexpensive super market, big box, and drug store brands often use minerals as found in the earth which brings along lead and other undesirable elements.  High quality supplement will use primarily chelated minerals. That means they are bound to organic amino acids, just like they are when you obtain them from fruits and vegetables.