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.