My Take On...
Calcium Wrongly Accused?
Recently the media have reported research suggesting Calcium supplements increase the risk of heart attack in women.
Here’s a closer look at what the EPIC study showed. The European Prospective Investigation On Nutrition And Cancer has regional subgroups in every country. Researchers looked at the German subgroup to assess Calcium supplements and their effect on cardiovascular disease, presumably because Calcium has been shown to have preventive effects for other diseases. This was an observational study, that is, there was no specific intervention. Participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their health habits for the last year. The data from this collection of responses was analyzed using complex statistical fancy footwork. However, the conclusions were based upon foundational material that was a bit soft and squishy. This study was based upon self report of nutritional supplements with no indication of approximate daily dose or clear identification of type of Calcium (we’ll talk later about Calcium compound types.) In this EPIC subgroup there was one group that triggered alarm bells - a group of older women, less educated, with a longer smoking history who were taking Calcium without any other supplements. This is the group who had a higher incidence of heart attacks.
In short, studies implicating Calcium as a bad actor could not say how much or what kind of Calcium they were pointing to. Stay tuned, there will be better studies from North American Centers. Most importantly there are many other studies pointing to Calcium’s benefit as a preventative for osteoporosis and cancers.
So…what to do now? Until further notice, no changes in your current Calcium supplement use.
Some important factoids may prompt you to ”tweak” your current regimen a bit:
• Calcium and Magnesium are two of the most common and important substances in the human body. They are elemental partners and work best when available in a ratio of 2 parts Calcium to 1 part Magnesium.
• Most of the United States population is deficient in both Calcium and Magnesium. No surprise since fresh green leafy vegetables are the best source.
• Oral Calcium supplements occur as salts: Carbonate, Citrate, Gluconate, Lactate, Aspartate, etc.
• Calcium Carbonate, the most common product and the most cost effective, has an average absorption of +/- 35%. This form is constipating and should be taken with food. TUMS and Coral Calcium are Calcium Carbonate.
• Gluconate and Lactate are not efficient sources as they require 10-12 pills to achieve proper dose levels.
• Citrate is the best Calcium salt. It has better absorption with or without food, and there is no constipation.
• Calcium supplements do not cause kidney stones! In fact a low calcium diet does.
• Magnesium deficiency has been associated with increased blood pressure, osteoporosis, asthma, diabetes and headache.
• Bedtime is a physiologically opportune ingestion time, because PTH levels (parathyroid hormone - your Calcium regulator) are low and absorption is enhanced.
• However, if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, spread out your dosing to 2 even 3 times daily to improve the absorption.
Bronson Product 16B is an old favorite. A “good enough” mixture of Calcium Carbonate and Citrate:
3 Tablets = 1000mg Calcium & 500mg Magnesium.
Emerson Ecologics Product #CA233 is a better approach. It is a mixture of Calcium Citrate & Magnesium Oxide:
4 Tablets = 1000mg Calcium & 600mg Magnesium.
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