CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTATION: CRITICAL TO YOUR HEALTH OR DANGEROUS?
Updated: Jun 2, 2018
Medical literature has shown that insufficient calcium intake will cause bone loss and lead to osteoporosis and life-threatening fractures.[i] Calcium supplementation is critical for optimal health; however, could it also be dangerous?
Even before I specialized in nutritional medicine, the one accepted nutritional recommendation for women entering menopause was calcium supplementation. Because of the concern about the development of osteoporosis in our patients, the overwhelming majority of physicians were recommending calcium supplementation. Then a major study reported in the June 2012 issue of Heart Journal[ii], which followed almost 24,000 Europeans taking calcium supplements, found that their risk of heart attack was double compared to those who did not take calcium supplements. Specialists in nutritional medicine reviewed this study carefully and found many design flaws that skewed the results. However, it was very hard for any researcher to completely ignore such a large clinical trial that cast a negative light on one of the medical community’s major nutritional supplement recommendations.
Most individuals who consume calcium supplements take them either alone or not in balance with other essential nutrients. It is sometimes forgotten that bone is active, living tissue continually remodeling itself through osteoblastic (bone forming) and osteoclastic (absorption of bone) activity. It is constantly engaged in biochemical reactions, which are dependent on many different micronutrients and enzyme systems. Like any living tissue, bone has diverse nutritional needs. The American diet, with its high intake of white breads, white flour, refined sugars and fat, has been shown to be deficient in many of the nutrients essential for healthy bone. Inadequate intake of any of these nutrients could lead to osteoporosis. In order to reduce the risk of fractures of the spine, hip and wrist, we must pay attention to several factors: 1) preserving adequate bone mass; 2) preventing the loss of the protein matrix; and 3) making sure that the bone has all the proper nutrients to repair and replace damaged areas. This is why I recommend that all my patients provide their body with cellular nutrition (ARIIX Optimal-V™ and Optimal-M™). I define cellular nutrition as providing all the essential nutrients to the body at optimal or advanced levels (those levels that have been shown to provide a health benefit). However, in my patients who have developed osteopenia or osteoporosis, I recommend adding additional calcium supplementation.
Magnesium: Calcium’s Equal
Most researchers now believe the problem with calcium supplementation is the fact that calcium is either supplemented alone or in poor balance with other nutrients. The first thing that jumps out at you in the medical literature is the fact that calcium supplementation needs to be balanced with magnesium supplementation. The overwhelming majority of individuals are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can induce elevation of intracellular calcium concentrations and accelerate hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).[iii] You must remember that calcium is a component of the plaque found in our arteries. When calcium builds up in our arteries, it can lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. If a person takes high amounts of calcium without magnesium, they may very well be accelerating the occlusion of their arteries in their heart and brain.[iv] In fact, it is very important that calcium and magnesium be supplemented in a 1:1 ratio.
Just as important as this 1:1 ratio in your calcium/magnesium supplementation is the quality and absorbability of the type of calcium and magnesium. Most companies will use calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide as the main component of their calcium and magnesium supplement. Clinical studies show that calcium carbonate becomes harder to absorb the older we get (this is usually the case in our older patients who are actually suffering from osteoporosis). Other studies show that only about 4 to 10% of the magnesium is absorbed from magnesium oxide. If balance and having adequate amounts of magnesium in our cells is key to helping protect our arteries from calcium supplementation, taking poorly absorbed magnesium places our arteries at risk. If you are going to supplement additional calcium to strengthen your bones, you certainly want to be sure you are going to absorb it. That being said, absorption of your calcium not only depends on taking highly absorbable calcium like calcium citrate and calcium malate, but also on having adequate levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D: The Secret to Calcium Absorption
You can’t absorb any calcium unless you have adequate levels of vitamin D in your body. A review article in the July 19, 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine makes a very strong argument that the overwhelming majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin D and need to be supplementing their diet. Therefore, any calcium/magnesium supplement must also provide adequate amounts of vitamin D. I have always recommended supplementing with vitamin D3 (the most highly absorbable form of vitamin D). When my patients add their calcium/magnesium supplement to the cellular nutrition I recommend to all my patients, they receive even higher doses of vitamin D3.
Vitamin K2: The Traffic Cop
In my research, the most exciting aspect of calcium supplementation came down to the fact that we need to be adding vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 actually acts like a traffic cop. It literally attracts the calcium you absorb from your diet and supplements into the bone where it can be used effectively to build stronger bones. It accomplishes this goal by stimulating a protein in our bones called osteocalcin. Osteocalcin actually grabs on to calcium and holds it in place in our bones.[v] What is even more exciting is the fact that while vitamin K2 is attracting calcium to bone, it is blocking its uptake by our arteries. Vitamin K2 accomplishes this goal by activating another protein in our soft tissue called Matrix GLA Protein. When our bodies have adequate amounts of vitamin K2 — not vitamin K1 — these activated proteins prevent calcium infiltration into our soft tissues like our arteries.[vi] Published clinical studies reveal that vitamin K2 can help build stronger bones while protecting against cardiovascular disease. Individuals with higher intake of vitamin K2 had a 57% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.[vii] Women who took vitamin K2 in supplementation had a reduction in nonvertebral fractures as high as 81%.[viii]
Safe and Effective Supplementation
In conclusion, I feel that my patients who are concerned
about their bone health, heart health or overall health need to be supplementing with what I refer to as cellular nutrition (ARIIX Optimal-M™ and Optimal-V™ and/or Moa™). If they are beginning to develop thinning of the bone (osteopenia) or actual osteoporosis, I add a calcium/magnesium product. I want this product to contain highly absorbable calcium citrate and calcium malate, along with magnesium amino acid chelate, magnesium taurinate and magnesium glycinate in a 1:1 ratio. It should also contain adequate levels of vitamin D3. It is critical that your calcium/magnesium supplement also contain vitamin K2 (not K1). This is how and why Magnical-D™ by ARIIX was developed. Calcium supplementation is critical to our overall health. However, it must be done with the approach explained above to keep it safe and effective.
-Guest post by Dr. Ray Strand, ARIIX Scientific Advisory Board Member