Leyla Weighs In: The truth about bone health, part one: It’s not just about calcium

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| By Leyla Muedin MS, RD, CDN

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General nutrition advice is rampant with oversimplifications—some of which I find to be deleterious. An accurate example of this is the importance placed on a single mineral, calcium, for the prevention of osteopenia and osteoporosis. This is analogous to making the claim that, in a forest containing some 300 species of trees and plant life, a single species is the sole determinant to the health of that ecosystem. Pretty ridiculous, right? 

ts_thumbsupxray_sm2I have witnessed downright panic from individuals when they forget to take their calcium supplement. Don’t forget there are plenty of calcium-containing foods, such as: collards, spinach, almonds, broccoli, kale, sesame seeds, turnip greens, beans and peas, tofu, canned salmon and sardines with bones… and I didn’t even mention dairy products yet! And, if you make your own soup and stock from scratch, you’re getting the calcium that is released (leached) out of bones into the broth. Adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the simmering stock enhances this process.

We no longer recommend calcium supplements at doses of 1,200 mg a day—even for osteoporosis. Preliminary research reveals that excess calcium may promote calcifications in blood vessel walls and in soft tissue, like breasts. We will keep you apprised of any further research in this area.

We know that vitamin D deficiency is epidemic throughout much of the globe. Vitamin D is the bus that drives calcium to the bones. Without ample amounts of vitamin D, calcium is excreted through urine. What does all this mean? It’s highly likely that you’ve been absorbing less than 10% of the calcium in the supplements you’ve been taking—especially if you’re sun-phobic or slather on lots of sun block before going outside.

Stay tuned next week for Part II when I’ll discuss a few more critical players in bone health: Vitamin K, magnesium and omega-3’s.

To your health!

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