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  • Dr. Peter Stucz

“What About My Calcium?”

Calcium Deficient

In 2001, Americans consumed 23 gallons of milk per person and 30 pounds of cheese. [USDA’s Economic Research Service]  Despite the country’s appetite for dairy products, one out of every two women over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. The number of physician visits for osteoporosis increased 4- fold between 1994 (1.3 million visits) and 2003 (6.3 million visits). Even stranger, in many dairy-avoiding countries, people get through life with far fewer of the age- related hip fractures that plague Americans.

Calcium Supplementation (not dairy) Associated with Greater BMD in Women Cross-sectional results indicated that higher dairy product consumption is associated with greater hip bone mineral density (BMD) in men, but not in women. Calcium supplementation protected both men and women from bone loss in the longitudinal study.

Dairy intakes affect bone density in the elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2004

Supplements of calcium (792mg/day) have been effectively shown to increased the build up and bone mineral content in teenage girls

Calcium supplementation and bone mineral accretion in adolescent girls: an 18-mo randomized controlled trial with 2-y follow-u“. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. February 2008

Dairy, Calcium and Osteoporosis

Milk and other dairy products contain only small amounts of magnesium. Without the presence of magnesium, the body only absorbs 25% of the available dairy calcium content. In turn, the excess remaining calcium can cause problems. Calcium builds up the mortar on arterial walls which becomes atherosclerotic plaques. It can be converted by the kidneys into painful stones that can block the urinary tracts.

Excess calcium also contributes to arthritis. Osteoporosis is not a problem that should be associated merely with lack of calcium intake.

Processed Foods and Bone Health

Research has found that lifelong consumption of foods rich in potassium and magnesium, notably fruits and vegetables, made for strong bones in aging men and women. Am. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [3/99] People who consume highly processed foods often don’t get enough potassium and magnesium. Sources of potassium are bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, and melon. Sources of magnesium are whole grains, nuts, beans, dark green vegetables and fish.

What is a “processed food”?

Convenience canned foods with lots of sodium like ravioli or chicken noodle soup would be considered “processed foods”. Other processed foods and ingredients would be white breads and pastas made with refined white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, packaged snack foods (like chips and cheese snacks), frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners, packaged cakes and cookies, boxed meal mixes (really read the ingredient label on these!), sugary breakfast cereals, processed meats (see our July 2006 newsletter). This is not an exhaustive list, but we think you get the idea. We strongly encourage you to eat food is in freshest, most natural state. Use frozen varieties only when fresh are not available.

Can Dairy Consumption Cause Calcium Loss?

The massive amounts of protein in milk results in a 50% or greater loss of calcium in the urine.   In other words, by doubling your protein intake there will be a loss of 1-1.5% in skeletal mass per year in postmenopausal women and this, multiplied over 20 years, is considerable. The calcium contained in leafy green vegetables is more easily absorbed than the calcium in milk. Don’t get us wrong…protein is very important for other bodily processes. However, if you are concerned about calcium intake, getting your calcium from milk may not be the best option.

Douglas Kiel, MD of Harvard Medical School states, “Normal digestion produces increased acidity. In this environment, bone acts as a buffer base. Minerals of are drawn out of the bone to neutralize the acid, thereby reducing the strength of bone. Fruits and vegetables help to prevent this loss of bone mineral density because they create a more alkaline environment in the body. They neutralize the acid without depending on the buffering effects of the bone minerals.”

D3 and Calcium Supplementation Reduces Fractures Among Elderly Women

Each day for 18 months, 1634 women took 1200mg of elemental calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D3, and 1636 women received a double placebo. The number of hip fractures was 43% lower and the total number of nonvertebral fractures was 32% lower among the D3/calcium group than among those who received placebo. The bone density of the proximal femur increased 2.7% in the D3-calcium group and decreased 4.6% in the placebo group. Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in the elderly women. N Engl J Med. 1992

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best source of Vitamin D to take. Be sure to visit our website newsletter archives for our October 2007 Newsletter on Vitamin D.

Where Should I Get My Calcium?

For a reference point, 1oz of cheese has 207mg and 8oz milk has 300mg of calcium.

1 cup collard greens 357 mg              

1 cup rice milk (plain, calcium-fortified) 200-300mg

1 cup turnip greens 249 mg                        

1 cup black eyed peas 211 mg

1 cup kale 179 mg                            

2 tablespoon sesame seads 176 mg

1 cup okra 176 mg                           

1 cup bok choy 158 mg

5 medium figs 135 mg                      

1/4 cup almonds 97 mg

1 cup broccoli 94 mg                                  

1/2 cup amaranth 74 mg

1/2 cup dried apricots 43 mg                                  

1/2 cup quinoa 25 mg

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses 137 mg

Alternatives to Dairy: Nut and Rice Milks

Non-dairy milks are good choices for those who choose to avoid cows’ milk. You can use them for cooking or on your cereal for breakfast. Nut milks (e.g. almond milk) are usually the most nutritious, since rice milk is almost purely carbohydrate (and therefore high glycemic and not recommended for diabetics) and soy milk may act as a hormone imbalancer.

Federal Law requires that we warn you of the following:

  1. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only.

  2. Your individual health status and any required health care treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your chosen health care provider. Therefore, we encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Source: Article provided by Science Based Nutrition™

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