While calcium is a critical nutrient for the body, particularly known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, high intake of the mineral doesn’t necessarily lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis. In fact, excessive calcium may make your bones weaker.
Large Harvard studies of male health professionals and female nurses reported that individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than those who drank two or more glasses per week. When researchers combined the data from the Harvard studies with other large prospective studies, they still found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk. Moreover, there was some suggestion that calcium supplements taken without vitamin D might even increase the risk of hip fractures.
In traditional Asian countries where both dairy consumption and overall calcium levels in the diet are the lowest, bone fracture rates were also the lowest. The incidence of hip fracture in mainland China and Japan were among the lowest in the world in 80s and 90s, but has risen markedly with urbanisation. Conversely, in countries like the United States where calcium consumption is among the highest in the world, so are the fracture rates among the highest. Clearly, its not only calcium in the diet, other nutrients and lifestyle factors are involved.
Osteoporosis is a complex multi-factorial disease including several factors like inadequate exercise, chronic inflammation, multiple mineral and vitamin deficiencies, nutritional imbalances and not simply lack of calcium in the diet.
Calcium sources vary widely in their bio-availability and several factors that affect absorption of calcium include vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin K, protein, sodium, dietary acidosis, and dysbiosis.
Dietary acidosis reduces calcium absorption. It is caused by excessive consumption of acid forming foods including animal protein, dairy and meat. Additionally, consumption of highly acidic substances like coffee, carbonated drinks, alcohol, sugar, over the counter and prescribed drugs, and even the metabolic byproducts of chronic stress can all put the acid-alkaline balance beyond the tipping point. On the flip-side, the under-consumption of alkalinizing fruits and vegetables can compromise bio-availability of calcium. For this reason, perhaps vegetarians who consume plenty of fruits and vegetables may need less calcium than meat eaters and many cultures manage on much lower intakes.
Other factors like dysbiosis, an over growth of unfriendly bacteria in the gut due to certain medications or faulty diets can compromise absorption of nutrients including calcum. Many common medicines including antacids, steroids, thyroxine, diuretics interfere with calcium metabolism.
Consumption of excessive calcium through diary products, supplements and imbalanced diets may be making our bones weaker. In addition excess calcium can deposit into soft tissues, leading to osteoarthritis, muscle cramping, insomnia, constipation or kidney stones. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation must be taken under medical supervision.
For optimal utilisation of calcium, it is important to take adequate levels of nutrients including vitamin D, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and boron, together with exercise. Vitamin D can be obtained either through exposure to sunlight, or as a supplement. In other words there is no substitute to eating right and exercising. Calcium rich foods and supplements alone will not prevent osteoporosis.
Ways for preventing osteoporosis
* Adequate dairy and foods rich in bio-available calcium, particularly in adolescence (>3 glasses of low fat milk/dairy/day).
* Include soy and flaxseeds in your diet.
* Balanced diet rich in antioxidants, fruits and vegetables.
* Good intestinal health.
* Adequate exposure to sunlight.
* Avoid excess sodium, caffeine, phosphorus, protein, & alcohol.
* No more than three cups of coffee a day