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Calcium Controversy

This is what the headlines looked like this past February, following the release that tracked over 36,000 women, ages 50 -79 for seven years. If you were to read the headlines and even the quotes of many of the “medical experts”, you would have thought that taking calcium was a total waste, possibly even dangerous. However, when the details are looked at closely, the results that this research exposed were even greater than I would have expected, given the circumstances.

The study, was supposed to have evaluated half the women taking 1,000 mg. of calcium and 400 mg. of Vit. D per day, versus half the group receiving a placebo. However, one problem was that women who were in the placebo group and were taking calcium prior to the study were allowed to continue on their calcium. The other main problem was that a significant percentage of the women (41%) who were supposed to be taking their calcium daily, did not take it on a regular basis. Thus, the result of those two flaws in the study, led to the overall group not showing any significant difference in reduce risk of fractures. And of course this is what the news media chose to highlight (controversy always sells best and please remember that is what the media is doing, selling newspapers or magazines or web site viewership).

However, when they analyzed the results of the women who took their calcium at least 80% of the time (that is what was considered “faithful”), there was a 29% reduced risk of hip fractures! That is actually quite impressive. Please understand, hip fractures are really the only reason we even hear about osteoporosis. The reason hip fractures are so important is that they are the primary cause of death associated with osteoporosis. Over 40,000 women per year die secondary to fractures of the hip due to osteoporosis. Again, if it wasn’t for these deaths this matter subject would not be significant.

When we then take into consideration that most of these women were likely to be taking the cheapest form of calcium, which in the past has been shown to be far inferior to higher quality calcium, the potential for improvement is significantly greater.

So lesson number one here, and please remember this as it is critical to your health in this “information age”, “research or the media’s interpretation of research, can be dangerous to your health”!

Now regarding calcium and the differences in quality. There are huge differences in quality of calcium and research over the years has shown this to be the case. The most commonly sold is the cheapest form of calcium and not one that I ever recommend to patients. The primary reason is that this form of calcium is much more demanding to process.

Additionally when it comes to calcium and bone health and health in general, it is very important that the product we choose is much more than just calcium. The reason for this is, as in all cases where calcium is used in the body, is there are other nutrients that are critical to the use of calcium by the specific cells. In the case of bone health, there are many other minerals, trace minerals, vitamins and other co-factors that go into the making of bone. Additionally, besides bone health, there are many other cellular functions that calcium contributes to. A list of some of the systems of the body that are dependent on calcium for optimal function as well as, some of the common symptoms that can be associated with calcium deficiency include: the brain and nervous system, muscle function, immune system, skin health, blood pressure and normal heart beat, our hair, nails, sleep, blood clotting ability, and of course our teeth.