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calcium – to supplement or not to supplement

calcium supplement tablets, bottle and vitamin D supplement bottle

calcium – to supplement or not to supplement

It is all very well to tell people not to eat dairy. I have no idea where we are supposed to be getting our calcium from. I have been monitoring all of my intakes recently, and on a good day I manage to get to 300 mg of calcium on a good day! Where are we supposed to be getting the 1000 mg of calcium we need per day?

Lets hit the books

calcium supplement tablets, bottle and vitamin D supplement bottleSince it is Monday I could be hitting the literature (although, Monday is perhaps not the best day to do this! The start of the week is hard enough!). And so I will endeavour to find answers on whether to supplement calcium or not. It is fairly well understood that supplements are no where near as good as getting the minerals and vitamins in your food. At this point I just can’t see how without dairy and without supplements, we are going to end up without deteriorating bone mass, and fractures and osteoporosis and all the things that come with that!

Heart disease and calcium supplementation

Firstly, it needs to be said that the studies showing that calcium supplementation can promote heart disease are varied and inconclusive. A study that reviewed the literature for evidence of the fact that calcium supplementation can result in heart disease found that the benefits of supplementing with 1000 mg – 1200 mg of calcium daily outweigh the theoretical risk for cardiovascular events. (1) There needs to be larger studies done which are analysing the risk of cardiovascular disease as a primary output of calcium supplementation. (2)

Exercise and osteoporosis

One study found that exercise was more important than calcium supplementation in maintaining bone mass. (3) I am still concerned about calcium though. If there is something in the pH theory, then our body uses calcium to neutralise acidic foods, and basically sucks it out of our skeleton and teeth!

Supplements or dairy?

cheese wheels at a market in BaselA study found that supplementation of calcium with cheese resulted in a greater bone density than supplementation with similar amounts of calcium in a tablet form. (4) One of my original questions was, is it better to get calcium from dairy products, or is supplemental calcium okay? And this study finds that in fact cheese results in a greater bone mineral density.

Supplemental calcium

One more study showed that supplementation with calcium did increase bone density above levels of the control group, and that this tracked through until one year after supplementation had ceased. The group who had taken supplemental calcium still had better bone density than those who did not take a supplement. (5)

Lactose intolerance – goat’s cheese

That goats cheese is so delicious. Mmmm. But if you can’t digest it, you can’t digest it. For the small amount of people who still produce lactase into their adulthood and happily digest milk, I would say GO FOR IT! (perhaps) haha. For the lactose intolerant community, I would say that probiotic supplements can help you to digest more readily the lactose in cheeses, and that goats cheese might be an option.

Otherwise, it would seem that supplementation with calcium has not been found conclusively to cause cardiovascular disease, or cognitive decline (6), and that it is better than chugging along on 300 mg per day. I would say. However, it is preferable to get your calcium from food sources.

That goats cheese is looking more and more appetising, hehe. That or develop a taste for sardines. haha. ūüôā

References

1. Downing L, Islam MA. Influence of calcium supplements on the occurrence of cardiovascular events. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.  2013 Jul 1; 70 (13): 1132-9.

2.¬†Rautiainen S,¬†Wang L,¬†Manson J,¬†Sesso H.¬†The Role of Calcium in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease‚ÄĒA Review of Observational Studies and Randomized Clinical Trials.¬†Current Atherosclerosis Reports; November 2013, Vol. 15 Issue: Number 11 p1-23, 23p.

3. Shenoy S, Dhawan N, Singh Sandhu J. Effect of Exercise Program and Calcium Supplements on Low Bone Mass among Young Indian Women- A Comparative Study. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine Sep2012, Vol. 3 Issue 3, p193 7p.

4. Cheng S, Lyytikäinen A, Kröger H, Lamberg-Allardt C, Alén M, Koistinen A et al. Effects of calcium, dairy product, and vitamin D supplementation on bone mass accrual and body composition in 10-12-y-old girls: a 2-y randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005 Nov; 82 (5): 1115-26, 1145-9.

5. Dodiuk-Gad RP, Rozen GS, Rennert G, Rennert HS, Ish-Shalom S. Sustained effect of short-term calcium supplementation on bone mass in adolescent girls with low calcium intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005 Jan; 81 (1): 168-74.

6.¬†Rossom RC, Margolis KL.¬†Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation and Cognitive Impairment in the Women’s Health Initiative.¬†Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Dec 2012, 60 (12). 2197-2205.

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