Calcium: Both Friend and Foe
- Created on Monday, 02 October 2017 02:22
I am not interested in taking calcium supplements. There is a little calcium in the multi that I take but very little. They can’t put much calcium in a multi because it would fill up the multi with calcium and leave little room for anything else. So, most multis have little or none. And that’s fine with me because I am not interested in consuming a lot of calcium. I don’t think I need to.
When the government recommends that you get 1000 mgs of calcium every day, they do so on the expectation that you will absorb about 20% of it. The rest passes right through your system. But when you consume less calcium and particularly a low amount of calcium, your body cranks up all the mechanisms by which you absorb and retain calcium. So, you might actually wind up absorbing just as much. But, even if you don’t, you might be better off because calcium is involved with a lot of pathologies. For instance, when they speak of “hardening of the arteries” it’s calcium that they are talking about. It's calcium that makes your arteries hard. Doctors consider the most reliable indicator of clogged coronary arteries to be the coronary calcium CT scan. I don’t recommend it because it involves a lot of ionizing radiation. But still, it is measuring calcium in the heart and it is telling doctors that your arteries are clogged.
So, calcium gets deposited in arteries, and it is no damn good when that happens because it is an end-stage process. The original clog was soft: an atheroma made of cholesterol and other things. Calcium enters the process late in the game. And it is not easy getting it out. Some people undergo intravenous chelation therapy to pull calcium out of arteries, but I really don't know how effective it is. Calcium can also get deposited in organs and tissues. Look what happens to the pineal gland. In my most people, it becomes completely calcified. Calcium can be deposited in the skin causing wrinkles. It can get deposited at the ends of tendons causing calcific tendonitis. Of course, everyone knows of the havoc that calcium can play within the urinary system. Most kidney stones are calcium based.
The truth is that calcium is as much associated with disease as with health. But, don’t you need a lot of calcium for your bones to prevent osteoporosis? First of all, osteoporosis is not fundamentally a disease of calcium deficiency. The loss of bone calcium in osteoporosis is secondary to the loss of bone protein. Osteoporosis is more like sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss. Again: the loss of calcium is secondary, and plying the body with calcium to prevent or ameliorate osteoporosis involves a lot of wishful thinking.
If a person wants to, they can get a heck of a lot of calcium from food alone without taking supplements and even without eating dairy. But, it would involve eating voluminous amounts of vegetables like collards, kale, broccoli, bok-choy, etc. I eat those foods, and I make a point of it, but I’m not going to tell you that I eat them in prodigious amounts. I eat them in moderate amounts. It gets rather gassy if you eat a whole pot-ful of kale. And I would not be inclined to do it because I’m just not worried about the calcium.
So, how am I doing on my relatively low calcium intake? I am pretty sure I am doing OK, and here is what I am going by:
1) My height: I never had a whole heck of a lot of it, but neither have I lost very much. I may have lost a small fraction of an inch, but that’s all. I mean no more than half an inch from my top height. And that is fantastic for a man who is 66 years old. I meet people my age all the time who have lost at least one inch, and maybe two inches or even three inches. So, I think I am doing very well that way.
2) My teeth: They’re holding up. I am not getting new cavities. My gums are healthy. I haven’t suffered any tooth fractures. I have do have enamel erosion from acid foods and whatnot. And I have definitely been a tooth grinder in my sleep. I haven’t gotten one of those mouthguards, though I probably should. But overall, I am doing well with my teeth.
My blood level of calcium has always been normal, but that doesn’t mean much because there are hormones and Vitamin D that maintain that regardless of what your level of calcium consumption is. And I do take Vitamin D3 which helps me absorb calcium. I don’t think I am suffering at all from too little calcium, and I think the government’s requirements are too high.Think about it from the standpoint of human history. For most of human history, people ate no dairy. That’s a relatively recent development. And even after dairying started, it only affected a relatively small percentage of people. Asia, for instance, has never had a dairying tradition. So, without dairy, where did they get calcium? There are leafy greens, as I mentioned, but it doesn’t seem likely that primitive people would have eaten voluminous amounts of them. Some amount yes, but it’s low density food; density in terms of calories; and back then, it wasn’t about avoiding and restricting calories but getting them. So, I have no reason to think that primitive people consumed high calcium diets. They certainly didn’t get 1000 mgs a day.
So how much should I and others get? I am inclined to think that 400 mgs would fine if all the other things are positive favorable, such as: getting enough physical activity and sunlight, eating whole natural foods; maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels (which is really only possible with supplements) and maintaining good digestive health so that your absorption is good. If you’ve got all those things going for you, then yes, 400 mgs of calcium a day is plenty sufficient.
But, what about a short, petite, small-boned woman? Shouldn’t she take a lot of calcium? Well even in her case, I wouldn’t recommend going higher than 400 mgs of calcium a day in supplement form. Enough is enough. I know of no evidence that more is better. And again, I repeat: osteoporosis is fundamentally a disease of bone protein wasting; and the loss of calcium from the bone is secondary.
Every time you consume calcium, you need to ask yourself: Where is this calcium going? You can’t just assume it’s going into your bones. Maybe some of it will, but if some is going to go into your arteries and organs and skin, then you need to think about how much you are ingesting, and erring on the side of less may be safer than erring on the side of more.