Ounce of Prevention | The dark side of calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, serving many vital functions, including circulatory and muscular activity, nerve conduction and hormonal secretion. Calcium is critical to our body's structure and function, with 99 per cent of your calcium being stored in the bones and teeth.
Calcium is one of the most widely promoted dietary supplements. Women, for example, are constantly being advised by the media to take calcium tablets and to consume more calcium-rich foods, especially dairy.
Calcium can be toxic
As explained earlier, most of the calcium in the body is found in the bones and teeth. However, as we age, there is an ongoing tendency for calcium to leave the skeleton and move into the soft tissues. This process called calcification, promotes disease and premature ageing, as excess calcium inside the cells is toxic. Calcium belongs mostly in the bones and outside the cells.
Calcium accumulation in the walls of blood vessels leads to hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. Calcium-infiltrated plaques can block blood vessels and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Heart specialists use special tests to determine the amount of extra calcium in the heart (a calcium score). The higher your calcium score, the greater your risk of a heart attack. In fact, research has suggested that people taking calcium supplements only were about twice as likely to have a heart attack. Other specialists look for the presence of excess calcium in the female breast as this may indicate breast cancer.
Magnesium balances calcium
Doctors involved in nutritional medicine have long known that supplementing with calcium alone is not wise. It should always be combined with magnesium. This is because magnesium is nature's calcium channel blocker. There are actually channels or pathways through which calcium travels to enter into the cells. The mineral magnesium regulates those channels and prevents excess calcium from getting into the soft tissues. Magnesium deficiency can elevate calcium in cells and tissues to unhealthy levels.
I am amazed at the widespread prescribing of expensive and often dangerous calcium channel-blocking drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart disease without any attention to nature's simple option. If unbalanced, calcium supplements do increase heart attack and stroke risk, it has a lot to do with magnesium deficiency. The US Department of Agriculture reports that almost half of the American public suffers from inadequate magnesium intake. So when taking calcium supplements, combine it generously with magnesium and eat magnesium-rich foods.
Calcium needs Vitamin D
But the calcium we consume in our diet or in supplements depends heavily to vitamin D for its absorption. If you are deficient in the sunshine vitamin, all the calcium you take will not get absorbed and get to your bones to fortify them. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because our greatest source of it comes from the sun. When sunshine strikes your skin it converts cholesterol in the skin cells into vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D makes your bones brittle and painful. Indeed, you will tend to feel aches and pains all over. Extra daily direct sunshine with enough calcium rich foods will correct that problem
The Vitamin K2 connection
Nature has another tool to keep excess calcium out of your arteries and tissues - vitamin K2, a form of vitamin K in the diet that provides vitamin K1and bacteria in the colon convert K1 into K2. Our modern diet, however, provides little vitamin K and most older people now suffer calcification of their brain, glands, heart valves, and arteries. Vitamin K causes bones to retain calcium while locking it out of the cells of tissues and walls of the arteries.
People with the higher levels of vitamin K2 cut their risk of dying from heart disease or stroke by over 50 per cent. Those with blocked arteries and damaged heart valves have low vitamin K2 levels. Taking vitamin K2 reduced fractures by over 80 per cent in women.
There are several excellent food sources of calcium aside from dairy. These include: seeds, sardines, and tinned salmon, beans and lentils, almonds, green leafy vegetables, fortified foods and drinks e.g., some cereals and boxed orange juice, soy milk, tofu and Edamame. Dairy sources include milk, cheese, yoghurt, and whey protein.
An alternative medical therapy called chelation therapy is a very effective way to remove excess calcium from our tissues and blood vessels.