I took calcium for many years among other supplements as I competed in wrestling. I didn’t consider or investigate the supplements deeply. I just took them.
Vitamins and minerals are healthy, right? And calcium strengthens the bones; that’s how milk is advertised!
I wanted a stronger, healthier body. The faster and easier I could achieve that, the better. And what is easier than popping a few pills per day. When taking supplements, it feels like you are doing something for your health. Even if you are not.
I quickly stopped taking calcium supplements when I became aware of the health risks they yield.
Calcium supplements – Why not?
The five study findings which not only suggest that calcium supplementation may be unnecessary but also harmful are that they:
- increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
- increase mortality (!!!)
- increase the risk of kidney diseases
- do not improve bone health (!!!)
- are not necessary for sufficient calcium intake
Calcium is not the only supplement that I took for years, which later turned out to be useless. Multivitamins were a stable part of my kitchen cabinet. Though not as harmful as calcium, they don’t provide any health benefits either. I will write a post about multivitamins and their drawbacks later.
But let’s get back to the point! Let’s see what studies have found out about calcium.
1. The Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
In a study concluded in 2012, which followed 12 000 men for a ten year period, found out that the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases was 20% higher in study participants who took calcium supplements compared to men who didn’t take them. (1)
The researchers suspected that the supplements may promote vascular calcification and the formation of kidney stones.
2. Deteriorating Kidney Health
Kidney stones consist mostly of calcium. In the United States in the 1990’s, it was discovered in an observational study that the prevalence of kidney stones increased as the use of calcium supplements grew more common. (2)
Another American study observed that calcium acquired from food did not heighten the risk for kidney diseases, but supplemental intake did increase the risk for kidney stones. (3)
3. Increased Mortality
In an extensive Swedish study regarding calcium intake followed sixty thousand women for nineteen years.
The researchers found out that the risk of death from all causes was elevated by 40% in women, who had a high intake of calcium (over 1400mg per day). And a staggering 157% higher risk of death was seen for women who, in addition to high natural intake of the mineral, also took 500mg or more calcium as a daily supplement. (4)
4. Calcium and Bone Health
Commonly calcium is being supplemented with the notion that it would improve bone health. In a meta-analysis made in 2012, it was discovered that calcium intake higher than the recommended intake did not improve bone density. (5)
Another meta-analysis from 2007 included seven prior studies. The researchers found out that calcium supplements did not improve bone health. And in fact, the risk for hip fractures seemed to increase with those who supplemented with the mineral. (6)
5. Optimal calcium levels can be achieved without supplements
By eating real food. When browsing the many nutrition databases that are available on the internet, it can be seen that all food has calcium. There is a lot of minerals in the soil from where they spread throughout the whole food chain. Foods particularly rich in calcium are for example green vegetables, fish, cheeses and other milk products.
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and bone development. Vitamin D is not found in many foods. As I wrote in the Vitamin D Testosterone article, vitamin D has to be gained either from sunshine or supplements. If your region has many consecutive winter months, vitamin D supplementation is needed to prevent a deficiency of the vitamin.
By taking care of gut health. A recent American study showed that the absorption of calcium was markedly increased when the test subjects were given a GOS prebiotic supplement (galactooligosaccharide), which increased the amount of the beneficial bifidobacterium species in the colon. A previous Dutch study found the same positive health effect of prebiotics on the absorption of calcium. (7, 8)
So, eating real foods with a healthy lifestyle, possibly with vitamin D and prebiotic foods or supplements are the best ways to ensure optimal calcium levels. I use this vitamin D product in the winter. For prebiotics, both this and this are high quality.
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The writer or writers of this blog are not doctors. The content in this blog is not meant to treat or diagnose any disease. If you make any changes to your diet or lifestyle, you do so at your own risk. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.