How many times have we heard the advice, frequently generated by fear, to supplement with calcium? Women are the primary target for this recommendation, as the possibility of osteomalacia or osteoperososis awaits them as the years reel by. Many continue to supplement with calcium even after the breaking news a few years ago by the media, indicating that perhaps calcium isn't the bone saver as once thought, parlaying the story to indicate that it may indeed advance the possibilities of cardiovascular risk.
How does calcium partake in our health? This essential mineral provides us with a wide range of biological roles, from being a primary constituent of bone to partaking in nerve conduction. Over 99% of the total calcium load in mammal’s bodies is found in the bone and teeth. At first thought, it does indeed seem as if we should supplement ourselves with this mineral on a daily basis, until we begin to search a little deeper on the realities of calcium and what actuallyoccurs biochemically with this element.
The basic superior active state of calcium within our bodies is found in the form of an ion, meaning it is not attached to another compound or element. It is the biochemical reaction within our bodies which takes this ion and joins it to other compounds or elements of importance; an example is hydroyapatite, which is calcium bound with phosphorus and bicarbonates, forming our bones. Please note that calcium supplementation is almost never sold in an ion state. It is generally always linked with a salt or other compound (calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, etc.). Being inevitably attached to another compound biochemically disallows the calcium ion to effectively participate in the vital roles which are required of it. When we hear of calcium supplementation, the idea is correct, but the technology of delivering it in a supplemental form so as to liberate an ion is near to nonexistence.
Currently, the most effective way known of increasing our calcium in a usable structure is through our diet. As an example, vegetables such as broccoli, mustard greens, cabbage and Brussels sprouts contain some of the highest amounts of biologically active calcium for mammals. Contrary to popular belief, dairy products do not provide usable calcium, as it is linked to other compounds which don’t relinquish this necessary element. As a matter of fact, research now demonstrates that dairy actually robs the bone matrix of calcium. Why? Calcium, in an ion state, is readily available to form buffering salts, something greatly required by us to preserve an alkaline serum condition. Dairy acidifies due to its structure (high fat and sugar structure). As we consume dairy products, our pH drops to an acidic level and therefore requires a buffering solution of which calcium is one key role player. Guess where the body takes its calcium from when additional reserves are needed? The skeletal structure.
Many ask the question, “Why do most women generally suffer from osteoporosis and not men”. Hormones have a distinct affect on the body’s pH and when gonadal steroids (estradiol, progesterone) fluctuate, it tends to send the body into a state of metabolic acidosis. As this continues, the parathyroid, which controls calcium uptake and dispersion, signals the bone to relinquish its calcium reserves and the sequence of losing bone density begins.
If we observe rural areas in Asia as well as other indigenous societies globally, we note that bone loss was not, and to a lesser degree, is still not a common occurrence in women who inhabit these regions. The appearance of the industrial age is changing all of that, as its primary influence saturates traditional eating habits. These cultures enjoyed diets high in vegetables, which provide a rich source of usable elemental calcium.
Can supplemental calcium actually be detrimental to our health? This probability appears to be more likely as true research pours in. When calcium remains in a complex structure, rather than in an ion state, it essentially is non-usable for effective biological reactions. When ingested, calcium is absorbed from the small intestine and supposedly, as once thought, separated from its complexes. Research now demonstrates this not to be consistent with the true ingestion from low molecular weight forms (calcium carbonate, etc). It is understood to be absorbed in its entire complex form, making its unfavorable presence known in the blood stream. As most of you know, high serum calcium complexes are associated with cardiovascular risk, and rightfully so. These complexes act as an abrasive, which have the potential of damaging the arterial wall. Additionally, they can form other unfavorable high weight complexes within our circulatory system. This is what prompted the media to release its reports regarding supplemental calcium. This should give us hope that some corners of responsible journalism are still alive and well.
Today, we usually look at diet as being a means of keeping us going rather than keeping us healthy. Those who concern themselves with bone health and yet tend to lean away from vegetable consumption may want to consider supplementing with Vitamin D3. This cofactor regulates, via a hormone step process, biologically usable calcium within our bodies.
Anyone up for a glass of milk?
- By Kevin Meehan