Many people take a calcium supplement because they believe that large doses of this mineral help “build” bones and protect against osteoporosis and bone fractures. Taking a calcium supplement may increase bone density, but did you know that this does not necessarily mean that your bones will be optimally healthy? What’s worse, some calcium supplements may even increase your risk of cancer and other health problems!
Do You Really Need to Supplement with Calcium?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. Aside from bone health, it is also needed to help regulate your heartbeat, stimulate hormone secretions, conduct nerve impulses, and ensure proper blood clotting. Your body does not produce calcium, but actually excretes it daily through your skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine, and feces.
About 99 percent of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. If you don’t get sufficient calcium, your body will get it from your bones to perform necessary functions. This is why people believe that supplementing with calcium can prevent calcium loss from their bones. However, this oversimplified theory actually leads to misinformation and health dangers.
Dr. Joseph Mercola says: “The ‘Calcium is good for your bones’ mantra is yet another example of a good theory gone wrong, and represents how broadly deluded the mainstream medical community is about bone health and the nature of osteoporosis and its highly fabricated twin condition ‘osteopenia.’”
The Dangers of Too Much Calcium
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends women over 50 years old take 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. But considering that you only excrete as little as 100 milligrams for day, this recommendations seem outrageous.
The truth is that taking any calcium in excess or isolation – without nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 to help keep your body in balance – can have adverse effects on your health. If you ingest a biologically foreign type of calcium (limestone, bone meal, hydroxylapatite, or egg shell) or if your body does not put calcium in the right places, this nutrient may form calcium deposits that can lead to health problems like:
- Cellulite and scar tissue
- Coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis
- Dental plaque and gum disease
- Obesity and diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Gallstones, colon cancer, and Crohn’s disease
- Kidney stones
- Ovarian cysts
- Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration
- Bone spurs, stiff joints, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and bone cancer
Some studies also reveal that having a higher bone density because of calcium supplementation can increase your risk of malignant breast cancer by up to 300 percent or more.
Calcium deposits can also cause arterial plaque. Calcium deposits are similar to concrete that harden your arteries and impair their ability to expand. “It is calcium — not cholesterol — that induces arterial stiffness and makes the plaque less stable and more prone to chipping off and subsequently inducing a life-threatening clot,” explains Dr. Mercola.
Two meta-analyses of available research also reveal that heart attacks may be caused by supplemental calcium from foreign sources. The first analysis involved over 8,000 people and showed that taking 500 milligrams or more of an inorganic calcium supplement may increase your risk of heart attack by 27 percent. (link)
The second analysis showed that elemental calcium, even when co-administered with vitamin D (a nutrient that helps you absorb and use calcium), still increased heart attack risk by 24 percent. (link) This analysis was more disturbing because it showed that calcium supplementation, in addition to vitamin D, increased the composite risk of heart attack and stroke by 15 percent.
“Only because something can increase your bone density: eating what amounts to chalk or pulverized bone meal, or worse, chemicals like the drugs Fosamax and Evista, does not mean this will translate into improved health for your bones, or any of your other organ systems,” Dr. Mercola warns.
Get Calcium from a Healthy Diet
Dr. Mercola says that calcium does your body good if it is ingested in a bioavailable form and taken with trace minerals and nutrients like vitamin D and K. Food-based calcium obtained from raw milk and cheese from pasture-raised cows, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit piths, wheatgrass, sesame seeds, and carob is used by your body properly.
According to studies, using calcium from natural food sources offers a 25 percent lower risk of dying from all causes and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. (link)
Dr. Mercola also recommends healthy sources of magnesium and silica, which are enzymatically “transmuted” by your body into a type of calcium that can be used by your bones. Some ideal sources of bone-strengthening silica are bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a number of herbs like horsetail, oat straw, nettles, alfalfa, and raw cacao, which is also extremely rich in magnesium.
Using natural, unprocessed salt is also a good alternative to calcium supplements, since it gives the trace minerals that are not available in foods that are grown in mineral-depleted soils. Dr. Mercola recommends Himalayan salt, which has 84 trace elements that are needed by your body.
“The bottom line is, optimize your vitamin D levels through sun exposure and consume a variety of fresh, local organic whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, organic meats and eggs, unprocessed salt, and raw organic unpasteurized dairy, which will give you the bioavailable calcium your body needs along with the trace minerals and other cofactors it needs to be absorbed and properly utilized by your body,” Dr. Mercola advises.