Calcium is a very common supplement added to many processed foods. However evidence is showing depending on processed forms of calcium may not be effective. It may even be harmful.

Calcium supplements may not be the best way to protect the body. Excess or improper forms of calcium can accumulate in organs, arteries and the brain. Great care should be taken in choosing a calcium supplement. The safest bet even for at risk women such as during pregnancy and menopause may be to increase calcium foods.

  • A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that those who took calcium supplements had a 139% higher risk of heart attack, though this increased risk was not present when the same amount of calcium was consumed from whole food sources.
  • A 2010 meta-analysis showed that calcium supplementation increased the risk of stroke, heart attack and death from all causes
  • A study published in JAMA in 2013 showed that supplementation in excess of 1,000mg/day was associated with a 20% increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Other studies, like a recent one published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that calcium supplementation increased risk of kidney stones and prostate cancer.
  • Chris Kresser showed that this risk is even higher in women “Additionally, a recent Swedish study reported a 40% higher risk of death among women with high calcium intakes (1400 mg and above), and a 157% higher risk of death if those women were taking a 500 mg supplement daily, compared to women with moderate daily calcium intakes (600-1000 mg).”

Dairy is the most thought of source of dairy. And it is an excellent source. Some researchers feel raw dairy may be superior to pasteurized dairy. Of course this comes with some risks that must be carefully studied. It may be surprising to learn that most people benefit from obtaining all or most of their calcium through non-dairy foods. Many people do not absorb or assimilate dairy well. Rest assured all calcium needs can be obtained without dairy.

Calcium needs cofactors to be absorbed. Without these calcium supplements are not bioavailable and may be harmful. It is very difficult for the body to absorb many forms of calcium especially when they are taken alone. Some cofactors are Vitamin K2, Magnesium and Vitamin D. These cofactors help calcium absorb and assimilate properly. Vitamin K2 may be more responsible for strong bones than calcium. Eating all of the cofactors together seems to be most beneficial. Fortunately nature often provides just that combination in the abundant foods around us. It can be difficult to obtain enough Vitamin D through sun exposure in Alaska. We need to supplement with a vitamin D3/K2 titrated combination. Calcium supplements rarely contain cofactors. And even if they do how can they match the perfection of actual foods in prevention of disease. Without the cofactors they likely cause more harm than good.

The book Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox explains in depth how Vitamin K2 is needed for proper utilization of calcium and how calcium consumption without K2 can lead to health problems. K2 is found in raw dairy from pastured cows, liver, aged cheeses and natto.

Exercise increases bone density. Rebounding has been found to prevent osteoporosis in menopausal women.

Let’s get on to the wonderful food sources of calcium:

  • Bone Broth (fish, chicken, beef)
  • Leafy Greens Steamed
  • Clams
  • Broccoli
  • Canned Fish With Bones
  • Canned Sardines
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Okra
  • Beans
  • Bone In Meats
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Sweet Potato
  • Dairy

So have a salad with dark greens and canned salmon and rest assured you can meet your calcium needs through diet and exercise with planning.

Peggy Halsey, CDM, CPM