The dairy industy has been hard at work the last 50 years convincing people that pasteurized dairy products such as milk or cheese increases bioavailable calcium levels. This is totally false. The pasteurization process only creates calcium carbonate, which has absolutely no way of entering the cells without a chelating agent. So what the body does is pull the calcium from the bones and other tissues in order to buffer the calcium carbonate in the blood. This process actually causes osteoporosis.
There is no doubt that raw milk is a suitable form of calcium. While there is also evidence to suggest the nutritional effectiveness of the calcium provided by raw milk, there is still some debate as to whether this source of calcium is biologically better than other sources, such as calcium salts or certain vegetables.
Pasteurized dairy contains too little magnesium needed at the proper ratio to absorb the calcium. Most would agree that a minimum amount of Cal. to Mag Ratio is 2 to 1 and preferably 1 to 1. So milk, at a Cal/Mag ratio of 10 to 1, has a problem. You may put 1200 mg of dairy calcium in your mouth, but you will be lucky to actually absorb a third of it into your system.
Over 99% of the body's calcium is in the skeleton, where it provides mechanical rigidity. Pasteurized dairy forces a calcium intake lower than normal and the skeleton is used as a reserve to meet needs. Long-term use of skeletal calcium to meet these needs leads to osteoporosis. Dairy is pushed on Americans from birth yet they have one of the highes risk of osteoporosis in the world.
Leafy green veggies such as kale, broccoli and spinach are also rich in calcium and far more absorbable. Seeds such as sesame and chia are also rich sources of calcium.
No Evidence Milk Makes Strong Bones
Led by Diane Feskanich of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, the authors noted that the role of milk consumption in reducing the risk of fractures later in life has not been established.
Although some teens who consume more milk achieve greater heights, the bones themselves ares also associated with a greater risk of fracture, especially in the hip.
Feskanich and her colleagues reported finding that teenage milk consumption (between the ages of 13-18 years) was associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in men, with each additional glass of milk per day as a teenager associated with a 9 percent higher risk.
"We did not see an increased risk of hip fracture with teenage milk consumption in women as we did in men," said the authors. "One explanation may be the competing benefit of an increase in bone mass with an adverse effect of greater height."
"Women are at higher risk for osteoporosis than men, hence the benefit of greater bone mass balanced the increased risk related to height," they suggested.
Feskanich and her team assessed the frequency of milk consumption along with consumption of other foods during ages 13 to 18 years, which along with height were reported at baseline.
During the 22 year follow up, current diet, weight, smoking, physical activity, medication use, and other risk factors for hip fractures were reported on biennial questionnaires.
During the follow-up, 1,226 hip fractures were reported by women and 490 by men.
Analysis of the data suggested that milk consumption was not associated with hip fractures in women, but that a direct association between drinking milk and hip fractures in men was partially influenced by height.
In a related editorial, Dr Connie Weaver of Purdue University commented that a main tenet of Feskanich and colleagues is that milk consumption in teens may have led to an increase in height as an adult - noting that it is not clear why this would be true in men but not women, "especially given that men experience about one-fourth the hip fractures that women do."
"The investigators could have tested the contribution of other dietary protein sources (eggs, meat) to height and subsequent fracture risk to help confirm the impact of dietary protein more generally," Weaver added.
The Problem With Some Calcium Supplements
A 2004 study showed that people with excess calcium in their coronary artery and who take statins have a 17-fold higher risk of heart attacks than do those with lower arterial calcium levels; researchers concluded that the two most definitive indicators of heart attack were LDL levels and calcium build-up.
A 2007 study showed that calcium from dietary sources has more favorable effects on bone health than calcium from supplements in postmenopausal women (Am J Clin Nutr 2007).
A 2008 study found calcium supplements are associated with a greater number of heart attacks in postmenopausal women (BMJ 2008)
A 2010 meta-analysis showed calcium supplements (without coadministered vitamin D) are associated with increased risk for heart attack (BMJ 2010)
Most supplements on the supplement market today contain calcium carbonate which is an inferior form of calcium and manufacturers attach a simple chelating agent like citric acid to make it more absorbable, however the end product is inferior to other calcium supplements such as calcium orotate, which is the only known form of calcium which can effectively penetrate the membranes of cells.
If you want to supplement for calcium intake you must seek a reputable and balanced calcium/magnesium formula. Researchers examined 21 formulations of calcium carbonate (both natural [i.e., oyster shell] and refined). Four out of seven natural products and four out of 14 refined products, including brand products, had measurable lead content. A research team in California found essentially the same contamination in calcium supplements.
Acid rebound. Calcium carbonate may cause acid rebound: the stomach overcompensates for the high dose of calcium carbonate, which is alkaline, by churning out more acid. For that reason, people with a history of stomach ulcers are advised that they may not tolerate it and may have to switch to calcium citrate.
Constipation. Calcium supplements can have a mild binding effect but by themselves don’t usually cause serious constipation. But if you’re taking another supplement or medication that binds the stool, the addition of calcium supplements could cause a problem.
Too much calcium. Although it doesn’t happen often, some people have taken so much calcium that it causes hypercalcemia, an above-normal level of calcium in the blood since most of the calcium carbonate is not absorbed. Hypercalcemia may cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, and other neurological symptoms.
The type of minerals in the formula determines the absorption levels: Opti-Cal/Mag with Vitamin K2 is a co-enzyme complex, heat-stabled molecules that must be associated with another enzyme for them to perform their function in the body. It is necessary in the utilization of vitamins and minerals for proper delivery to the cell nucleus. One study found that Opti-Cal/Mag complex is 8.79 times more absorbed into the blood than calcium carbonate and 2.97 times more than calcium gluconate.
6 WAYS TO BUILD STRONG BONES
1. Eat calcium rich foods
Eat foods high in calcium. The best food sources are non-pasteurized raw dairy sources such as raw milk/yogurt, as well as bony fish, such as sardines. Leafy green veg such as kale, broccoli and spinach are also rich in calcium. Dried herbs and dried fruits such as figs and currants are also good choices. Seeds such as sesame, chia and flax are also rich sources of calcium. Also, enjoy foods that contain sulfur such as garlic and onions.
2. Food selections/combinations are critical
Try not to eat whole grains and calcium-rich foods at the same time. Whole grains contain a substance that binds with calcium and prevents proper absorption. Some foods that contain compounds such as oxalic or phytic acids, such as sweet potatoes, beans, rhubarb, celery and beets, can also decrease the amount of calcium that's absorbed when eaten at the same time as calcium-rich foods.
3. Avoid the causes of mineral excretion
Pass on phosphate-containing foods such as soft drinks. Phosphorus causes the body to excrete calcium. Limit or avoid high-protein animal foods. A diet high in protein causes calcium to be excreted from your body. Decrease caffeine consumption. People who smoke have significantly lower bone density, while drinking alcohol can also prevent your bones from absorbing the maximum nutrients from your food.
4. Get more Sunlight and Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Although some is found in oily fish, our main source comes from the effect of sunlight on your skin. It's estimated that half of us have a deficiency because we don't get outside enough or because we always use sunblock. It is especially important to maximize sun exposure between May and September to keep vitamin D levels topped up. Just 10 minutes of sunlight a day on bare arms and your face can cut your risk of bone fractures by a third. A half hour exposing your torso is equivalent to roughly 10,000 units of Vitamin D.
5. The right exercise
Another vital way to boost your bones is weight-bearing exercise --basically anything that has you upright and using your body weight. Good choices include squatting, rope skipping, aerobics, plyometrics, dancing or brisk walking. "Research shows that if you don't exercise you end up weeing out all the calcium you take in instead of storing it in your bones," warns Professor Dawn Skelton, an aging and health specialist at Glasgow Caledonian University. "Ideally we should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. "Put simply, the more hours we spend on our feet, the fewer bone breakages we should have in later life."
6. Avoid Medications and Medical Therapies
Acid-blocking medications used for heartburn and other gastrointestinal conditions can block the absorption of calcium through the stomach walls. Stomach acids break down food during the digestive process, allowing the nutrients to become absorbed into your body. Medications designed to stop acid production or decrease the amount of acids present in your stomach can have a negative effect on calcium.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.