For decades, we believed that we were doing the healthy thing by taking calcium supplements to help prevent osteoporosis in our old age. Then a published report in the
British Medical Journal stated that calcium supplements do more harm than good. The researchers concluded that calcium supplements cause more heart attacks than it prevents in broken bones from osteoporosis.
Does this mean that we should dump our calcium tablets and reduce our calcium intake in the foods that we eat? Well, not so fast!
The real story behind osteoporosis, calcium intake and heart disease is a little more complicated than what many in the medical field are indicating. The real problem is not calcium supplements, but taking calcium supplements by themselves. Consuming calcium by itself can have bad health consequences, but taking calcium with its essential co-factors has many beneficial health results.
Vitamins and Minerals Require Co-factors.
As it turns out, calcium requires many other vitamins and minerals to allow it to build up our skeletal system without calcifying our muscles, arteries, joints, heart and kidneys. Take calcium without its co-factors and you start solidifying your body with hardened calcium deposits, and risk having a heart attack. But take calcium with its co-factors, and you provide your body with an essential mineral for optimum health as you age.
What are calcium’s co-factors?
Published research results on rats show that the least amount of bone loss occurs when rats are fed sufficient amounts of calcium along with vitamins K2 and D during their entire life span. But we also know that magnesium is required to activate vitamin D. So the major co-factors of calcium are
- Vitamin D3
- And Vitamin K2
Science is still trying to determine the role of vitamin K2 in bone health, but we know for sure that vitamin D is required for proper calcium utilization, and magnesium is required to activate vitamin D. We also know that magnesium plays an important role in making sure that calcium doesn’t calcify the tissues and organs throughout our body.
Other studies also have shown that manganese, vanadium, boron, silica, zinc, and copper in trace amounts are also important for bone health.
Taking calcium supplements without its essential co-factors can have negative health consequences. But with its essential co-factors (especially magnesium), calcium supplements can play an important role in preventing osteoporosis.
Is There a Problem With Calcium Supplements or Is It Magnesium Deficiency?
The big problem occurs when we take vitamin D with calcium supplements. It’s true that vitamin D is needed for proper absorption of calcium, but vitamin D also depletes our body of magnesium. That’s because vitamin D uses magnesium to transform itself into a usable form. So the more vitamin D we take, the faster we deplete our bodies of magnesium.
Then as we deplete our bodies of magnesium, calcium starts to calcify our muscles, tissues and joints, which in turn increases our risks of arthritis and heart attacks. And that’s because magnesium is needed to prevent calcium from forming plagues throughout our body. It’s becoming more obvious that magnesium is the real key to preventing calcium from causing medical problems. It’s important for the activation of vitamin D to absorb calcium, and it’s important to prevent calcium from forming health threatening plagues.
Are Calcium Supplements Safe?
Taking calcium supplements without magnesium and other co-factors is not safe. It can lead to calcification of muscles, joints, and organs, which in turn can lead to kidney and heart problems. But with sufficient amounts of magnesium and other co-factors, calcium supplements can maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
So instead of throwing away your calcium supplements, make sure that you also are getting sufficient amounts of magnesium and vitamin D3 to properly utilize calcium. You should also consider taking vitamin K2 supplements to minimize bone loss as you age. The other minerals that are needed in trace amounts for good bone health can be found in most multi-vitamins, mineral water and raw sea salt.
All minerals and vitamins can’t function properly in our bodies alone. They all need co-factors to be properly utilized. Calcium is no exception. For calcium to do its job of maintaining bone health and preventing disease like osteoporosis, it needs magnesium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 at the very least.
But most of all, never take calcium or vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of magnesium to accompany them. Magnesium takes calcium out of the blood and soft tissues and puts it back into our bones. By putting calcium back into our bones where it belongs, magnesium prevents calcium from forming hard, calcified plagues in our circulatory system and tissues that can lead to arthritis, heart attacks and kidney stones. We should try to get at least 500 mg of elemental magnesium in our diet daily to properly utilize calcium in our bodies.
Of course, you can also get natural magnesium from foods. According to the
Office of Dietary Supplements, some selected foods that are high in magnesium content are wheat bran and germ, almonds, spinach, cashews, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, peanuts and peanut butter, brown rice, bananas, avocados and yogurt and milk.
Magnesium Is Crucial for Bones
Vitamin D Council:
Vitamin D Cofactors
University of Maryland:
University of Maryland:
Harvard Medical School:
High Calcium Intake From Supplements Linked to Heart Disease in Men
Effects of Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, and calcium on the bone metabolism of rats in the growth phase