Is The Ongoing Calcium Controversy Overlooking The Basics?

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Is The Ongoing Calcium Controversy Overlooking The Basics?

Research does not distinguish between calcium leached from bones and teeth in response to inflammation and any calcium intake from supplements.

Initially published in shortened form (April 28, 2011)

Several recent studies claim that calcium supplements increase heart disease and stroke risk.[1] Should you stop taking calcium supplements?

Unfortunately, we tend to think of research trials and their results as gospel. Some research results may be confusing or, worse, represent a partial truth as the gospel by drawing conclusions based on simplified premises.

Many research projects tend to overlook important prerequisites. For instance, a recent calcium research project fails to report on several highly important factors such as:

  1. What forms of calcium supplements were taken and in what amounts?
  2. Did the trial subjects have any pre-existing inflammatory conditions such as absorption issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, etc.), liver or pancreas problems?
  3. Since stress raises cortisol levels (an inflammatory hormone), what were the stress levels of the trial subjects?
  4. Did the trial subjects have any pre-existing forms of arthritis and/or bone density issues?
  5. Were the trial subjects all on the same diet and what kind of diet were they on?
  6. What kind of exercise style and amount did the lifestyle of the trial subjects include?

More specifically, our questions should not only address how, but why does calcium get into the arteries where it possibly can contribute to heart or vascular disease.

Here are some indisputable facts:

Calcium plays several major roles in the biochemistry of our body. But calcium is not solely the most important substance for our bone health. Among other tasks, calcium is instrumental in regulating the tissue pH balance by regulating and keeping down inflammation levels in the body.

Inflammation makes body tissue acidic, a state that is untenable for the bloodstream. Consequently, calcium is leached from bones and teeth to buffer its acidic pH. But, once in the bloodstream, calcium won’t be reabsorbed back into the bones. Instead, it may…

  • harden the arteries resulting in higher blood pressure
  • contribute to plaque and hypertension by allowing triglycerides and cholesterols to build up in the arteries
  • cause arthritic changes, pains and conditions by depositing dead calcium molecules in small or large joints.
  • possibly cause muscle and other pain conditions (e.g. fibromyalgia, brain fog and vision issues)—think of calcium in the bloodstream of the body as "sand in the gears of an engine."

So, it becomes clear that calcium belongs in the bones and out of the arteries. Heart disease and stroke may well be related to this leached calcium. Natural medicine, therefore, has long recognizes that the question must be if calcium leaching is a cause or a result of excess blood calcium.

It is highly questionable if excess blood calcium levels are directly related to supplemental calcium use. And, most importantly, research has not yet looked at nor been able to distinguish if these "increased blood calcium levels" are a result of inflammatory-dowsing leached calcium or non-absorbable elemental calcium supplements.

Most individuals urged to use supplemental calcium appear to suffer from some kind of pre-existing inflammatory condition. Bone loss, arthritis, etc. are direct indicators of natural calcium loss to buffer blood pH values as a result of their chronic inflammation. Hypothetically, the calcium in the bloodstream of these individuals comes from their own bone and possibly not directly from their supplements.

Initially, calcium supplements need to be absorbed into the body via a healthy small intestine (duodenum). But only calcium in citrate form or from nutritional greens and food is absorbable.[2] Other forms—such as calcium carbonate, coral calcium, elemental calcium and many other forms (see Stoned To Death: Calcium Supplements Proven To Kill Again)—in addition to potentially contributing to kidney stones, may indeed end up contributing to heart events.

But, then again, even calcium citrate only gets absorbed if a person’s GI tract is intact and not experiencing any boating, gas or other inflammatory condition that may lead to nutritional malabsorption. See Health And Disease Begin In The Gut.

We all know about the assistant role of vitamin D3 in calcium absorption. On another note, we often seem to forget that vitamin K besides being long esteemed as blood clotting factor also is instrumental in "keeping calcium in the bones and out of the arteries." Many of the leafy green veggies provide vitamin K. But most of the usable vitamin K needs to be formed in our body’s intestinal tract (duodenum).

Consequently, the research conclusion that calcium supplementation raises the risk of heart disease simply indicates too superficial an approach in many of the most publicized research projects.

In the future, research might want to look at the impaired function of an inflamed small intestinal duodenum as a possible cause of calcium and nutritional malabsorption (acidic pH), calcium leaching (leaky gut), lack of vitamin K production and other of its tasks such as bile release and pancreatic enzyme and insulin regulation as a cause for a raised risk of heart and vascular disease.

Many foods naturally provide absorbable forms of calcium—provided gut bloating or inflammation do not prevent absorption. Some of these high-calcium foods include dandelion greens, broccoli, kale, okra, and other greens; kelp, wakame and other seaweeds; almonds, hazelnuts, sesame and other nuts and seeds. On the other hand, high calcium foods such as rhubarb, spinach, chard, or sorrel may not offer the same benefits due to their high oxalic acid caused calcium binding mechanisms.

Another approach used by integrative and natural medicine clinics suggests the use of homeopathic forms of calcium supplementing. Their disadvantage is that homeopathic approaches must be custom-tailored to each individual. However, their easy oral mucous tissue absorption bypasses any issues with GI inflammation and alleviates major concerns about vascular accumulation of calcium.

[1] Heart. 2012 Jun;98(12):920-5. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg).

[2] Obes Surg. 2009 Sep;19(9):1256-61. Epub 2009 May 13. Comparison of the absorption of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.



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