The July 29, 2010 edition of BMJ Online caught many by surprise, when it reported on a statistical analysis of data from 11 clinical trials in which women took calcium supplements without vitamin D in hopes of preventing fractures. The authors discovered that, not only did the calcium do almost nothing to prevent fractures, there were slightly more heart attacks in the group of women taking calcium supplements.
If you have osteoporosis, you may wonder: What should I be doing for my bones?
Here’s the wrong answer:
People with osteoporosis should be taking medications, not supplements, to treat the disease.” –Dr John Cleland
Dr Cleland, a cardiologist, was interviewed by a WebMD reporter. Why the reporter decided to print the opinion of a cardiologist on treatments for osteoporosis is beyond me.
In addition to weight-bearing exercise, here’s what I advise for bone health.
- Bone density drugs like Boniva and Fosamax do you more harm that good (see article)
- The best calcium sources are whole foods, like dairy products, green leafy vegetables, bone-in fish like canned salmon and sardines, and bone stock.
- If you have allergies or can’t eat these foods often enough, then you should supplement with 500 mg of calcium taken with 1000 IU of vitamin D, a combination which has been shown to reduce a post-menopausal woman’s risk of fracture by fifty percent.
- Magnesium, vitamin K, and zinc are also keys to bone health.
- If you must supplement, you should make an effort to include all factors in the above two bullet points because, to make bone, your body needs all of the above, and supplementing some but not others leaves leftovers that wander through your body causing problems, like heart attacks.
The reason whole foods work better than supplements is best explained by the language philosophy of food, which Luke constructed during the writing of Deep Nutrition, and I’ll blog about soon. It includes the idea that the function of food is to connect our bodies to nature—the ultimate source of healing, strength, and life.