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Are Calcium Supplements Safe?

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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.

Visit Dr. Cate in her office in Newtown, CT for a Complete Bone Health Plan. Insurance Accepted!

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Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

  • Lissa

    Part3.
    Could you, please, tell me your opinion about these supplements? I need your advice.
    Here they are and their ingredients (as PDF document on the right side):

    http://www.lifeplus.com/Product_Details.asp?CatID=93&PN=4471&PSID=1&WSID=1
    http://www.lifeplus.com/Product_Details.asp?CatID=93&PN=4470&PSID=1&WSID=1

    And this one: http://www.lifeplus.com/Product_Details.asp?CatID=93&PN=5000&PSID=1&WSID=1

    Best regards,
    Lissa

    • I looked at their site for you and found they say some good things. However good their products may be, they are taking the place of farms that would produce more wholesome product and as these kinds of high-margin, middleman-oriented products invade the marketplace, one-by-one they are making the simpler, more effective solution of eating real food more difficult. Adopting the principles of traditional diets as well as following the advice laid out in Food Rules is a far better long-term solution for us, and for our planet.

      • Lissa

        Thank you very much for the response.

        If I understood your words right, you mean these supplements are good, but traditional diets and healthy food is still better.

        I’m going to integrate four pillars in my life (think, Food Rules will help in that), but sometimes I just cannot feed myself regularly (student’s life), that’s why I thought supplements, used from time to time, could be a good solution.

        So, it is important for me to know whether LP supplements are trustworthy.

  • Lissa

    Part2.
    In general I am sceptical about supplements, but this was recommended by my doctor. I found it out latter that LifePlus is a Multi-level marketing company. Now I’m sceptical about advice of my doctor (he subscribed me).

    Main issue for me is whether these supplements really worth those money one pays for them? Or I just fool myself? I still have time to send them back, but I cannot find any independent information about this company and their products.

  • Lissa

    Part1.
    Dear Catey, first of all, thank you very much for your work “Deep Nutrition”. I’ve just finished reading it and am going to make some changes in my diet.

    The actual reason I came to this site is a need for advice from somebody who knows much about health and healthy food.

    Recently I ordered LifePlus Supplements,which are very expensive for me (I’m still a student). I had low vitamin D,B12 and Iron levels, so I decided to try them – Proanthenols 100 and Daily BioBasics.

  • Where can we find more on the language of plants please! After listening to your talk at the Paleo Summit and your comments on the appropriate forms of mineral and vitamin supplementation I was reminded of the way in organic agriculture that plants need specific fertility regimens that communicate well with soil biology to maximize bio-availability. I would love to pursue this topic further.

    Thank you!

  • Thank you, Dana, for pointing out yet another reason to support your local dairy farmers who raise pastured animals and sell farm fresh milk.

  • Dana

    Specifically vitamin K2, analog mk-4, which is also found in grass-fed dairy but can be found in supplement form. K1 is plentiful in green vegetables, but you have to convert it to the K2 form, and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that people aren’t as good at converting the fat-soluble precursors as mainstream medicine/nutrition seems to believe. Might as well skip the middleman.

  • My grandmother has osteoporosis since last 2 years.We have been trying various tactics and exercises to keep her healthy and fit.

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