Discover the dangers of calcium supplementation
(NaturalHealth365) Osteoporosis – which can cause brittle, porous bones and debilitating fractures – poses a particular threat to women as they age. In fact, experts estimate that osteoporosis will cause one out of two women over 50 to break a bone at some point in their lives. Conventional “wisdom” often advises calcium supplementation to help ward off osteoporosis, especially if the dietary intake of calcium is low.
But, here’s the problem: An explosive study revealed that supplementation with calcium can increase the risk of coronary artery disease and double the risk of heart attack.
Clearly, the findings of this study “muddy the waters” when it comes to the advisability of supplementation. And, while diets that are too low in calcium increase the odds of both heart disease and osteoporosis, supplementation may also raise the risk of heart disease.
Proper balance of calcium and other electrolytes is necessary for healthy heart rate
For the heart to beat effectively, essential electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and calcium must all work in concert.
Calcium, which is needed to maintain the heart’s contractile rhythm and the circulation of blood, is particularly vital to heart health. In fact, when its levels drop too low, it can be life-threatening.
In an attempt to prevent levels from falling too low, the body secretes parathyroid hormone – which has the effect of pulling this essential mineral out of the bones. This causes large amounts of calcium to circulate in the bloodstream.
As a result, arterial walls become infiltrated with calcium (a process known as calcification), leading to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. The eventual result is atherosclerosis, which in turn leads to coronary artery disease and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Clearly, low calcium contributes to heart disease – in fact, research has shown that diets low in calcium increase the rate of calcification by a stunning 170 percent.
However, the solution may not be as simple as merely taking calcium supplements.
Bombshell study turns conventional medical “wisdom” on its head
In a study involving close to 24,000 European adults and published in Heart in May 2012, researchers found that calcium supplements seemed to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease – and that the supplements were associated with twice the risk of heart attack.
The researchers warned that calcium supplements should now be used “with caution.” Of course, the implications of this study still resonate throughout the medical community, generating discussion and controversy.
In 2013, the year after the study was published, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that postmenopausal women who do not have osteoporosis refrain entirely from taking supplemental calcium.
Vitamin K2 and magnesium may help reduce cardiovascular risks of calcium supplementation
Recent research suggests that vitamin K2 can help maintain bone density while at the same time protecting against calcification (atherosclerosis) of the arterial walls. Also known as menaquinone, vitamin K2 works by activating calcium-regulating natural compounds – including GIa protein (a calcium blocker) and osteocalcin, which helps to hold calcium in place in the bones.
The ability of vitamin K2 to confer this pair of benefits is backed by research. In fact, studies have shown that people with higher intakes of vitamin K2 have a 57 percent reduction in risk of dying from heart disease.
And, in one study, women who took supplementary vitamin K2 experienced reductions in nonvertebral fractures of up to 83 percent – a stunning result.
Health alert: The problem with a magnesium deficiency
Magnesium, vital for maintaining normal heart contraction and rhythm, helps to transport calcium and potassium across cell membranes. This essential mineral is also a natural calcium channel blocker that can help prevent plaque deposits in arteries.
Studies have shown that having low levels of magnesium – along with having excess amounts of calcium – can cause the acceleration of atherosclerosis, setting the stage for heart attack and stroke.
Unfortunately, the USDA estimates that close to 60 percent of Americans suffers from inadequate magnesium intake.
Natural health experts note that the depletion of magnesium in the soil can contribute to deficiencies. Digestive disorders, excessive alcohol use and certain medications can also take a toll on magnesium levels.
Warning: Most Americans fall short of optimal dietary calcium intake
Most natural health experts agree that the safest and most effective way to maintain healthy calcium intake is through diet, not supplements. But, there is a catch.
Population studies have shown that few American adults are consuming enough mineral-rich foods to reach recommended intakes advised by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH recommends 1,000 mg a day for adults under 50, and 1,200 mg a day for adults over 50.
To ramp up calcium intake, seek out foods that include both good combination of minerals, which promotes calcium absorption. For example, dark leafy greens – such as organic collard greens and Swiss chard – almonds, pumpkin seeds, canned sardines (with the bones) and wild-caught salmon are all excellent choices.
Naturally, we would suggest that you check with your integrative physician before supplementing with any mineral – and discuss balancing the calcium with appropriate dosages of vitamin K2 and magnesium.
Note: The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. As for vitamin K2, you can increase dietary intake of organic (Non-GMO) natto (fermented soybeans), egg yolks, grass fed cheese and goose liver paste.
Natural health experts may recommend dosages of 200 mcg of vitamin K a day, taken along with healthy fats. And, here’s a health tip: a formulation known as MK-7 is believed to be among the most easily absorbed and bioactive.
As the study suggests, supplementary calcium, when taken alone, can contribute to the risk of heart disease. Vitamin K2 and magnesium can help ameliorate that risk, while providing important bone-building and atherosclerosis-fighting benefits.
And, together, this trio of nutrients can help protect bone density – without sacrificing cardiovascular health.
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