Got Calcium?

Posted on August 1, 2013

GotCalcium? I drank milk my entire life.  I thought there was nothing better than a tall cold one. Heck, growing up, we were always told that drinking milk builds strong bones. So then why did my Grandma get osteoporosis?

Did you know, the countries that consume the most milk (US, England, and Sweden) have the highest rates of osteoporosis?  Places like China and Japan, where they consume very little dairy products, have very low rates of osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, recommendations to drink more milk actually come from a position of profits, not public health.  You may be surprised to know the Dairy Council has a very strong lobby in the US government.  But I won't get into the politics of that here.

The point is, we don't need milk at all.  We do need calcium, but not too much.  Biologically speaking, our bones are made up of 65% calcium phosphate, which makes them hard. The other 35% is collagen protein, which gives bones flexibility.  The ratio is about 2:1.  If the calcium/phosphorous ratio is too high, the bone will shatter.  If the calcium is removed from the bone entirely, it will BEND, not break. Make sense?

I don't drink milk anymore, but recognize that calcium is an important nutrient for our livelihood.  I also know that calcium comes in more forms besides milk and supplements; and that consuming too many acid-forming foods: animal products (including dairy), refined carbohydrates, sodium, sweets, caffeine and not enough vegetables--especially greens--causes our body to leach calcium.

The problem of bone disease like osteoporosis is less about having not enough calcium, but having too many foods that cause us to lose calcium.

Most of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones, and 1% is in the blood stream to maintain our balanced pH.  Whenever the blood needs calcium, it's liberated from the bones to neutralize acidity.  The more acidic our diet, the more our bones lose calcium, leading to osteoporosis and brittle bones.  

In order to keep calcium in our bones, where we need it, we need to eat more alkaline foods, rich in magnesium to help deposit calcium in our bones. Consuming more calcium than we need, leads to more bone fractures and can also get stuck in our ureter (on the way to the kidneys)--causing kidney stones.  Our bodies are so intelligent, that whatever it doesn't need, gets excreted through the kidneys therefore excess calcium can be very problematic.

CalciumFoods To make sure you have strong, healthy bones:

  • get your calcium and keep it where it's needed
  • eat your veggies, especially leafy greens
  • beans
  • whole grains
  • nuts/seeds
  • even cook with bone stock (Animal foods in moderation are ok, in fact a fish soup is an amazing remedy for bone pain.)
  • Perform weight bearing exercise! You won't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Walk uphill
  • JUMP! Anytime you fight gravity, you help strengthen your bones :) 

To your bone health!



Nutrition Action Healthletter, June, 1993 

12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women American Journal of Public Health 1997;87 

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1979;32(4)