Calcium: The Untold Story

Calcium. Is it important? You bet. Doctors tell us so. The media tells us so. Commercials on TV tell us so. Everyone seems to say you need your calcium. The big problem with all of this, is no one says what is the best type of calcium to consume.  Is it calcium from milk? Or calcium from antacids? How about chewing on a bone? All of these things will give you calcium. The question is, is that calcium getting down to the appropriate cellular level so it can be utilized for the purpose intended?  Addressing this issue involves the concept of BIOLOGICAL UTILIZATION. We will cover that concept here while at the same time clearing up some calcium myths and mis-information propagated by commercial interests and unknowing physicians and nutritionists.

Next two sections extracted and paraphrased from "Mineral Logic" by Mark Timon, M.S.

First - some statistics:

CALCIUM: Ca - common ion Ca++

The current FDA labeling requirement for calcium uses the 1973 U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) amount of 1000mg per day for ages 4 to adult.

In 1980 the RDA was increased to 1200mg but it was not adopted for nutritional supplement labeling.

The average daily intake for adults not taking nutritional supplements is 600mg per day. The absorption factor for adults is 10% - 30% of that amount.

Calcium is excreted daily through feces (250mg), in sweat (20 -350mg up to 1000mg in hot climates under heavy labor), and in urine (80-250mg).

With daily excretion exceeding daily absorption in many individuals, there are calls in nutritional circles to raise the RDA levels for calcium to 1500mg per day. With the losses that are seen here, even in the best circumstances,  it appears that 1200 to 5000mg of calcium must be ingested daily to balance everyday losses.

General Overview:

The importance of calcium cannot be overstated. It is the most abundant positively charged ion (cation) in the human body. The average adult holds 1.2 kilograms of the mineral in his or her fat-free tissues. 99% of calcium is retained in bone tissue while the other 1% circulates in the blood plasma and soft tissues. The hormones calcitonin from the thyroid gland and parathyroid hormone from the parathyroid gland help maintain plasma calcium levels at +-3% throughout the day. Calcitonin causes the deposition of calcium in bone while parathyroid hormone liberates it from the bone.

Calcium absorption, deposition, and utilization is not solely controlled by hormonal factors, however. Dietary intake of phosphorous, exposure to sunlight, protein, fat and sugar intake along with exercise all affect calcium status.

The question of providing adequate calcium nutrition and utilization is made difficult by the control mechanisms of the body. For instance, starvation or calcium deprivation causes uptake to become more efficient! The less you take in, the higher the percentage of absorption. Conversely, the more you take in, especially in a single dose, the smaller the percentage of absorption. Calcium appears to be a supplement then that is less effective if taken in single mega-dose amounts. Total daily absorption might then be enhanced by taking smaller doses spread throughout the day.

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The question now becomes, "what is the best form of calcium to take where support of your bones is concerned?"

To answer that question, we are going to turn to the research of Dr. Hans Nieper, M.D. from Germany. He began a most thorough and interesting investigation into calcium and the physiological mineral transport mechanisms in the body. This research which started back in the 1950's led to crucially important discoveries leading to the knowledge of calcium orotate as the singularly best form of calcium for bone health and cartilage support.

Please review the two reports listed here.

It should become evident that where bone and cartilage support is of paramount importance, calcium is required - but not just any calcium - calcium in the form of calcium orotate is one calcium that may be superior to other forms due to specific biological utilization.

It has been written by other authors in the nutritional field that many of the readily available forms of calcium in the market today - a large percentage of which is easily available in any supermarket isle - is typically of the type that is not the best for bone health. Calcium from oyster shells is one example. Besides low assimilation, there is concern of high lead levels.

Talk of assimilation of calcium is often included in osteoporosis literature, but the question needs to go much further. Sure, you may "assimilate" 20 to 30% of the calcium in say, calcium carbonate, but where exactly is it being assimilated?

Calcium carbonate is the number one ingredient in antacids. It has been said of calcium carbonate that when it is consumed the calcium ion is dropped off outside the cell. It never really gets to the bones. When calcium is dropped off like this, it can exacerbate hypercalcemic conditions, a potentially dangerous situation for heart rate and heart metabolism, or it can lead to 'free calcium excess' in the blood. This is also a situation which if not corrected (most effectively through proper alkalizing diet and limiting bad calcium supplementation) is a complicating factor to the 'itis' diseases. Where is the calcium going to go if not to your bones? How about to your joints to clog and stiffen you up?

Choose Your Calcium Carefully

The purpose of this discussion is to impress the concept that arbitrarily taking any old calcium supplement (including milk) is NOT the way to address concerns about bone and joint health. The standard medical line with traditional osteoporosis thinking is to get your "elemental" calcium, as efficiently (read cheaply) as possible like eating your tums and drinking your milk. That is way off the mark and is a stance continually regurgitated through most osteoporosis literature. It is not the best advice.

Taking poorly assimilated calcium supplements can sometimes create more problems than it will solve. But since it doesn't knock you over the head with instant feedback, you are likely to not notice the gradual stiffening of your joints or hardening of your arteries. You just rack these things up to increasing old age. There is a better way. Learn about biological utilization and use the right calciums based on your own biochemistry for your bone, joint, and cartilage support.

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