Calcium supplements have fared well as preventative measures in heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis in epidemiological studies (studies that look at disease frequencies and distributions in people who have the disease). However, when researchers compare diseased individuals to non-diseased individuals, as done in observational studies, calcium supplementation as shown no effect(1).
Calcium supplementation may cause overall cardiovascular mortality from heart attacks and stroke
A new study published in the May issue of the journal Heart warned this about calcium supplementation,
“Increasing calcium intake from diet might not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, while calcium supplements, which might raise MI [heart attack] risk, should be taken with caution.”
Osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mineral density) is a major public health threat for 44 million Americans(2). These data raise new questions about the need for calcium supplementation altogether. Since calcium supplementation may not prevent disease and may cause cardiovascular deaths, what can we do to protect ourselves now?
Americans get more than enough protein, maybe too much
I believe the answer may lies in the American diet. Currently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends each day 46 gms of protein for men and 36 gms for women(3).
Below is an example diet from the CDC showing the amount of protein in several foods.
Protein content in common food item:
- 1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein and 300 mgs of calcium
- A 3-ounce piece of meat has about 21 grams of protein and 21 mgs of calcium
- 1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein and 15-50 mgs of calcium
- An 8-ounce container of yogurt has about 11 grams of protein and 350 mgs calcium
If eaten in the same day, these four foods satisfy a mans daily requirement of 46 gms of protein and almost 75% of his calcium requirements.
It pretty obvious that most Americans are not lacking in protein, or calcium. Yet, nations who consume the most dairy also have the highest rates of osteoporosis6.
Excess dietary protein causes urinary excretion of calcium
“Increasing protein consumption increases urinary calcium excretion over the entire range of protein intakes, from marginal to excess. Each 10-g increase in dietary protein increases urinary calcium by 16 mg, and doubling protein increases urinary calcium by 50%”(5).
According to Vanderbilt University, even endurance athletes may receive limiting benefit from consuming additional protein(4).
Protect your calcium stores by consuming less protein
When we talk about preventative health as it relates to osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, we need to understand that the westernized diet is responsible for a declining health. We do not need calcium supplements, protein drinks, protein bars or any other processed food stuff. These item only benefit the manufacturers and not the consumer. Save your money and protect your health.
(1) Heath 2012:98:920-925 doi:10.1136/heartjno-2011-301345
(2) http://www.nof.org/node/40. 2012
(3) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html. 2012
(4) http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/Protein.htm. 2012
(5) http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/3/862S.full. 2012
(6) Nutrition Action Healthletter, June, 1993