In the last several months, I have had many questions on calcium and what is too much calcium. Unfortunately the research supporting proper calcium supplementation has been around for a long time now, but when popular media shares a news report on “take calcium”, the average person who does not understand how bone health really works just goes out and does exactly that. The problem with calcium supplementation on its own is that when there is excess calcium in the body, it will deposit in soft tissues and can therefore have implications in hardening of the arteries. This is the negative association calcium is now getting in cardiovascular disease. Calcium itself is not the issue, just how it is being used and supplemented.
Calcium, while a very important component of bone health, and the ‘star’ of the show, is not the only thing to consider. Cofactors are molecules that can be other vitamins, enzymes, or minerals that are like stage hands or the backstage crew in a play; they are essential in turning on the lights in the show in order for calcium to know where to go. These ‘stage hands’ are vitamin D, boron, strontium, magnesium, and a newer named but very important vitamin K2 just to name a few.
For those of you who are curious, vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin that is not involved in clotting like its cousin Vitamin K1 but directs calcium into the bones along side magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin A. I am oversimplifying the importance of this vitamin for the purposes of this discussion, but will discuss it in a future post very shortly.
The most important point to take away from this post is that calcium is not actually a detriment to the cardiovascular system the way it is now assumed to be; it is merely that it has been supplemented incorrectly. In addition to the fact that we are over-consuming dairy products and supplementing calcium it is a perfect storm.
Calcium supplementation should involve ALL of the cofactors above in addition to calcium in a formula, and then moderation of calcium in the diet should be monitored. In addition to cow’s milk and cheeses, high calcium is found in most nuts, tahini (sesame paste), sardines, leafy greens such as kale and swiss chard… and is also now added in the proper balance to alternative milks such as almond, rice, and soy milks. The amount of calcium per day depends on the person and the phase of life you are in — pregnant mothers need far more (1500 mg) than 30-something males (1200−1400 mg). However, balancing food sources of calcium with the supplemental version is important to consider as a whole. Unlike vitamin C or B‑vitamins, we do not eliminate the calcium we do not need, we store it, and as such there is more of a specific health-formula for calcium supplementation.
If you are not sure when and how to supplement your calcium properly, ask your naturopathic doctor. Stay tuned for information on Vitamin K2 — it is a fascinating history!