For many years, calcium supplements have been touted as a THE preventative measure against osteoporosis, a debilitating disease that affects some 44 million Americans. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men suffer from this bone disease, which causes chronic pain and bone fractures. But are calcium supplements worth the hype?
Many people now take calcium supplements daily, and many grocery items like orange juice are now fortified with extra calcium to "keep bones healthy." We all know that bones are made up (in part) by calcium. But do calcium supplements really keep bones healthy, and even make them?
Dr. Robert Thompson, M.D. doesn't think so. His book The Calcium Lie asserts that, in fact, our bones are comprised of a dozen minerals - calcium being just one. Exclusively focusing on supplementing just one of these minerals, Thompson says, can actually decrease your bone density and increase your risk of osteoporosis!
Adequate calcium intake is needed for healthy bones. However, consuming supplemental calcium such as 1500mg per day, may in fact inhibit its absorption rate into your body. The medical community is divided on this subject, as are the studies that show the effects of calcium supplements on the human body.
Our bones need calcium, but they also need many other minerals. If you flood your body with calcium but deny it the so-called "trace" minerals that it needs, you might be setting your skeleton up for a break down.
Before you toss up your hands and calcium supplements in confusion, know that there are steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis:
Unprocessed salt: Dr. Thompson recommends using unprocessed salt such as Himalayan salt to provide your body with the trace minerals that your bones need.
Klamath's Best Organic Blue Green Algae Supplements: In addition to providing chlorophyll and alkalizing your body environment, this nutrient-rich whole food is an excellent source of the vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals that your body needs.
Omega-3: This nutrient not only prevents cognitive decline associated with aging, but recent studies in the British Journal of Nutrition show that these essential fatty acids also enhance bone mineral content. If you only take one nutritional supplement, make it omega-3. Krill oil provides a safer option than fish oil, which may be tainted with mercury and other toxins.
Vitamin K: Found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens, vitamin K helps bones retain calcium and develop the right structure. Crucial for infants, vitamin K can only be absorbed with fat – another reason a no-fat diet is not the best idea. The healthiest diets consist of pure water, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Exercise: Strength training helps to counteract the effects of aging on bones, which become less dense and more brittle as time goes by. Weight-bearing exercise is perhaps one of the best preventative measures one can take against osteoporosis, as the pressure on bones make them create new bone material. Here are 5 Yoga Poses for Osteoporosis to get you geared.
Sunshine: A cheap and easy treatment that improves your physical and mental health, sunshine provides the vitamin D that your body needs. If you live in an overcast climate and do not get the recommended 15-20 minutes of sunshine a day, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement to ward off deficiency.
As bone loss has recently been linked to increased risk for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, maintaining bone density is more important than ever. Although popping a calcium pill to prevent osteoporosis is an easy and attractive option, a better idea is to maintain a healthy diet rich in nutrients and to exercise with strength-training regularly.
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image: Sara Bjork