My stance on taking supplements has always been simple. With a healthy balanced diet the body should receive adequate amounts of nutrients. However, circumstances are not always ideal and there are times throughout our life when taking additional vitamins and minerals is advisable.
For example women can build up an accumulative iron deficiency over a lifetime of menstruation. Taking supplemental B vitamins and liquid iron for a week a month may possibly help avoid this as well as improve symptoms of PMS.
During pregnancy the body is under stress from the demands of the growing fetus and taking a specific vitamin and mineral supplement including folic acid is important.
Following illness when the body’s immune system is compromised it may speed up the recovery process to take anti-oxidants such as Vitamin A,C and E with additional Vitamin D to rebuild the defences. But the body is more likely to absorb these more efficiently from foods that are rich in these vitamins and some sunshine.
It is also an issue as we get into our 60s and 70s and no longer enjoy quite the same level of hormones to protect us. But here is where we can run into problems. Especially if you are eating industrially produced foods that have been vitamin enriched. How many of us reach automatically for the bread, cereal, milk, fruit juice and other products that announce they have added vitamins and minerals that are a percentage of your Recommended Dietary Allowance.
If we have a healthy diet already there is a possibility that we are in fact ingesting nutrients in an inaccessible format, too much of one or more, and may assume that if we are getting from these products we do not need to include foods that are naturally rich in them.
This brings me to the subject of the most recent research into calcium supplements.
Here is an extract for an interesting study from John Hopkins that is backed up by several others that are ongoing. The figure for Americans who take calcium supplements is quoted at 43% but that is mirrored across the western world and doctors are even prescribing to elderly patients for bone health in conjunction with Vitamin D. Great for the bones.. but what about the heart?
Calcium Supplements May Damage the Heart – Experts recommend caution before taking calcium supplements
After analyzing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective.
In a report on the research, published Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers caution that their work only documents an association between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis, and does not prove cause and effect.
But they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements, and they urge a consultation with a knowledgeable physician before using calcium supplements. An estimated 43 percent of American adult men and women take a supplement that includes calcium, according the National Institutes of Health.
“When it comes to using vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly calcium supplements being taken for bone health, many Americans think that more is always better,” says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system.”
There is no doubt that it is critical that bone health in the elderly is an area of huge concern.. and it is made even more essential when taking into account reduced appetite and therefore consumption of calcium from food sources.
However, we should not be waiting until our 70s and 80s to be looking after our bone health and rather than automatically reach for a bottle of calcium tablets we should be including calcium rich foods in our diet.
If your calcium has been prescribed by a doctor then do consult him before you stop taking but if you are buying over the counter you might first review your daily diet and make sure that you are including the following foods instead.
CALCIUM: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher dietary calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women.
If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.
Calcium requires a specific balance with magnesium and Vitamin D for optimal absorption.
The best dietary sources are dairy (moderate intake) sardines, canned salmon (the bones), milk, yogurt, cheese and green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, kale and spinach; soy products such as tofu and nuts such as almonds.
To make sure that your dietary calcium is absorbed efficiently you also need to include foods that contain magnesium some of which are complex meaning they contain both calcium and magnesium such as dark green vegetables.
MAGNESIUM: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium. The best food sources are whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish.
You also need adequate amounts of Vitaman D so that the balance of all three nutrients is effective.
VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is mainly synthesised by the body during exposure to sunlight although it is also found in Cod liver oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and free-range eggs.
I hope you have found useful but if you do have any questions about any of my posts on health you can contact me on email@example.com