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Death By Calcium

Is your doctor or health care provider still recommending calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis? If so let me offer you a different perspective. Calcium is important but calcium supplements are not. Doctors have long recommended calcium supplements to prevent and treat osteoporosis but the evidence is lacking. My Nurse Practitioners still recommend calcium supplements including dairy to our patients but someday the science must win out. I have moved away from just prescribing meds for each problem and moved towards looking at the root cause of the problem which is usually your diet and your lifestyle and this change of perspective means that I am often suggesting things to my staff that don’t jibe with the current national guidelines and that makes them nervous. I have asked them to rethink their use of statin drugs. … Cholesterol high? … “Take a statin” is just too simplistic. Heart blockage? … “Lets put a stent in” just doesn’t change outcomes. Flu shot recommended so just give the shot. -Not if you look at the real available data about its safety and efficacy. So it’s only natural that I would look at calcium supplements to see what the real data shows.

Death By Calcium is a book written by Dr. Thomas Levy in 2013 and in it he lays out all the science behind calcium metabolism and
calcium supplementation. He starts out with a study in the British Medical journal followed 60,000 women over 19 years and the
conclusion was striking –“high intakes of calcium in women are associated with higher death rates from all causes and cardiovascular disease but not from stroke.”

Calcium is vital in your body but it needs to be in the right amount in the right locations. Calcium is limited in the cells … the gradient is 10,000 to one … so lots of calcium outside the cells … much less inside. If you look at cancer cells they have increased calcium channels allowing more calcium in causing progressively more damage to the cells. Increased intracellular levels increased likelihood of malignant transformation. Decreased intracellular calcium has been shown to decrease the likelihood of that cell creating metastasis. Furthermore the way many toxins work is by flooding the cells with calcium. It has been shown that multiple chronic illnesses are associated with increased calcium in the cells … including but not limited to ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Further evidence of the dangers of calcium is the fact that we use calcium channel blockers every single day in medicine to treat hypertension, prevent stroke and heart attack and renal failure. These drugs with names like norvasc, diltiazem, verapamil etc. have been shown to decrease all cause mortality. Multiple studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between calcium channel blocker use and development of prostate cancer. Look no further than the lining of your arteries for the dangers of
calcium in the wrong place. One of many tests used to evaluate the heart for blocked arteries is a CT scan that gives you a calcium score … a measure of the calcium lining your heart arteries. The more calcium the more blockage. When you have a mammogram they look for microcalcifications to alert them to possible cancer. An Australian researcher looking at calcium supplementation found an increased risk of heart disease among women that supplemented.

Calcium buildup-a dangerous cause of blocked arteries.

How about a report from Scientific American New York: “calcium supplementation of more than 800 mg/day is associated with an increased prevalence of age-related macular degeneration (amd), especially in older individuals, according to a cross-sectional study of national health and nutrition examination survey (nhanes) data.” Furthermore, “our group had previously found an association between high levels of calcium supplementation and self-reported glaucoma, so it was interesting to also find an association between high levels of calcium supplementation and macular degeneration.” Caitlin l. m. Kakigi from University of California, San Francisco, told reuters health by email: “we believe this is a novel finding, which, in combination with future longitudinal studies, could significantly impact the care of patients with, or at high risk for macular degeneration.”

Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain.

Enough with the articles … let’s get to the expert panel … the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that “the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of combined vitamin D and calcium supplementation to prevent bone fractures in premenopausal women or in men.”

So calcium is vital to your health but calcium supplements are not vital and there are several natural antagonists to calcium including magnesium, Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D3. There is abundant evidence to support the finding that magnesium is good for bones. According to Dr. Tom Levy all three of these supplements have independently been shown to decrease mortality all on their own. Of course, Vitamin D3 has many effects beyond bone health. -Every cell in your body has Vitamin D receptors and Vitamin D also regulates the expression of over 200 genes.

This summer I will write an article with all my supplement recommendations. I have gone from recommending nothing to understanding that most of us just don’t get enough of the micronutrients from our limited diet. I am not alone in this conversion. But at least you know one supplement I won’t be recommending is calcium. Until next month … get well … stay well.

Dr. Barry
Dr. Joseph T. Barry, MD is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. He has relationships with Community General Hospital and has worked at Van Duyn Home and Hospital since 1989. He also has a longstanding relationship with the Iroquois Nursing Home.

Dr. Barry believes you must treat the whole person and not just the presenting problem. He believes there is a real and important connection between your brain, your body and your spiritual self.