The calcium conundrum

When talking about healthy bones, the first thing that comes to mind is calcium. Right?

Or in this supplement-loving era: calcium supplements. And perhaps throw in some vitamin D for good measure.

But, let’s review.  Healthy bones are made of many nutrients besides calcium. These include vitamin D, protein, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and flouride. Minor (but necessary) players also include vitamins A and C, manganese, copper, boron, iron, zinc and the B vitamins. Got that?

My sense is that we are being naive when we think a supplement, for any condition, solves anything. Or perhaps more accurately corrects a poor diet. That being said, let’s talk calcium supplements.

Warnings that come with calcium supplementation include:

  • kidney stone
  • milk-alkali syndrome
  • interference with iron absorption
  • constipation
  • possible INCREASED risk of heart attack and stroke

Hmmmm. Not a ringing endorsement for calcium supplements.

A Journal of Internal Medicine, October 2015 states:

Most studies show little evidence of a relationship between calcium intake and bone density, or the rate of bone loss.

And later in their abstract:

calcium supplements appear to have a negative risk-benefit effect, and so should not be used routinely in the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.

Certainly check with your doctor as recommendations should always be individualized; but for most, in my opinion, skip the supplements. Focus on a balanced diet and exercise for you and your bones to be well,


PS The National Dairy Council a reliable source for scientific and consumer info if you want to read more.

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Strengthening bones

Pilates practitioners

Last Minute we talked about bones and being mindful of building them when you’re young!

While my field is nutrition and diet, my first thought in maintaining strong bones, post-30, is actually EXERCISE!

Specific exercise recommendations should come from an expert in that field (exercise physiologist, physical therapist, kinesiology specialist, occupational physiologist, orthopedist, sports medicine specialist for example). Know there is a distinct difference in what you should and shouldn’t do for bones if you have osteoporosis.

But, in general – be as active as you can.

Weight bearing exercise (in the person without osteoporosis) is critical. WebMD suggests:

  • brisk walking
  • climbing stairs
  • dancing
  • hiking
  • jogging
  • jumping rope
  • step aerobics
  • tennis/racquet sports
  • yard work

OK, that last one sounds like work, but you get the picture. If your feet touch the ground, the exercise is weight bearing.

The person with osteopenia and osteoporosis should focus on non-jarring, bone-rattling activity. And as joints begin to age, we tend to enjoy “easier” workouts  – biking and swimming come to mind.

Flexibility, improved core strength and stability, and better balance are benefits of Pilates which I practice because of the ease on the knees! I’ve added Sun Style Tai Chi (instructor Alan says it’s meditation in motion) which similarly focuses on proper body alignment, deep breathing, fall prevention, flexibility and agility.

Whatever your exercise routine, if you’re like me, you can and should do more. Bones need to move to be well,


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