When It Comes to Healthy Bones, Calcium is Not the Answer

A pair of studies and one editorial recently published in The BMJ all conclude that the link between increased calcium and bone health is weak at best. Presently, guidelines recommend that older adults increase calcium intake for healthier bones and reduced risk of fractures. It turns out, though, that most research doesn’t support that.

Why take†yet another look at calcium and bone health? New research is showing that there are actually some serious risks associated with too much calcium, including heart attack.

The two†studies, from a group of New Zealand researchers, analyzed 50†previous papers†on dietary calcium and bone health in people over age 50. They also looked at 26 randomized trials on calcium supplements. They found that increasing calcium intake provided “inconsistent reductions” in risk of bone fracture. They said that†if you’re calcium deficient, supplements can†help, but they don’t recommend supplementation for everyone.

If you do think that you need to up your calcium intake, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can determine whether your calcium levels are normal.

The†editorial by Professor Karl MichaŽlsson from Sweden’s Uppsala University came to the same conclusion: increased calcium intake doesn’t†prevent osteoporosis or fractures. He especially advises against†drinking more milk or eating other†dairy products to increase dietary calcium, since these foods†actually may increase the risk of bone fracture and have been shown to increase mortality in older people. “The weight of evidence against such mass medication of older people is now compelling,” he says, “and it is surely time to reconsider these controversial recommendations.”

None of this means†that†your body doesn’t need calcium. It just means that as long as you’re not deficient, you†don’t need to worry so much about it. Instead, the researchers recommend focusing on a balanced diet. From what Dr. MichaŽlsson is saying, it sounds like†including calcium-rich, non-dairy foods like dark leafy greens is the way to go, rather than focusing on†dairy products.

Alternative Way to Support Bone Health

If calcium isn’t the answer to osteoporosis, what is? There’s definitely more research needed, but there’s one recommendation that research does seem to support: exercise.

Taking more calcium - either through supplements or diet - probably doesn't help your bones after all.

Balance poses, like tree stand, help reduce fracture risk.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) has a great page on exercise and bone health.†They suggest†doing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to help build healthy bones and balance work to help prevent the falls that tend to lead to fractures.

Weight-bearing exercises are activities like walking, running, dancing and using the elliptical machine. For muscle-strengthening, try lifting weights or†starting a yoga practice.†Yoga also helps improve balance, so it’s a great double-whammy for preventing fractures!

The great thing about exercise is that unlike a pill or dietary change, you don’t have to worry so much about side effects. Of course, if you’re currently experiencing health problems, you’ll want to run any new exercise regimen past your doctor.

162 comments

LF F
LF Fabout a year ago

Vitamins work together. I take magnesium and zinc w calcium. And remember stomach medications can make calcium not absorbed as much.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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1 years ago

thanks

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

Interesting, thanks.

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Kay M.
Kay M1 years ago

GOOD EVENING AND THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE - GOOD INFORMATION- I ALSO ENJOYED READING THE OVER 157 COMMENTS FROM THE CARE 2 MEMBERS SINCERELY KAY M.

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Deborah W.
Effra W1 years ago

Great, thanks. Due to being low in Vitamin D a lot of us don't use the calcium in our diets properly.

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Anna Ballinger
Anna Ballinger1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sara G.
Sara Away G1 years ago

Thanks.

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Erika Acosta
Erika Acosta1 years ago

Thanks

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Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder1 years ago

ty..

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