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Stop the Madness!!!

Okay, seriously, I can’t take conflicting information. Why? Because then I have to make my own decision. I have to weigh options – risks and benefits. It really stresses me out. I heard a blip on the news today that said something along the lines of calcium supplements raising the risk of heart attack. WHAT?!? Excuse me, but wasn’t calcium supposed to be good for you? I knew that I had to find out more about this and fairly quickly, as I have recently begun taking calcium supplements to help strengthen my bones.

I googled (yes, I know, not always the best option, but I will only trust reputable sites) and found this article on Fox News and this one on ABC News. I want to add that when I say “trust”, I mean put more faith in than another less reputable site or one I have not heard of.

The Fox News site says that the risk is increased by 30 percent in those that took calcium supplements. In a study of 12,000 elderly patients over 4 years, half took calcium and half took a placebo. The study showed a 30% increase in heart attacks in the patients who took the calcium. This article made no mention of vitamin D being taken along with the calcium supplements, but advised patients to consult their doctors and to try go get calcium in their diets naturally instead of via supplement.

The ABC News site gave me a little reassurance that I should, indeed, continue to take my calcium supplements. The article says the studies of those with or at increased risk for osteoporosis (read: older women) who took calcium supplements were at an increased risk for heart attack. It goes on to say that since calcium supplements are widely used, the increase may not be a result of the calcium supplements, but other factors. There was no link found in those who took vitamin D along with the calcium.

Hmmmmm….. Osteoporosis runs in my family. My grandmother has it (mom’s mom) and my mom & sister both have osteopenia (sis is 35). Having Celiac Disease, family history and now the stress fracture puts me at an increased risk. Taking calcium supplements or getting an ample amount in my diet is imperative. Currently I take 1000mg calcium and 4000IU vitamin D/day. I had a DEXA scan in 2006 that was normal. I just had it repeated this week (due to my stress fracture) and it was normal. Phew! I am okay for now, but here is where the complication lies….I don’t drink milk. I am lactose intolerant and while I can tolerate some dairy (ice cream, cheese & yogurt) with Lactaid on occasion, drinking a glass of milk kills me. Even daily consumption of yogurt starts to be too much after a few days. I do drink almond milk on occasion (I use it in my coffee daily) and it has calcium and vitamin D in it. I don’t see myself drinking enough of that to get my RDA, though. I did some more googling and found this information from Health

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to drink your milk in order to get your calcium.

The government recommendation for adults ages 19-50 is 1000 mg of calcium per day. One cup of milk has 296 mg, but there are plenty of reasons you might not to drink milk, from personal preference to medical reasons.

Here are 15 foods high in calcium that don’t come from a cow:

Sesame Seeds (can’t eat these – might as well eat gluten)
A quarter cup of sesame seeds has 351 mg calcium.

A cup of boiled spinach has 245 mg.

Collard Greens
A cup of boiled collard greens has 266 mg.

Blackstrap Molasses
One tablespoon has about 137 mg.

One cup of raw kelp has 136 mg.

Tahini (again, sesame seeds, off limits)
Two tablespoons of raw tahini (sesame seed butter) have 126 mg.

Two cups of boiled broccoli have 124 mg.

Swiss Chard
One cup of boiled chard has 102 mg.

One cup of boiled kale has 94 mg.

Brazil Nuts
Two ounces of Brazil nuts (12 nuts) have 90 mg.

Two cups of raw celery have 81 mg.

One ounce of almonds (23 nuts) has 75 mg.

Papaya (Ick – have you tasted papaya?)
One medium papaya has 73 mg.

Flax Seeds
Two tablespoons of flax seeds have 52 mg.

One medium orange has 52 mg.

Looks like I will be making smoothies out of molasses, kale & flax seeds from here on out. ;) Seriously, I am going to keep track my intake for a few days and see how much I get without trying to add any extra. Then I can see where my diet may need some adjustment. I know of one staple I eat daily that has calcium – almond butter! If choosing a nut butter, almond has more than peanut. Twist my arm, I could use as many reasons as possible to eat more almond butter. Now, if only red wine was as good of a source of calcium as it is antioxidants.

16 comments to Stop the Madness!!!

  • Diane (pilateschik)

    I saw this earlier on the Washington Post twitter and read it. Yes, I have the celiac, but my mom has tested normal in her DEXA scans. She should have another later this year. It does not run in my family, that I know of. And, I am a big calcium consumer – spinach, flax, coconut milk (and the kefir). I also have 3 docs that constantly check my Vitamin D among other things since I am "of that age" now. I hate hearing that since they ARE older than I!!!

  • I heard this today too. I don't take calcium supplements because they bother my stomach, but Mark started taking them after his stress fracture. I'm going to mention the study to him tonight…

    I love almond butter and molasses. Not too fond of all the greens. (I know, I know, I should eat more of them, but I REALLY have to force myself) I gave up the GREEN MONSTERS…they didn't agree with me either….

  • Irene

    When taking calcium supplements, you should be taking magnesium and Vitamin D3. Many of the liquid calcium supplements will have these other vitamins added. I actually think magnesium is more important to healthy bones than the calcium. I don't take calcium, but I do take magnesium & Vitamin D3.

  • Here is a link to one of my very favorite posts on getting enough calcium from a vegan blogger. I hope it helps with any questions still remaining:

  • I do not know what research they are referring to, but it's always good to take health information with a grain of salt, and then do your own research. There may have been other confounding factors with the participants that were examined, other preexisting conditions, etc. Many times the titles and conclusions can be very misleading, and then every news outlet and their brother jumps on the bad information and makes it even worse.

    Nothing wrong at all with your final decision, I think it's a good move. Just be aware that the latest health scare as presented by the media is often not that at all.

  • Kim buckton

    I can't believe that you don't like papaya!

  • I don't like papaya either Kim! I had a fresh one here and gave it all to Scott, yucky! How about soymilk? Can you drink that? My understanding is that calcium from natural sources is more easily processed by the body and if we take in too much, it gets passed right back out with regular elimination. However synthetic calcium, if we take too much, doesn't get passed out and can actually build up causing deposits. Calcium intake is something that I'm staring to look into as well. I try to get yogurt and such in a few times a week, as I don't drink milk either. Have you thought about maybe something like the SO Delicious yogurt? It might have calcium and with it being coconut milk, might not upset your tum. :)

  • MJ

    The wonders of ongoing research – "the answer" keeps changing. We are all an experiment of one, but that said, look at the specifics of the study (in this case, a meta-analysis of selected studies) as you consider the data and make a "risk-risk trade".

    Another opinion:
    As always, consider the source (see bottom of release)

    And you can read from the British Medical Journal online directly

    My bone density and calcium levels are of concern to me due to some medical conditions, multiple factors for osteo risk for me and osteo in my family. I also am extremely lactose intolerant and some of my meds are adversely affected by calcium intake. So, it's a balancing act. I take 1000 mg of calcium citrate in 2 doses later in the day, magnesium and rx vitaminD3 in the evening (you can get OTC D3 though). I get single ingredient supplements (i.e., my calcium citrate only has that one ingredient, the magnesium is a separate supplement) so I can tweak amounts of one item w/o impacting another. I eat plenty of the stuff on the list above but be aware that calcium and iron (food or supplement) compete with each other for absorption. So it's great that spinach has calcium, but if I recall it also has a fair amount of iron, and I'm not sure how your body decides how much of each to take at any time.

    Make sure you're taking D3 not D2, yes, take magnesium, and I've found calcium citrate to be far more tolerable (and I believe more easily absorbed) than the more common calcium carbonate.

    I have found that I like Hawaiian papaya (available in the southwest/west or by mail order) but I don't like other types (Mexican, South American) – the flavor and texture is different.

  • First, I agree with Erin; studies need to be looked at carefully. There are numerous studies on a multitude of topics that contradict each other. Speak to your doctor for additional guidance. When I was first diagnosed as gluten intolerant, I also found out that I had osteopenia. That was at age 47. My doctor put me on a very high quality bone building supplement, Perque Bone Guard Forte 20–on its mid-range, osteoporosis risk dosage. Bone Guard contains not just calcium ("as acetate, glycinate, succinate, malate, fumarate, and citrate"), but also C, D3, K-1, K-2, biotin, magnesium, zinc, boron, and more. I also walked faithfully (a weight-bearing exercise) and ate calcium and K-rich foods. It took 3 years, but finally my bones were normal. I still take a maintenance dose of Bone Guard and won't stop. It's never upset my stomach, although when I have ran out occasionally, I've tried other OTC calcium with D and they did immediately. I also take mine at bedtime (as my doctor recommended) and it helps me fall asleep, too. Calcium alone (or even with D, and it should be D3) cannot do the bone building needed. A family history of osteopenia or osteoporosis says gluten issues to me. I'm wondering if all your family members have been tested, Kim. One local celiac expert, who spoke to the GIG group I belong to, said osteopenia/osteoporois is the #1 symptom of his older patients. And, with my support group members, it's often been the symptom that got the younger folks diagnosed, because it was unexplained at their young age. Osteopenia/osteoporosis doesn't just happen, there is a cause and often that cause is the malabsorption of ALL the vitamins/minerals needed for bone building. And, non-celiac gluten issues, like intolerance and sensitivity, can impact malabsorption and osteo issues; I'm the perfect example of that with my previous diagnosis of osteopenia and recovery with a gluten-free diet, exercise, and high quality bone building supplement.

    BTW, I was taken aback at first by your Stop the Madness title as I have a post by that name, too. ;-) All kinds of madness that must be stopped, huh? ;-)



  • lots of great info and comments here…just wanted to mention one of my favorite sources, the NIH Fact sheets for supplements. They're very well referenced, are not funded by questionable interests, and overall quite balanced

  • Kim

    Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments & information. :)

  • Great post, if anything, it makes me more aware that I need to take care of my calcium intake from food, in general. I do take 1000g calcium supplement a day, and do eat a lot of the foods on the list daily. But it is definitely something to make you think that when taking something that is supposed ot help could actually be putting you at risk for something else. But as others have said, we have to really know what the study, they are citing, is actually saying.

    I think I will add some flax seed to your blueberry scones that I am going to make today ;)

  • "How do other nutrients interact with magnesium?

    The relationship between magnesium and calcium is one of the most actively researched, and yet not fully understood mineral-to-mineral relationships. On one hand, magnesium is required in order for calcium to maintain a balanced role in the body's metabolism. On the other hand, magnesium can compete with calcium and prevent calcium from trigger certain events, like the relay of a nerve message or the contraction of a muscle."

    The key word here is "competes". Kim, do you recall if those persons where also taking magnesium? Calcium induced magnesium deficiency could be a cause of the higher deaths. I have known from this relationship for about a year now and have been careful with it, despite most supplements only having magnesium or calcium – some rare finds do have both.

    I googled for "magnesium heart attacks" just now and got some interesting results.

    Needless to say, I always take Calcium and Magnesium together, as also for Zinc and Copper.

  • Kim


    I have no idea if they were taking magnesium or not. Thanks for sharing that!


    How did the scones turn out?

  • Hello, As a Newbie, I’m constantly searching on the internet yahoo for posts which will assist me. Thank you.

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