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Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition
Calcium Does Not Promote Strong Bones In Children OR Adults:
Effects of calcium supplementation on bone density in healthy children: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials by Tania Winzenberg published in the October 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal found, “The small effect of calcium supplementation on bone mineral density in the upper limb is unlikely to reduce the risk of fracture, either in childhood or later life, to a degree of major public health importance.” 1
The authors state, “Our results do not support the premise that any type of supplementation is more effective than another.” Their findings mean dairy products are of no value either. Even studies that used intakes of 1400 mg per day of calcium showed no benefit.
Comments by John McDougall, M.D.: Osteoporosis is a real problem affecting millions of people. The dairy and calcium supplement industries would like you to believe this potentially deadly disease is due to calcium deficiency and the solution is to eat lots of their products, beginning as early in life as possible.
They commonly point out in their sales pitches how important it is to intervene in childhood, so that the peak bone mass can be maximized early in life, preventing fractures later on in life. The truth is calcium deficiency is not the reason for weak bones and the bone mineral density (BMD) is an unreliable predictor of future risk for fractures. (For more information read my October 2004 newsletter article: Resisting the Broken Bone Businesses: Bone Mineral Density Tests and the Drugs That Follow:
An accompanying editorial pointed out, “Of three qualitative reviews of literature published in this decade, two concluded that it is not known whether the modest increments in rate of bone gain after supplementation with calcium or dairy products will translate into clinically meaningful reductions in the risk of osteoporosis later in life or even persist beyond the treatment period.
The third concluded that increases in dairy or total dietary calcium intake did not reliably increase bone mineral density or reduce fracture rate in children or adolescents.”2 So the research clearly contradicts the advertising claim of better bone health from the calcium and the dairy industries — and nobody is willing or able to stop these industries from lying to the public.
Osteoporosis is due to gradual loss of bone tissue (not just the calcium) primarily from poor nutrition and secondarily from lack of exercise. Acids from the high animal protein Western diet cause the major damage to the bones.3
The bones provide most of the alkaline material to buffer this dietary-derived acid from cheese, meat, poultry, seafood and isolated soy protein-based foods (fake meats and cheeses). The acid-base problem is compounded by the lack of alkaline fruits and vegetables in people’s diets.
Any positive effect that calcium supplements may have on bone health come from their antacid effects (not the calcium). For example, the popular antacid, TUMS, is recommended for prevention of bone loss. TUMS is an antacid made of calcium and carbonates. The alkaline carbonates neutralize dietary acids and stop the bone loss. The same bone building effects from acid neutralizing occurs when baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or potassium bicarbonates are fed to people.3
Those who rely on calcium supplements or dairy products for stronger bones are destined to disappointment. The answer to strong bones for a lifetime is a diet based on alkaline foods—vegetables and fruits. Exercise and an active life have a very positive influence.
1) Winzenberg T, Shaw K, Fryer J, Jones G. Effects of calcium supplementation on bone density in healthy children: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2006 Oct 14;333(7572):775.
2) Lanou AJ. Bone health in children. BMJ. 2006 Oct 14;333(7572):763-4.
3) Maurer M, Riesen W, Muser J, Hulter HN, Krapf R. Neutralization of Western diet inhibits bone resorption independently of K intake and reduces cortisol secretion in humans. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2003 Jan;284(1):F32-40
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