There has been a lot of conflicting diet and nutrition information in the news lately about the benefits of calcium and supplements. While we all know that calcium is essential for our bodies’ normal functioning, each person is different and should speak with their doctor about their personal calcium levels and how to approach diet and nutrition with regard to calcium and supplements.
Dr. Susan Wilder, founder of the Scottsdale concierge medical practice LifeScape Premier has reviewed and researched many recent reports and proposes the following six things you should know about calcium and supplements.
1. There are virtually NO supplements that should be blanket recommended for everyone – with the exception of maybe fish oil for those of us who are not big fish eaters. This is why we do very personalized testing at LifeScape Premier to figure out what people need and replete those things specifically. Supplements are just unregulated drugs should never be a one-size-fits-all proposition.
2. WHOLE FOODS are always better than PILLS – this is especially true for calcium. If you can get at least 3-4 calcium rich foods (* see below) per day, you do NOT need calcium supplements, no matter what your bone density. In our experience, vitamin D levels and exercise are far more important to fixing bone density than calcium anyway. If you do need a little calcium, make sure your TOTAL daily intake of foods/supplements is <1200 (1500 if 65+), take with food, and never exceed more than 500mg calcium in a single dose.
3. Although the recent reports note that “healthy postmenopausal women should not take daily low doses of vitamin D and calcium to prevent bone fractures” there is some very good data on a multitude of health benefits of vitamin D repletion IF YOU ARE DEFICIENT. This is why, although expensive, we feel it worthwhile to monitor vitamin D levels periodically and only recommends repletion to those who are deficient. And guess what? Even in Arizona’s “Valley of the Sun”, most of us are deficient. If you take acid blockers regularly or have a leaky gut, you have very high risk of being deficient.
4. Multivitamins are unnecessary for most. The studies last fall showing higher mortality for women taking multivitamins were done 20 years ago and did not take many confounding factors into account. The supplements of today are entirely different than the “One a Day” vitamins of 2 decades ago so the study cannot be generalized to today but again, supplementation is only necessary when your diet is not ideal, you have deficiencies and can’t eat the foods you need to replete them, or you are taking medications or have health conditions that increase your risk of deficiencies.
5. Best advice overall is – eat a wide variety of whole fresh foods, mostly plants, lean proteins and healthy fats, and avoid the starches/sugars/sweetened beverages/processed foods (a.k.a. “Frankenfoods”).
6. The term “Good supplement” is an oxymoron in the US where there is virtually no regulatory oversight to this industry since the DSHEA Act of 1994. We do quite a bit of research, monitor supplement ratings and the Natural Medicine Database, and often change our recommendations as we learn but it’s not always easy to weed out the wheat from the chaff.
Additionally, Dr. Wilder offers this list of ten great calcium sources you can find in your local supermarket.
5. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens – steamed or cooked just a bit to release the nutrients
6. Fortified cereals such as Total, Raisin Bran if not gluten intolerant (They have a lot of calcium in one serving.)
7. Fortified orange juice
9. Fortified soymilk or almond milk (Not all soymilk is a good source of calcium, so it’s best to check the label.)
10. Enriched breads, grains, and waffles
Here’s to good eating! If you have questions about your personal diet and nutrition needs, contact LifeScape Premier to see how our experts can help you meet your vitality goals.
About the author: Dr. Susan Wilder is a renowned concierge medical doctor, founder of two family medical practices in Scottsdale, Arizona and is a national public speaker and frequent media guest. A published author, she has consulted with DreamWorks Television, provides parenting advice on BabyFirstTV, and is a member of Phoenix’s KPNX-TV Channel 12 “Health Team.” Dr. Wilder is listed as one of the nation’s top Family Physicians by the Consumers Research Council and The Center for the Study of Services and Best Doctors ranks Dr. Wilder among the top 4% of Family Physicians nationally. Learn more at: http://lifescapepremier.com/our-staff/dr-susan-wilder