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Yet More "Press Release" Reporting

In the news today is the kind of stuff that used to frustrate me: Calcium Pills Double Heart Attack Risk. Now I do the ten minutes of research needed to find out what the study actually considered, and what the conclusion actually is.  All else is a press release that reporters don't investigate,

So here's the deal: researchers in Germany asked nearly 25,000 people to regularly fill out a form on how frequently they had consumed 148 different foods over the previous twleve months.  Then they were asked if they had taken supplements "regularly"--with regularly defined as daily use for at least a week, or five doses over four weeks.  Participants were not asked how much calcium or what form of calcium.  Eleven years later, supplement versus non-supplement death rates and causes were compared.

So...  An unknown amount of an unknown form of calcium supplements were associated with a higher risk of death from cardiac events...AND (from the study) older age, longer smoking duration, and lower education levels. 

For more than a decade, it's been well-known and well-documented that calcium carbonate--the cheapest and most common form of calcium used in supplements--does little to nothing for one's health, and can in fact lead to kidney stones, hardening of the arteries, digestive issues, and low nutrient absorption.  However, mainstream supplements, like those found on standard drug store shelves, almost all use calcium carbonate.

But other forms of calcium--like calcium citrate--can do the opposite.  Without causing kidney stones.  While strengthening bones, reducing muscle cramps, and so forth.  I have never had a client come see me whose physician had explained the difference.  I've had many clients improve bone density by switching their form of calcium.

And I'm really, really tired of medical professionals--who have no education in these matters--doing little more than relating the contents of researchers' press releases.  If the professional cannot--or sees no need to--distinguish between healthy and unhealthy form of a mineral, I know she or he isn't going to give complete and accurate information.

Is it best to get your calcium from foods?  Absolutely.  Your body will get more usable calcium from greens than from dairy, though.  Will calcium supplements kill you?  Only if you take the unhealthy ones, most likely to be found at big box stores.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
sartorias
May. 24th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
The whole subject is frustrating. I read this, went downstairs and looked at my calcium supplements that were recommended by some study or other (and I noticed the benefit of hair and nail growth and strength) a few years back, and see that it is bicalcium phosphate. So I look it up, and as usual, DOOM! DEATH! BAD! This has happened over and over through the years--ever since my folks' "Get out into the sun, it's good for you!" turned dire. I feel like crawling into a hole and pulling the rug after me, because no matter what I do, it turns out to be dire a couple years later.
blairmacg
May. 24th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
It is extremely frustrating, yes! Even the majority of medical "best practices" are revised and updated every five years or so.

Much of the good/bad flips come from the manner in which medical/health research is conducted: one isolated piece at a time. Trouble is, nothing we put in our body can act independently. If you have plenty of iodine, but are deficient in minerals, your thyroid won't function properly. Calcium without Vitamin D leads to hardened arteries.

And it's extremely difficult to structure research that looks at the domino effect. Forex, it has been recommended calcium carbonate be taken with food in order to increase its bioavailability. However, cal carb neutralizes stomach acid--which you'd think is great, considering how many folks take antacids. But without acid, we don't digest food and thus can't absorb the nutrients. And low levels of some nutrients, like B-12, have been linked with cognitive decline and dementia...especially among those who take antacids, because we need acid to access B-12 from foods.

That leaves us folk with... Eat real food as the primary strategy, supplement as needed. Green things and, if one isn't vegetarian, things that have eaten green things. Dairy is fine, but not necessary. Elephants have rather sturdy bones without supplementing their diet with cheese. ;-)

(I do take a calcium citrate supplement, but only about 300mg. That seems to be plenty in combo with my diet.)

sartorias
May. 24th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I can give up a lot of things, and have, but to give up cheese . . . that would be very hard.
blairmacg
May. 24th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
That would be awful indeed!

I just meant dairy wasn't the only source, despite what advertisers want us to believe. :-)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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