Since I recently blogged on the myth of protein, I felt compelled to attack another C.A.M. (Common American Myth). And of course that's the belief we need SO much calcium in our diet, and that if we don't consume enough, we're just setting ourselves up for brittle bones.
Can I just say that next to the protein myth, this is the most outrageous nutrition legend of western civilization?
I've covered this topic in past posts, but again, if it's worth saying, it's worth saying twice.
Let's just think a moment. The recommended levels of most vitamins and minerals are in milligrams or - yet smaller - micrograms. The daily allowance for calcium is in neither; it's in grams (1500 mg = 1.5 grams)! That is, it's recommended we consume hundreds or literally thousands of times the amount of this particular mineral vs. other minerals. Does that seem a little strange to you?
Also, one recent large study of post-menopausal women showed that those taking calcium supplements had no difference in bone loss than those who did not take supplements - but they were more likely to develop kidney stones. (Calcium deposits are a leading cause of kidney stones).
Or just look around the world. Most people are lactose intolerant, and dairy is very little, if any part of their diet. Yet not only do their children grow strong bones, even after weaning, but elderly people in such countries are LESS likely to develop osteoporosis than milk/calcium consuming seniors in the U.S.
Things just aren't making sense at all if you believe high levels of calcium in your diet will prevent bone loss, or build strong bones.
Things do start making sense when you realize that bone loss is due to other dietary factors that cause our body to lose calcium. And that's exactly the problem. It's not an issue of calcium consumption - it's all about retaining the calcium already in our body.
So here are the biggest calcium losers, in order:
1. Excess animal protein
Yep, it really is the number one cause of osteoporosis (and kidney stones). All
sulfuric acid and uric acid created from animal protein - verses plant-based
protein - leaches out calcium from our bones to buffer the blood pH. This is not
an area of controversy in scientific circles, by the way. It's actually the
reason it's recommended Americans consume so much calcium: to compensate for all
the calcium lost from a typical American very-high-protein diet.
2. Phosphoric acid, from cola
Dark sodas especially contain this acid. One study showed 9th and 10th grade
girls who drank soda regularly were 3x more likely to experience bone fractures
than girls their age who rarely drank soda. Scary.
3. Excess sodium, mainly from processed foods
Sodium competes with calcium in the body. Most Americans consume enough sodium
to cause calcium levels to become depleted.
These last two are diuretics, meaning they cause us to pee out more water - and
electrolytes like calcium - than we take in. Of course they are mainly a problem
when in excess. Defination of excess: more than 2 servings/day.
So how much calcium do we need? Not very much. Some experts believe if we cut down on the calcium losers we need very little calcium, maybe 300 mg.s/day. Also, note that calcium is only absorbable when other nutrients are in our G.I. tract, nutrients like vitamins C, D & K, manganese, boron, fiber, silicon, magnesium, and copper, just to name a few. With the exception of vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, the rest of these nutrients are found primarily in plant foods: whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, fruit and veg.s. So even the little bit of calcium you find in such foods will be absorbed and retained, which is what's really important.