Ladies: We Can Stop With the Calcium Chews, Already

Sara here. Osteoporosis has been in the news again, and I want to share some important missing information with you. (If you want the nitty-gritty osseous-related research, please shoot me a line on the Forum.) In brief, though, here’s what every woman, and especially all the moms out there, must know:

Osteoporosis is not going to be prevented, treated or cured with three glasses of milk a day or yogurt every morning. Never was, never will be.

A few things the dairy people don’t want you to think about:

1) Dairy is not a common food in much of the world,

2) Osteoporosis is not a common disease – often, it’s not even heard of – in much of the world. However, osteoporosis is most common in Europe and in the United States, where dairy intake is exceptionally high. Strange? Sure, because there are other factors you need to know about. Osteoporosis is not simply a matter of calcium depletion.

Osteoporosis is caused by many factors, but here are the four key ones:

1) Vitamin and mineral deficiency. Although the western world has incredible abundance and access, centralized mass production of food leaves a lot to be desired in the nutritional department. And our calcium emphasis is skewed. Though calcium is important, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin D, and countless other vitamins and minerals are crucial to bone health. In fact, recent studies show that magnesium may actually be more important to bone health than calcium is. Not saying calcium isn’t important. It is. It’s vital. It’s just not the only thing you need. I hate to beat a dead llama, but take a multi-vitamin, ladies!

2) Soda consumption. (Even diet soda.) The worst, and I mean worst thing you can do to your bones is to drink death-by-can. There are lots of studies that prove this, but a recent long-term study published in the much-respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consume just one soda daily have 5 to 7 percent less bone material than women who limit fizzy stuff to just once a month.

3) Lack of fruits and vegetables. Most Americans eat only 1-3 servings of produce daily. Blech! No wonder we’re all so chunkity chunk. A recent study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that postmenopausal women who ate adequate vegetable matter (at least 5 servings) in their daily diets were between 200 and 400% better in terms of bone mineral density loss. (Now, here’s a handy time to talk about studies and statistics. This doesn’t mean that these bone-hardy women have bones that weigh 2 to 4 times as much as other women. What it means is relative loss compared to veggie-avoiding women. So, that might mean a few ounces on up to a few pounds – scientists generally break things up into quartiles so they can examine a range of factors. Fascinating, I know!)

In other words, vegetables will not make you gain 300 pounds, and they will also not give you the bones of Hercules. But they’re still good for your bones.

Here was Mark’s take: the study was cross-sectional (good), population-based (fine in this case), long-term (good), used statistical regression analysis (sounds fancy but just standard) and was questionnaire-based (a little annoying, but still useful).

4) Lastly, but definitely not least, osteoporosis is caused by a lack of weight-bearing activity. This means resistance. This means weights. And there is no need to worry – weight-bearing activity will not make you look like a protein-shake spokeswoman. A lot of women are surprised to learn that “weight-bearing” activity can be going for a walk – ‘cuz you are bearing your own weight! Using ankle weights is great, as well. Purchase some dumbbells in the 2-10 pound range (depending on your fitness level) and learn to do 4 or 5 difference moves, 3 sets each, 8-10 repetitions per set. 2 or 3 times a week is plenty to keep your bones strong. Ask me for some moves. I’m happy to help out.

You don't need 'em!

[tags] Sara Ost, osteoporosis, osseous, women’s health, deficiency, vitamins, minerals, calcium, weight training, Viactiv, calcium supplement, British Journal of Nutrition, bone density, dairy, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [/tags]

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14 thoughts on “Ladies: We Can Stop With the Calcium Chews, Already”

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  1. Hi Sara
    Thanks for this article, this is what I was looking for to show to my sedentary wife

  2. Excellent article. It’s amazing how hard the government tries to get us to consume an absurd amount of pasteurized milk. Thankfully it’s now becoming more well known that other minerals also play a vital role including magnesium and the sunshine vitamin! Get your daily sun!

  3. Hi! What great information! What are some exercises my 62 year old mother could do with some dumbbells that would help her strengthen her bones?

  4. Excellent article.

    I appreciate this because it gives me a reference to use because I’ve suspected for a while that the calcium/dairy link was bunk.

    The older women (50+) I have know who carefully follow the consume 3 portions of dairy and a lowfat diet in general rarely appear in robust health. They *look* frail, even if overweight, and I’m not surprised it would apply to their bones as well.

    Yes, that’s not scientific but I figure genetically speaking, we’re all programmed to look for signs of health in each other. We mostly know what health looks like because we’re looking for healthy mates. Good doctors will not diagnose any sick person without actually seeing them, so I’m hoping I’ve got some high ground in the anticodal evidence. 🙂

    And as you mention, dairy is unknown in many parts of the world and yet they aren’t breaking their arms and legs every 30 seconds. It also makes dairy suspect as a separate “required” food group, but I digress. 🙂

  5. I have been reading up on the Primal Blueprint and am excited about what I am reading. I would like to implement this lifestyle into my home but I am concerned about the amount of calcium my two active girls(ages 9 &12) may not be getting. This is a critical time for calcium intake. I would love to get some advice on calcium rich foods they may love

  6. Any idea on what kind of dosage on magnesium if I take a supplement. 63 yr old diagnosed with osteopenia and taking Evista. My doc is in the bag for drugs. I have been taking over 2000 mg of calcium carbonate per day with lots of D too. I have a feeling im taking too much of both. Not bad eater before i went paleo in december and exercise-nordic walk and curves. Not sure how to proceed on the osteoporosis issue as paleo beginner. Thanks Mark. I await every post and the great comments each day.

  7. Mark. Thanks sir! Excellent article! I would like to see a link or two to the actual studies that you’re referencing. I know you’ve linked to the organizations that conducted these studies but it would make me feel a whole lot better to see the studies themselves. Thanks!

  8. Question…Does soda include club soda? I have read that the soda problem is with colas, and not fizzy stuff in general, as was previously thought.

    Also, I have pretty low bone density at a relatively young age and would love to hear if it is possible to restore the density. I have heard a few anecdotes, but not much substance.

  9. Great article and I love your personal style; I was laughing at your post-fact comments, love them, keep them coming. I am now a fan of yours. Thanks!
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