Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Magnesium and More Essentials – Dr. Alan Christianson
Hi there. Dr. Alan Christianson here and I want to tell you about the Calcium paradox. There is so many really good questions we get about Calcium. Do we need it? How much? What types? What about the heart attacks? How does it absorb? All these relevant factors and they are very important.
I am super jazzed to give you all some clarity on this and make better sense out of it all. A lot of this was spawned by a study from the last year that shows that vitamins raise the risk of heart attacks. That’s a pretty shocking headline and rightfully so. The sad thing is that it is data that is not new. Vitamins can cause heart attacks. To be very specific, insoluble versions of calcium can cause heart attacks. So calcium does two very different things in the body.
One is really good and one is awful. The good one we call mineralization. So calcium is an important part of forming bone tissue. Helping our muscles work right. Helping our nerves to conduct signals properly. When we lack it we can have more muscular tension. More fatigue. More stress. So it is a really critical thing.
So now the calcifying. That is like a pearl forming in an oyster. When there is irritation. When there is inflammation in the body calcification can grow around that and it can cause masses to form. Calcified masses. Some of these are small. Some are more significant in size. Even the small ones can be critical. So when there is irritation in the blood vessels that calcium growth creates calcification. That is a big part how plaque forms in the body and that is how heart disease sets up. That is why studies have shown that many vitamins cause heart attacks. Because those that have the insoluble calcium will cause more plaque to form.
Calcification is also a bad deal for your joints. When we talk about joint calcification with arthritis. Its the same process. Its an area that is chronically inflamed. Its calcified. Its material built around that. This is also the process behind kidney stones and gall stones. There are many ways it can go wrong.
So why does calcium do bad things sometimes and good things other times. There are a couple reasons for that. The first one is what type of calcium are we consuming. Calcium is soluble if it dissolves or its insoluble if it doesn’t dissolve in water. Simple distinction. The insoluble types are more concentrated. They have more calcium per dose then others. They are just more dense but they are also harder for the body to put in the right places. They are more apt to move around in the system and just passively attach to inflammation rather then actively contribute to mineralization and tissue repair. So that is the downside.
So insoluble calcium what does that mean in terms of our diet. Pretty much dairy foods. So dairy foods contain calcium carbonate and it is a very dense calcium. So per serving you will see more impressive numbers per milligram. In the body that is calcium that does not do as many good things and we have seen that. Its a paradox but many papers have shown that the cultures that have the highest dairy intake actually have higher rates of bone thinning. It does not help the things that calcium should do for mineralization. We have also seen that those same cultures have higher rates of arthritis and then cardiovascular events. So that is the double edge sword. In terms of supplements the insoluble calcium would be calcium carbonate and also bone derived calcium or coral derived calcium. Those are all types that do not readily dissolve in water.
So what about the good kind of calcium. Well its the type that is more water soluble. As a generalization this is the type of calcium we get from plant foods. You may hear about green foods and green leafy vegetables containing calcium. Often times they are not given as much attention as they deserve because the amount they contain is a lot lower in milligrams then you would find in calcium from dairy for example. So even though it is fewer milligrams it is much better absorbed. It is much more useful for the body. So the leafy greens have very helpful types of calcium.
In supplements the type you want to look for are going to mallet forms. So citric mallet and glycine mallet. Those are some of the preferred types. Those are cool. You do not need more then a few 100 milligrams and that is because they are more efficiently absorbed and they are more extensively used for mineralization. There is not a whole lot of loss in absorption and there is not a great amount of calcium lost to calcification and inflammatory reactions. So they are safe and they are much more efficient. They are much more important for us. That is one big distinction of calcium doing good stuff not bad stuff and that is just what type we have.
Another big factor is Vitamin D status. So the more we have good amounts of Vitamin D the more we can regulate calcium. The more we can make sure it mineralizes and does not calcify. Vitamin D is something that in the past our ancestors got it from the sunlight. They were outside and more unclothed and their skin reflected the amount of sun exposure they had. So darker skin blocks Vitamin D synthesis. So if you have dark skin and are out in the sun more constantly you will get appropriate but not excessive amounts of Vitamin D.
White skin and light skin allows it to absorb quicker. So if you are lighter complected and European areas are in the distant past you would have less sun exposure then those in more equatorial regions of the world. You know Africa or the Middle East. So the lighter skin allowed you take up Vitamin D more quickly from the less sun exposure. It seems the opposite but what happens is that the pigment blocks Vitamin D formation. Its not how much our skin absorbs because dark colors absorb more heat and more light. No the pigment that causes our skin to change in color changes how much we absorb Vitamin D by blocking it. So our ancestors got more from the sun.
There was also more that they got from animal foods. Especially animal organs. They would eat quit a bit of organ tissue. We do not as much. If we did have more liver, kidneys or heart in our diet we would maintain more of that. The other factor is our bathing. So the fact that we bath and shower regularly that makes us less able to assimilate Vitamin D on a regular basis.
So Vitamin D is good to take in supplemental form. Its good to track as well. We now know that there are certain blood levels that yield wonderful health benefits. Current guidelines suggest 50 – 75 mammograms per mil. People are different in terms of how much they take to achieve that range from one to the next. Average is about 5,000 to 10,000 units. There are some that need less and some that need more but it is good to watch and that will help your body to make sure calcium is behaving.
Another big nutrient that is also fat insoluble is Vitamin K. Vitamin K is named K because it was involved with clotting reactions. It was actually a German term for clotting that caused that to tie in. Vitamin K is also critical for calcium to behave right. There is a compound called oxalate that allows calcium to mineralize and Vitamin K creates that effect to occur. Vitamin K is also in leafy greens. So again leafy greens got some good versions of calcium but they also have Vitamin K which helps make good use of the calcium that we do have.
Another relevant factor is our magnesium status. The better we are in magnesium the more apt calcium is to do the right stuff. Magnesium is something that most of us are low in, unless we are very strategic about our diets or we are supplementing with it. Some studies have shown that among people who have reported to emergency rooms, half or more are deficient in magnesium using tests that only show it when its more advanced. So its a big problem. Its super important for the health of your heart. The health of your bones. So in some cases the bad that calcium does is related to simply that lack of magnesium to properly balance it and oppose it.
The densest food source of magnesium. The single densest one of the commonly available foods would be Adzuki and they are wonderful things. You also do see them as Adzuki or Aduki. They are small red beans. They are very tasty and you can get them pre-cooked in can forms. More so in health food supermarkets or you can get them dry and they cook up pretty fast. Faster then many other beans and they are wonderful. Next best dense source would be almonds and they are also a nice source of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are good sources as well and leafy greens are wonderful.
Greens have a compound called chlorophyl and chlorophyl is a lot like hemoglobin that we have in our blood. Its a lot like plant blood. Our hemoglobin is iron based and that is why our blood is red. So plant chlorophyl is more magnesium based and that difference between magnesium and iron makes it green versus red. So plant blood has magnesium and human blood has iron. The more green things we eat the better we are in terms of our magnesium, our Vitamin K and our calcium status.
So calcium is a double edged sword. You want to mineralize and you do not want to calcify. So eat your greens. Tag on some calcium mallet to the diet. Do be aware that calcium from dairy foods and from insoluble sources is counter productive. Stay active. Get some healthy sun. Track your Vitamin D and you should do great. Thanks for tuning in. We will talk again real soon.
Good Health, Dr. Alan Christianson