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Osteopenia3 updates - July2012
July 12, 2012

Every few months I go 'back to basics' and make myself do a complete review of something I studied ages ago. (It is interesting how I can forget a detail or two that may be important.) So today I offer a 'back to basics' review of calcium AND then at the end a public service announcement that has nothing to do with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis but that could SAVE YOUR LIFE or the life of a woman you know. If you read nothing else in this newsletter, I urge you to scroll to the bottom and read the IBC section.


Next month, if I can finish reading all the research, I shall devote the August issue to pharmaceuticals currently in trials that do NOT have the negative side effects concerning fractures that so many of the bisphosphonates do. Then in September I hope to devote the newsletter to some seldom discussed non-pharmaceutical approaches to Osteopenia and Osteoporosis. I plan to add some of the latter to the web site over the summer. Any way that is the plan. I hope I can carry it out....

Back to basics: Calcium

When anyone is diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, the one recommendation of most physicians make is to take 1,000 - 1,200 mg of calcium a day. Most people hear this as a suggestion to take a supplement and so they go looking for a 'good calcium supplement'. (One reason the web site has a section giving information/evaluation of man of the popular calcium supplements.) .

But there are problems with this approach.

Problem #1 - Calcium alone will not build your bones. You need half as much magnesium as calcium for bone building to take place. You also need trace minerals such as silica and boron. And you need adequate amounts of Vitamin D....and vitamin K (so the calcium you take will be moved into your bones and kept out of your vascular system). So it is not just calcium that we need. Often a good multivitamin provides these necessities...but many of the popular ones do not. If your doctor explains all this to you, consider yourself fortunate. Not everyone does so if you have not reviewed the material recently you may want to check the web site for this information. (There is an index page.) .

Problem #2. -Ingesting calcium is different from ABSORBING calcium. Not all forms of calcium are equally ABSORBABLE. Calcium citrate (the kind found in calcium fortified orange juice) is among the more absorbable forms. Advacal and Alaegcal (as well as a few other brands) have studies to show the absorbability of the calcium used in their supplements. (It is worth checking to see what form of calcium is used in any supplement - especially if taking a discount brand or getting daily calcium from a multivitamin.)


Problem #3. Most physicians forget to say that we can only absorb about 400 mg of calcium at a time so taking a 1,000 mg supplement once a day means that most of it goes down the toilet. Some people realize this and so they take 2 or 3 capsules a day, spacing them out after each meal.

Still we need to think about the calcium in our meals. (In fact some would say that getting our calcium requirements from food is far better than taking calcium supplements.) Most people immediately think of yogurt or cheese when thinking of calcium loaded foods. But a cup of corn meal has almost the same calcium as a cup of yogurt. And a salad with lots of greens, some tofu and almonds can come to 400 mg or more of calcium....and provide the other minerals such as magnesium or silica that we need.


Why is it important to understand how much the calcium is in our diet? Think about it. If you only absorb about 400 mg of calcium at one time and our meal has about 550 mg. of calcium, why would you bother to take a supplement right after such a meal? . I know it get complicated but....our bodies are complicated. If we eat a really well ...lots of fresh, organic vegetables and fruit grown in mineral rich soils, nuts, seeds, fish such as sardines or herring where the bones are digestible, we might not need to be taking so many supplements. But in any case, we do not want to be taking too much calcium so it is worth writing down what you eat in a day for a few days. Then go on line and estimate the amount of calcium, magnesium, silica and boron you are getting from food. (I assume that you will ask your physcian to check your vitamin D levels since testing is easy and is a really accurate way to figure out your levels and i tcould be that you do not need supplementation. - Vitamin D3 is the form we want data on.)

More Problems

Problem 4. I know all this sounds complicated....and it is. But if you are going to take a supplement, it is worth checking to see if there are any scientific studies published in scientific/medical journals about the supplement. (There are reviews of a number of brand supplements on the web site. .

Not every supplement is listed there - so remember if you are considering a supplement, check to see if there are studies published in scientific journals about the supplement... and if you want to be really careful go to PubMed and at least read the abstracts of studies. .

Problem 5 If you are taking a calcium supplement, do consider asking your health care provider to check your blood levels ever so often. Too much calcium can create problems ( I consider myself fortunate that my health care provider does blood work on a regular basis. She though I might have a parathyroid problem because my calcium was high over several months. On my own, I stopped my supplement and behold, the tests began to show normal levels again. Since then I have not take any special calcium supplements...relying on better food choices and a good multivitamin. No need to create a health problem while trying to solve another. (Up until recently taking a supplement was no problem. In fact special bone building supplements helped me for years.... but then things changed. )


NOTE: Every so often I go back over my eating habits...check what I ingest for a few days and then check out the mineral content of my current diet. Amazing how the amount of minerals I ingest can change as I begin to make new food choices. And yes, I take a good multivitamin - in part because even if I eat organic produce, I can not be sure how much boron or other trace minerals are in the soils where the food is grown.

Final note

Final note _ I know that I could add more things to this list... but I have found these basics long as I review them every so often to make sure that what I am doing is good for my bones. (Example I used to east softened bones ends from organic chicken but now that I no longer eat chicken, I need to do other things.)

And yes, even though I wrote the material on the web site, I do revisit the web site every so often to reread a section. It is easy for me to forget all the specifics over time and so a good review helps. It is like a 'in service training' so many companies insist that workers attend once a year. Our human memories do lose things over time.

IBC - Inflamatory Breast Caner.

Inflammatory breast cancer is particularly lethal - in part because it is often diagnosed so late. You can not find it with your monthly breast exam because it does not make lumps. It can NOT be found/diagnosed by a mammogram. Please consider copying this url and watching the YOUTUBE video about IBC. The life you save could be your own..or that of someone you love. I hope you will pass this information along to every woman you know. . .

NOTE- the phone lines are no longer open but the web url given at the end offers solid information. .

Be well. Until next month, I remain . Kate .

Kate Lindemann PhD Senior scholar Institute of Aging and Policy.

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