Conventional medicine has told you that you need to take 1,500 mg of calcium every day to fight osteoporosis. I've told my readers in the past that they don't really need more than 1,000 mg per day. But now there's evidence that you can take even less. In fact, you probably don't need to take any more than you'd find in a quality multivitamin.
A recent study looked at 310 participants from the very far north country of Iceland. The subjects were divided into groups based on how much calcium they consumed daily. Then the researchers measured the participants' vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels.
PTH, which is made by your tiny parathyroid glands, is critical for keeping just the right amount of calcium in your blood at all times. If you're not getting enough calcium absorbed from our food, your glands will secret PTH. PTH draws calcium from your bones to keep up proper blood levels. The result is osteoporosis. Your goal is to keep a low level of PTH as you age.
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The easiest way to keep your PTH level low is to keep your vitamin D level high. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium into your blood stream. This keeps PTH levels low and prevents calcium loss from your bones.
How well does vitamin D protect your bones? The researchers concluded that Icelanders (who get very little winter sun, a major source of vitamin D) with the highest levels of vitamin D don't need more than 800 mg daily of calcium. (I suspect people who live in more southern areas don't even need that much.) Based on this conclusion, the authors suggested that low levels of vitamin D over a long period of time might be your biggest risk of osteoporosis.
So you might not need supplemental calcium (other than what you get in a good multivitamin) as long as you have plenty of vitamin D.
I think vitamin D is one of the most valuable nutrients available. Not only does it prevent osteoporosis, but it also prevents cancer and heart disease. It's one nutrient everyone needs.
Before you start taking vitamin D, though, ask your doctor to measure your 25-hydroxy vitamin D level. I routinely use this test to measure vitamin D and have done so for years. It should be a staple lab test, just like cholesterol.
I want my patients to be in the upper third (over 55.0 ng/ml) of the normal range (16.0 to 74.0 ng/ml). If you're not there, consider supplemental vitamin D - up to 5,000 units daily in capsules or from cod liver oil.
Some doctors will tell you that level is toxic. It's not! Most of the information you'll hear about vitamin D toxicity is hogwash. If you were in the tropics, the sun would give you up to 10,000 units daily. As long as you don't burn, that's the best way to get your vitamin D - it won't cost you a thing!