Calcium doesn’t strengthen your bones?

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

New study suggests calcium supplements have no added effect, and may cause harm

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

Many have been taught since childhood that it is good to drink milk. Why? Because it has calcium in it, a strong mineral that supposedly strengthens and improves bone structure as well as aiding in preventing conditions such as osteoporosis. However, a new study suggests otherwise.

Researchers in New Zealand published two journal articles in the BMJ (a prominent general medicine journal) after examining the effect of calcium supplements. They concluded that there is only a one or two per cent separation increase in bone mineral density between those who take the supplement and those who do not.

The study also admits that there is not enough proof that calcium could prevent fractures. “Dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures,” as quoted from their second article in the BMJ. “Evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.”

Dr. Ian Reid, one of the lead authors in the study, said he believes most people should stop taking calcium supplements. In fact, the news is worse for those that continue. The researchers argue that too much calcium increases the risk of possible heart attacks and kidney stones. For many, the overall conclusions reached by these analysts will be alarming.

Doctors across North America, including Dr. Sandra Kim from Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, are encouraging the average news consumer to not follow blindly, but instead take calcium in moderation, and according to the specific needs of their bodies.

“We want people to not jump to conclusions and realize that these articles don’t really change our main message,” Kim explained to CTV. “We know that it doesn’t prevent fractures, but adequate calcium intake is vital for general bone health.”

The researches have recommended that governments “lower the recommended daily limit from a high of 1,300 mg per day for adults, to 800 mg.” Will this minor alteration in diet change make a difference in our health? Only time will tell.

Until then, make sure to eat calcium-rich foods, especially those that are not dairy. For those looking to get a daily fix, try to work foods such as firm tofu, kale, salmon, or even orange juice into the daily diet in order to maintain a healthy level of calcium.