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Calcium – is it still good for me? It depends if you are a man or a woman….

As many of you know there have been questions raised this year over the benefits and potential risks of calcium supplementation. The hoopla started with a review of previous research, reanalyzing the data to see if there was a correlation with taking calcium supplements and an increase in heart disease. Initially it looked like there could be a correlation with increased heart disease in those individuals who took calcium supplements for more than 10 years. Then another review showed an increased risk only for men who took calcium supplements and not women. Further reviews showed no correlation while some studies showed an increased risk for heart disease when calcium was taken without vitamin D and in another study vitamin D supplementation did not make a difference.
On the subject of osteopenia and osteoporosis, researchers are still recommending calcium supplementation as there is a greater decrease in overall morbidity – the benefits still outway the risks.

After sorting through the data we can come to some conclusions:
1. calcium is best not taken alone (a good mineral supplement also needs to contain magnesium, zinc, potassium, vitamin D3)
2. the form of calcium taken is important (avoid carbonate and choose citrate, gluconate, malate)
3. dietary calcium is safest but not necessarily from cow’s milk products

But with men and prostate health there is a whole different perspective. Researchers took this initial data and looked further into calcium supplementation and men’s health. Here the results are more concerning and so far, appear more clear. Reviewing thousands of men, there appeared to be an increased risk for prostate cancer in men who consumed a diet high in cow’s milk products and in men who took supplemental calcium. We’ve known that an inflammatory diet contributes to both BPH and prostate cancer and cow milk products do contribute to inflammation in the body. We still are trying to understand why supplemental calcium contributes to prostate cancer but at this point, it is a safe bet to avoid it. Osteoporosis comes on later in men than women and there is a lower incidence in men due to their higher testosterone levels that keep bones strong.

My recommendations:
Eating dark green leafy vegetables delivers the right balance of minerals with no inflammation as do nuts and seeds, forget the peanuts though. Minimize cow milk products, most adults do not digest them well and they contribute to diabetes and other inflammatory conditions.
For men: minimize cow milk products and avoid calcium supplementation. Keep up the exercise.
For women: keep bones strong with food based minerals, check your vitamin D levels and do weight bearing exercise at least 3 days per week.

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