Calcium is one of two major minerals in bone and doctors recommend additional calcium for those patients not ingesting the RDA of calcium, even though there are scientific studies with individual data points with people who for years have ingested far less than the RDA for calcium who nevertheless have healthy bones. Why is this? Hint: these people eat lots of plant food with a lot of basically in-absorbable calcium ,but with substances that better regulate calcium metabolism.
And could doctors’ advice be too simple? Could the advice be missing some complicating factors?
Complicating factor: Supplementing calcium with meals can reduce absorption of magnesium (there is a site in the digestive tract where they must compete for absorption), which is an important regulator of calcium metabolism.
Though calcium per se is good for bones, under-regulated calcium metabolism is likely not good for bone health. Dysregulation is a rather serious case of under-regulation. When a body is deficient in magnesium, the kidneys are deficient in magnesium, and when kidneys are deficient in magnesium, they over-excrete and inappropriately excrete calcium.
Complicating factor: Does ingesting more calcium, especially with meals, make regulation of calcium more difficult?
A. Because there is more calcium in the body to regulate. Possibly.
B. Because calcium supplementation can reduce the absorption of magnesium, already in short supply in the diet of nearly 60% of Americans, who are ingesting less than the RDA, setting themselves up for a possibly functional magnesium deficiency (depending on how well their bodies can hold on to their limited supplies). B seems more certain than A., but both may be factors in the under-regulation of calcium metabolism.
Complicating factor: But the biggest problem are these cases of entanglement. The entanglement explains why some people who habitually ingest far less than the RDA of calcium, and mostly consume forms of calcium with low absorbability, can still have healthy bones, particularly if their trace mineral consumption is good (if they habitually consume a lot of plant food or are lucky enough to have drinking water that is rich in trace minerals (as do the people of Deaf Smith County, Texas):
- The level of calcium that a person requires is a function of the amount of vitamin D the person is making and the amount of vitamin D that he is absorbing, as well as the amount of trace minerals the person is absorbing, and less directly, since bone breakdown by osteoclasts and bone remodeling by osteoblasts are both dependent on the proper functioning of cells, all other essential nutrients, and all other non-essential nutrients that the body is trying to absorb, even though it makes a “make do” quantity of those nutrients. Trace minerals include at least two substances proven important to bone health, magnesium and boron, and probably silicon and others as well. All three of these trace minerals are richer in plant foods than in animal foods, but not necessarily in sufficient quantities in their fruits or starchy storage tissues. No surprise then that the real secret to bone health for most people is ADDING more plant food to whatever they are eating now. Substituting plant food for the junk that some people are eating now makes more sense, but expecting people to act sensibly is not sensible, especially when doctors are giving them an easy way out, simply taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for better bone health, and then prescribing drugs like Boniva when the former strategy fails miserably.
- Though there is a calcium-independent component to the requirement of vitamin D (vitamin D has functions outside of calcium metabolism and the same molecule cannot be in two places at the same time), the overall level of vitamin D that a person requires is still a function, among other things, of the amount of calcium and the amount of trace minerals the person is absorbing. This last statement references at least the known effects of magnesium on vitamin D metabolism. In addition, less directly all other nutrients, both essential and non-essential, if the body is trying to absorb more of what it makes a “make do” quantity of.
- The level of trace minerals that a person requires is a function of the amount of calcium being absorbed and the amount of vitamin D being made and the amount of vitamin D being absorbed. In addition, less directly all other nutrients.
- This entanglement makes writing a requirement for any individual for all three of these quantities difficult enough. Writing a single requirement for calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D for all individuals, even stratified by sex and age, as the US government does, is well-nigh impossible, although obviously, there is an average number of each of these quantities that is the sum of the individual requirements divided by the number of individuals. The size of the standard deviations question the significance of these averages. The government assumes 10% standard deviation in all of its estimates of RDAs and EARs. This number underestimates the average. Most CVs of biological importance are more like 10-30%, with an average of more like 20%, but an individual’s requirements are highly dependent on conditions that are personal and specific to that individual. A woman on the birth control pill does not need 20% more vitamin B6. Even a 1000% increase in vitamin B6 ingestion leaves more than 2.5% (the government’s deficiency target within the population) of women on the pill deficient in vitamin B6, as measured by serum B6 levels.