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Calcium Confusion, Rise Above the Chaos

By ND, RN.

One of your first memories of nutritional education probably involves milk. Yes, you probably heard, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but right behind it was, drink your milk, you need your calcium.

It stands to reason that you’ve always held to the belief that you should be drinking milk and eating dairy products to get the right amount of calcium.

Ready for some facts?

While milk is just one of many sources of calcium, there are some important reasons why milk may not be the best source for everyone.

Consider this: much of the world's population does not consume cow's milk, yet most of the world does not experience the high rates of osteoporosis found in the West. In some Asian countries for example, where consumption of dairy foods is low, fracture rates are far lower than they are in the United States and in Scandinavian countries, where consumption of dairy products is high.

Starting to feel like there’s more to the story when it comes to calcium and healthy bones?

When reading about milk as a nutritional source you will most likely see vitamin A mentioned. One type of vitamin A comes from retinol which is found in eggs, many dairy products and vitamin A fortified foods such as cereals and skim milk. There’s the problem. The risks of excess retinol can be detrimental. This risk is especially high for older people because they may have trouble metabolizing retinol properly and are more likely to experience falls that can lead to hip fractures. Vitamin A can also disrupt the role that Vitamin D plays in enhancing calcium absorption.

Evidence shows that dairy product consumption contributes to obesity, ear infections, constipation, respiratory problems, heart disease, and some cancers.†

The Chaos Continues

Perhaps you’ve heard of Coral Calcium. It certainly has received its share of hype over the last few years. Coral Calcium can reverse all. That’s the questionable message we’ve been told through heavy advertising. The ads suggested that coral calcium can "neutralize" the toxic acidity of our bodies because it’s alkaline based. This calcium is supposed to come from the coral reef substance surrounding Okinawa. The fact is, coral reef is protected by international laws so it makes you wonder where it comes from. Here’s the truth. Coral calcium can contains high levels of lead and other impurities. You didn’t hear that on the infomercial, did you? In fact, these sources of calcium are essentially calcium carbonate. It’s safer and makes much more sense to use purified calcium carbonate products if that is what you seek.

Other forms of calcium include:

Calcium citrate, Calcium phosphate and Microcrystalline calcium hydroxyapatite. Try saying that fast three times

But I need my calcium

The fact remains that an adequate, lifelong dietary calcium intake is necessary to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, encourage better bone health. So, where should you be getting your calcium? Take heart. Calcium is abundant in many sources besides dairy products. It can be found in dark green leafy vegetables and in dried beans and legumes. Calcium (and vitamin D) can also be ingested as a supplement.

Holly Lucille

Author Holly Lucille is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of California.

Say hello and connect with Holly at

Calcium myths, bone loss prevention, and the health effects of mineral water.

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Updated: Dec 21 2013