It might seem a bit absurd that a company specializing in the research, development, and production of natural supplements would issue such a dire warning about calcium supplements. Calcium from food is not associated with atherosclerosis risk, but most forms of calcium in supplements are, because they are derived from calcium salts. You need to be made aware of those health risks.
The term “atherosclerosis” simply means hardening of the arteries. What many people may not realize, though, is that this process actually starts in childhood. With time, the condition worsens, as plaque composed of fatty cells (cholesterol), calcium, and other waste products builds within an artery. As the artery becomes more clogged, the opening for blood to pass through becomes narrower. There is also a risk of a clot breaking off from one artery, travelling to the narrowed artery, and causing a heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and in truth we are only as healthy as our arteries.
In 2016, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a 10-year study examining the association between calcium intake (from food and supplements) and atherosclerosis. They found that those who used calcium supplements had a 22% higher risk of developing coronary artery calcification versus those who did not. However, the highest total calcium intake quintile, when compared to the lowest, had a decreased risk of incident coronary artery calcification. This begs the question, which is correct? Is calcium helpful or harmful?
The answer is both, and the major qualifier is the type of calcium. There are 8 common types of calcium used in supplements; it is helpful to be aware of the differences.
- Calcium Carbonate: One of the cheapest and most prevalent forms of calcium, this alkaline-based compound is found in rocks, limestone, shells of marine animals, pearls, eggshells and snails. Although it has one of the highest concentrations of elemental calcium, it is low in bioavailability, which means it is difficult for the body to use (and carries more risk of accumulating rather than absorbing).
- Calcium Citrate: This version of calcium is acidic-based. While it is a bit easier on the stomach, and easier for the body to absorb, it is still low in bioavailability and also low in elemental calcium.
- Oyster Shell Calcium: While this form may seem the closest to nature, it is also the most difficult to quality control, and can be contaminated with lead toxins.
- Calcium Gluconate: The bioavailability of this form is uncertain, and the actual calcium concentration is low—meaning large doses would be required to even attempt to reach calcium requirements.
- Calcium Lactate: Found in products such as aged cheese and baking powder, this form of calcium can be absorbed by the body in various pHs, giving it a medium bioavailability.
- Calcium Phosphate: This form of calcium usually comes from cow’s milk; however, supplemental forms are not readily bioavailable.
- Calcium Citrate Malate: This water-soluble form of calcium is created by mixing the calcium salt in citric and malic acid forms. It is more bioavailable than the other forms previously listed.
- Calcium Orotate: The most effective form of calcium, calcium orotate is created through the mineral salts of orotic acid. Orotates create DNA and RNA, and are capable of penetrating cell membranes, for optimal bioavailability.
While orotates are the best source of calcium, do not let this information scare you away from all other calcium sources. Especially when a good calcium source is combined with a calcium manager, such as Vitamin D, calcium can even be helpful in cancer prevention. In 2008, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that because of the preclinical data showing the effects of Vitamin D in breast cancer reduction, further studies on Vitamin D and calcium are warranted. Another study observed that the mortality rates for colon cancer in the US directly correlated with populations that were exposed to the least amount of sunlight.
Calcium managers like Vitamin D are crucial to receive calcium’s full benefit, because calcium managers are co-nutrients that aid building bones. Aside from Vitamin D, perhaps the best-known calcium managers are magnesium and boron. In fact, the journal Bone Research released an article revealing that one of the primary reasons for calcium decline with age is an inadequate level of Vitamin D. Even calcium plus Vitamin D may not be enough, though. The secret to keeping bones strong and arteries clear is Vitamin K2, Vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin K2 supplementation has been correlated with prevention and reversal of arterial calcifications, while magnesium not only preserves bone structure, but also triggers Vitamin D to absorb calcium.
We must set the record straight: calcium is good to take on a daily basis, but it must first be in an absorbable form, and secondly, it must be taken in conjunction with equal parts of highly absorbable magnesium, like our orotate and Vitamin D and K2-MK7 and trace minerals. Vitamin K2 helps to channel calcium into the bones, and maybe just as importantly, Vitamin K2 helps keep calcium from depositing into the artery wall where it is not beneficial. Without Vitamin K2, the body cannot direct calcium to the bones where it’s needed; instead, the calcium resides in soft tissue (like the arteries)—leading to a combination of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, or the dreaded “calcium paradox.” A Vitamin K2 deficiency is a risk (in the form of cancer and diabetes, among other ailments), but with K2 these conditions improve.
If you already have high arterial calcium levels, a good detox could be in order. We would suggest the use of chelation therapy. As recently revealed in a 14-year study, chelation lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart-related diabetes. For those preferring an easy-to-take oral form, Life Choice has developed an oral chelation therapy called CLAW-OCHMB.
As we have seen, the form in which supplements are taken is as important as the form in which your food is consumed. If you eat a McDonald’s diet, don’t be surprised if you don’t qualify for the next Olympics. In all seriousness, as Hypocrites said 2,000 years ago, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
And today, when food is not the same food as it was before, even when organically grown, the need for supplementing becomes necessary. For this, make sure it is produced like medicine—using the same pharmaceutical standards: USP pharmaceutical grade and in the purest possible state. Life Choice Opti-Cal/Mag Complex with Vitamin K2 and supplements would be a good choice.