August 6, 2012

177 Preventing Fractures [7 August 2012]

In last week’s column, I warned that when it comes to nutritional advice, not to believe everything you read in the news, and mentioned two items. I discussed a flaw in an otherwise excellent study that found that a synthetic form of vitamin E increases prostate cancer, but then concluded that high doses of all vitamin E should be avoided. Now let’s look at the other study in more detail.

In June 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a statement, reported in the New York Times that, based on their analysis of 137 studies, low doses (RDAs) of calcium (1,000mg) and vitamin D (400iu) do not prevent fractures in healthy post-menopausal women and are better avoided due to a slight increased risk of kidney stones.

Not so fast! There are several problems with this analysis, pointed out in a critique by Dr. Allan Spreen of Health Sciences Institute:
• the carbonate form of calcium used in the studies is poorly absorbed so the amount may be insufficient, especially if stomach acid is weak
• the amount of vitamin D is much less than the 5,000 – 10,000 iu that we now know is optimum, especially for the elderly
• magnesium is necessary for healthy bones in about 2:1 ratio of cal:mag
• vitamin K2 is essential to direct the calcium into the bones (and along with magnesium will reduce the risk of kidney stones)
• vitamin C and trace minerals manganese, silica, zinc, copper, strontium, molybdenum and boron are also necessary for healthy bones
• a natural progesterone supplement is recommended for post-menopausal women
• finally, weight bearing exercise is essential to build and maintain healthy bones

To this list I’ll add my own observation that preventing fractures is only one of many functions of calcium and vitamin D, and not the most important one either. So even if they don’t prevent fractures there are good reasons for taking optimum amounts of both nutrients. Another factor not mentioned is that of systemic acidity which leaches minerals from the bones to maintain a healthy pH. Eating more alkalizing foods and or taking alkalizing supplements in addition to calcium will help maintain strong bones.

The last word in the New York Times article is given to a member of USPSTF, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo, whose quote reveals her lack of nutritional knowledge: “For most people there is no need for these supplements and good reason for many not to take them. Vitamin D and calcium are part of a healthy diet. Most people can achieve sufficient doses with a healthy diet”. That might be true for calcium, but unless you regularly eat fish liver, you will never achieve a “sufficient dose” of vitamin D in your diet!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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