A Calcium Primer In 472 Words
Before posting the menu, we should comment on the N.Y. Times article, “Taking Calcium May Pose Heart Risks”? To better understand it, we note two calcium-related diseases: Osteoporosis (too few minerals like calcium in the bones) and calcification (excess calcium deposited in soft tissue, like coronary arteries and valves). Americans have high levels of both osteoporosis and calcification. So we have a problem getting calcium into the right place—our bones rather than the soft tissue—and diet might make the difference.
Dietary calcium is essential to health; everyone knows that. Government sources recommend 1000 mg daily for adults under 50; teens and seniors should get more. The three main sources are:
1) Plants (nuts, grains, legumes, leafy greens),
3) Supplements (pills).
Dairy products are a much-advertised source of calcium, as are supplements. But after reading the literature, I lean more to plants unless a competent doctor prescribes otherwise. Strong bones involves more than calcium—we also need more magnesium and less of the phosphorous and sodium found in soft drinks and processed foods. The vitamins D and K are also important. You get vitamin K in the foods rich in calcium and magnesium. You can get vitamin D with a little midday exercise in the sun. And don't forget exercise: strong bones require strong muscles.
The EPIC Project
It’s known that adequate calcium is associated with reduced hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, all risk factors for heart disease. The EPIC project—a large, long-term European study originally directed at cancer—took a closer look at calcium and heart disease. The data showed that “moderate” calcium intake—820 mg daily from all sources, on average—gave a 30% reduced risk of a heart attack. That’s good. No coronary benefit was found for higher doses.
But researchers were surprised when they took a closer look at the source of calcium. People who got their calcium mainly from supplements actually had twice the risk of a heart attack. Here’s a quote from the study author, courtesy of the N. Y. Times:
“Sufficient calcium intake is important, but my recommendation would be to get calcium from food, like low-fat milk and dairy products and mineral water rich in calcium, rather than from supplements,” said Dr. Sabine Rohrmann, an author of the study and a professor with the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich.
This is a provocative study and must be confirmed by further research to earn wide acceptance. But I like what Dr. Rohrmann said: Get your calcium from food. Some scientists caution against too much dairy in the diet, so my plan is to get calcium mainly from plant sources, with a sparing amount of dairy foods. I may even try those European mineral waters. This isn't meant as medical advice: If you have questions about your source of calcium, talk to your doctor.
This Week’s Menu (Actually a combination of two weeks.)
- Bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich. Not the healthiest meal but we felt like a summer meal.
- Sweet potato casserole. An odd combination but we’re working on a recipe and eating a lot of sweet potatoes.
- Sushi. A new Whole Foods store opened up and the beautiful wife had to try their sushi.
- Sweet potato casserole, one more recipe variation.
- Dessert: Green smoothie with kale
- Sweet potato casserole (yes again, still working on the recipe)
Thursday (We had visitors from England so produced a special meal.)
- Poached salmon.
- Wild rice with mushrooms and mirepoix
- Asparagus, steamed.
- Green salad with pears, nuts and goat cheese.
- Dessert was strawberries with ice cream.
- Leftovers from Thursday.