Preventive Medical Center of Marin Asks: Got (too much) Milk?

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Recent Study Cites Surprising Results about Calcium Intake and Bone Fractures: There may be“too much of a good thing”, at least when it comes to Calcium, reports the Preventive Medical Center of Marin.

The British Medical Journal recently published surprising results about calcium intake and the risk of bone fractures. (BMJ 2011;342:d1473.) This long term study of over 60,000 women in Sweden, born anywhere from 1914 to 1948, followed the calcium intake of these women and their actual history of fractures for nineteen years (1987 to 2006) during which 24% of the women experienced a first fracture and 8% had two or more fractures. The calcium intake of these women was graded in five levels or ‘quintiles’ and was measured as the“cumulative average intake of calcium over time” based on two diet questionnaires that were ten years apart.

Those women in the bottom quintile with the lowest calcium intake did, as expected have the most fractures. Those in the third or middle quintile for calcium intake who were consuming about 750 mg of calcium a day had a much reduced fracture rate. It was surprising that the highest consumption of calcium in the upper two quintiles did not seem to reduce the fracture rate any further beyond that experienced in the third quintile.

In fact, those in the upper quintile for calcium intake actually had a paradoxically higher rate of hip fractures.

Michael Rosenbaum M.D., a physician with 35 years of experience practicing nutritional medicine in the San Francisco bay area comments that these results fly in the face of the standard recommendation of 1,500 mg. a day of calcium for post-menopausal women and suggest that half that dose may be as effective at preventing bone fractures and pose a surprisingly lower risk for hip fractures.

Dr. Rosenbaum noted, “High calcium intake may backfire and increase the risk of fractures. High doses of calcium can actually reduce bone remodeling or reshaping which is necessary for the maintenance of strong bones. Bone that is not remodeled can become brittle over time and becomes more prone to fractures. The same loss of remodeling occurs with the use of the popular and well-advertised bisphosphonate drugs which include Fosomax and Boniva. These drugs have been implicated in the death of bone cells and bone loss of the lower jaw.”

Dr. Rosenbaum notes that a major problem with many nutrition outcome studies is the attempt to isolate a single nutritional variable which, In this case, is Calcium intake. Many nutrients besides calcium, however assist in bone formation including magnesium, phosphorous, silica, boron, manganese and vitamins D and K2.”

Aside from calcium, Vitamin D intake was the only nutrient that was taken seriously into account in the study. Vitamin K2, which works in synergy with vitamin D to sequester calcium safely within bones and prevent it from being mobilized was not mentioned. In addition, the acid level of the diet was not discussed. Acid diets promote calcium loss from bone; alkaline diets tend to preserve bone. That is because bone is a powerful buffer and releases calcium to neutralize excess body acidity. Of the sex hormones, estrogen replacement was included but testosterone which helps to create new bone was not included. Cigarette smoking and level of physical activity were factored in to the study.

“It is almost impossible to effectively study the effect of one nutrient on a subject as complex as bone integrity which requires a multiplicity of nutrients and hormones working in synergy,” noted Dr. Rosenbaum.

Dr. Michael Rosenbaum has been practicing nutritional medicine in Marin County in the San Francisco area for 35 years. He is a past president of the Orthomolecular Medical Society whose President Emeritus was Linus Pauling, one of the original founders. He has written two books: SuperSupplements (New American Library) and Solving the Puzzle of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Dr. Rosenbaum’s website is


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Ernie Hubbard
Preventive Medical Center of Marin
(415) 578-3670
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