A subgroup analysis of a study on 24,000 Europeans suggested increased risk of cardiovascular disease for those taking ONLY calcium supplements (1).
Let's dive into how you can protect yourself from hardened arteries from calcium supplements.
It is a well-established fact that when you take calcium you should also take magnesium. This is because magnesium helps your body keep the calcium you take out of your organs, thereby preventing calcification of arteries, kidneys, liver, and brain. Yet many people are magnesium deficient.
The USDA reports that 57% of Americans suffer from inadequate magnesium intake (2). If a person consistently takes high amounts of supplemental calcium WITHOUT magnesium they increase the risk of arterial blockages in their heart and brain.
Lack of calcium will cause bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis and fractures, and life ending hip replacements. Lack of calcium paradoxically can also cause calcification of arteries. In other words if you take too much OR no calcium you have higher chances of calcified arteries (3).
The solution to a healthy cardiovascular and skeletal health is to take calcium with magnesium and also supplement with vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Then after having you vitamin D levels tested, you may need a supplemental dose to meet your needs. (Testing serum vitamin D levels before taking vitamin D supplements is recommended. Taking too much vitamin D can be toxic.)
Vitamin K2 Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Sadly vitamin K has long been ignored. But it can be a real life saver since vitamin K is highly effective in keeping calcium out of arteries.
People with higher levels of vitamin K2 intake have a 57% REDUCTION in risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (4). People with blocked arteries and damaged heart valves show low vitamin K2 levels (5-8). Nonvertebral fractures are reduced by 81% in women that take vitamin K2.
How Vitamin K Maintains Bone Density AND Protect Your Arteries at the Same Time
Here is how it works in the arteries: Your arteries have calcium-regulating proteins, called matrix Gla protein, that, when turned on, block calcium from entering arterial cells. Sufficient amounts of vitamin K2 turn this protein on and block calcium from entering soft organ and artery tissues (9-13).
Unhealthy arteries kill more people in America than any other condition. The medical term for hardened artery is arteriosclerosis, a dangerous condition that leads to heart attack and stroke. A healthy artery is pliable like an inner tube. Its built-in muscle contracts to send blood through. A hardened artery loses its muscle tone and can't contract. Aging is the main cause of arteriosclerosis but lifestyle choices can accelerate the disease.
Here is how K2 strengthens bones: Your bones have a calcium dependent protein called osteocalcin that functions like studs in a house. This protein needs sufficient amounts of vitamin K2 in order to stay strong by holding on to calcium, preventing calcium from leaving bone and depositing into arteries (14, 15, 16-18).
Just like vitamin D was previously unrecognized for its benefits, vitamin K is now an under reported vitamin. Study after study finds how incredibly beneficial this vitamin is.
In addition to preventing arteriosclerosis and improving bone density, vitamin K also fights cancer and lowers your risk of diabetes.
Vitamin K has been found helpful in the fight against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of the liver, colon, stomach (19), prostate (20), nasopharynx, mouth, and lungs (21), as well as leukemia.
How to Optimize You Calcium Intake
It is generally understood that chelated forms of calcium, chief amongst them, calcium citrate, absorbs better. But what about magnesium? According to Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health, magnesium oxide bioavailability is 60% (22). With good research lacking, people thought magnesium citrate was better absorbed, however newer research indicates that magnesium oxide may be superior (23).
Understanding Supplement Labels
Read mineral supplement labels carefully. Look for how much elemental calcium is provided by the supplement, not the total amount of the raw calcium ingredient (calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, etc.). The elemental amount is the actual amount of useable calcium. The rest of the raw material may be either oxides or citrates, for example.
Taking Calcium and Magnesium in the Correct Ratio
When taking calcium it’s advisable to take a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. This ratio enables both minerals to be effective, according to Harvinder S. Sandhu, MD. If you suspect you are deficient in magnesium then take 1:1 ratio or even more magnesium.
The Best Time and the Right Way
Supplementing calcium in the evening appears better for osteoporosis prevention than taking calcium in the morning, based on the circadian rhythm of bone loss. Calcium also relaxes your muscles, an added bonus to get you ready for bed. However, dividing your calcium into at least two doses a day may increases efficiency.
High-fiber diets can interfere with calcium absorption, so try not to mix high fiber foods with calcium rich foods. If you do mix them, boost your calcium as you increase your fiber. Also avoid taking calcium supplements with iron and zinc.
Foods high in phosphorus (such as meat, poultry, corn, potatoes, beer, buckwheat) can also interfere with calcium absorption.
Calcium After Menopause
The presence of estrogen facilitates calcium absorption, so women who reach menopause are at increased risk of calcium deficiency and therefore need to increase their daily intake of calcium.
Be sure you're protecting your heart and you bones. Cardiovascular disease is still by far the leading cause of death. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 3 deaths in the US. And osteoporosis is a crippling disease killing 1,100 people per month after fracturing their hip. It’s not only deadly but also horribly painful.
It’s never too late to strengthen your body. Plan on a lifelong strategy of self-defense against those two killers.
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10. Schurgers LJ, Dissel PE, Spronk HM, et al. Role of vitamin K and vitamin K-dependent proteins in vascular calcification. Z Kardiol. 2001 90(Suppl):357-63.
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13. Chatrou ML, Reutelingsperger CP, Schurgers LJ. Role of vitamin K-dependent proteins in the arterial vessel wall. Hamostaseologie. 2011 Nov;31(4):251-7.
14. Howe AM, Webster WS. Warfarin exposure and calcification of the arterial system in the rat. Int J Exp Pathol. 2000 Feb;81(1):51-6.
15. Schurgers LJ, Dissel PE, Spronk HM, et al. Role of vitamin K and vitamin K-dependent proteins in vascular calcification. Z Kardiol. 2001 90(Suppl):357-63.
16. Luo G, Ducy P, McKee MD, et al. Spontaneous calcification of arteries and cartilage in mice lacking matrix GLA protein. Nature. 1997 Mar 6;386(6620):78-81.
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23. Michael Shechter, Tomer Saad, Alon Shechter, Nira Koren-Morag, Burton B. Silver, Shlomi Matetzky. Comparison of magnesium status using X-ray dispersion analysis following magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate treatment of healthy subjects. Volume 25, Number 1, March 2012