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The issue with calcium supplements

Dr. Monika Zechetmayr, Ph.D. M.Sc. from Toodyay Probus in Western Australia warns about common calcium advice.

Media and health literature recommends an intake of 1,500mg of calcium (Ca) per day per person, especially after the age of 55 and for women to counteract osteoporosis. There is no distinction made between Ca supplements, their dangers and alternatives.

Medical, including neuroscientific, research demonstrates that solid forms or effervescent tablets (dissolved in water) of Ca supplements taken by women after menopause to strengthen bones, are linked to dementia, heart disease and strokes.

Ca triggers signalling pathways in our brain to enhance excitatory synaptic transmissions. This process is essential for certain types of memory. However, in excess, Ca increases the activity of the neuron glutamate, a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter.

Under “normal” conditions, it assists learning and memory formations. When taken in excess or as a supplement rather than as a nutritional food source, its actions can dangerously increase fourfold.

To maintain a neurological balance, GABA, the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter, is then overpowered. Glutamate will destroy vital neurotransmitters and neurons. Neurons are essential for our brain and all physiological functions. Where these are destroyed, we begin to lose memory.

Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize winner for his research on the neuroscience of memory, says it can also lead to a variety of neurodegenerative diseases and brain damage.

Cardiovascular and stroke can be the results of Ca deposits in the arteries, narrowing blood flow, creating and increasing blood pressure for the heart and the brain. Particularly haemorrhagic strokes and vascular dementia, which is often caused by diminished blood flow and haemorrhagic strokes, lead to memory loss, loss of cognitive functions and possibly Alzheimer’s.

It can even prevent medications reaching areas for healing.

Not a simple issue

We have 60 trillion brain cells, 100 billion neurons, and 100 trillion dendrites. Rather than destroying these, various mental, social and physical activities are essential to maintain, and also develop, new dendrites and synapses – even in older age, as the study of teaching nuns’ brains has demonstrated. These increases counter loss of grey matter even at the ripe ages of 80 and above. We’re never too old to learn and increase our brain power – lest our heredity, raging mutations and/or other diseases or accidents intervene.

Among female stroke victims, taking Ca was associated with a sevenfold increase in the number of women who acquired dementia and a modestly higher risk of heart attack. In Germany, women victims of stroke and heart disease are advised not to take Ca supplements (Goetz, 2018). Ca triggers a rapid surge in the blood’s mineral levels, unobtainable from food.

The European Journal of Nutrition and Aging states that lifestyle and good nutrition – such as milk, yoghurt, cheeses, berries, spices (turmeric, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg), Omega-3s (fish oil, linseeds), coconut oil, leafy green vegetables, nutritional food rather than processed, and nutrition-empty foods – are better than supplements for the brain and overall health.

Studies by the World Health Organisation declare the nations with the highest dairy intake, combined with high meat/fat intake and nutrient-empty foods, and people on the lower socio-economic and education level are more at risk than people with higher educational attainment and socio-economic positions. This also applied to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Of 183 nations studied, Australia ranks 28th at the high-danger marker.

Lifestyle, regular physical activity, dietary modification and vitamin D over Ca supplements are suggested by a variety of research findings. Only a few were listed here due to word and space constraints. Information can easily be found on research on Ca, heart disease, stroke and other health-related factors.