Calcium. That oh so important for bone health mineral.
It makes up approximately 2% of our bodyweight; is found in bones, teeth, tissues and in blood circulation; and works to regulate heart and muscle contraction and nerve conduction.
Yet despite the fact that we as a Nation are consuming more milk products than ever before (235kg per person per year to be exact (1)), our rates of osteoporosis continue to increase, and are responsible for serious bone fractures as we age.
So why aren’t we getting enough calcium when we’re gulping down milk?
Calcium, like many other minerals can be tricky to absorb from food. There needs to be the right environment, the right cofactors, and the right ratio to other minerals…. pesky little thing huh?
The Milk Industry has been running campaigns for years to get us to ‘drink milk’. And while it can’t be argued that milk is an excellent source of calcium, it appears that our bodies are not readily absorbing this calcium. Why?
Calcium uptake by the body is relevant to its bio-availability – meaning the ability of the body to utilise the mineral. Pasteurised and homogenised dairy is not very bio-available to the body.
Another reason we are not absorbing enough of our dietary calcium comes down to lifestyle factors. So even though we are drinking cafe lattes daily, eating yoghurt for breakfast, and a ham & cheese toastie for lunch, we don’t appear to be storing these minerals in the body.
So where do the minerals go?
- Drugs – Pharmaceuticals including birth control, antacids, diuretics & cortisone all restrict the percentage of minerals absorbed from food;
- Coffee – Drinking excess coffee will literally flush out the minerals (remember coffee is a diuretic);
- Sugar – Excess sugar depletes the minerals chromium and magnesium, which then impact the ratio to calcium;
- Stress – under periods of intense or chronic stress the blood acidifies and calcium is drawn out of the bones to bring the pH of the blood back to more of a neutral place.
- Phytates – mineral absorption is blocked by the phytates found in grains (2)
- Digestion – absorption is effected by gastrointestinal problems; if you have IBS, SIBO or other tummy troubles you could be excreting anywhere from 30-80% of the minerals you consume (2)
- Vitamin D – is essential to calcium absorption, and many of us living in cold climates are not getting enough natural Vitamin D through daily sun exposure.
So how can you ensure you are getting enough calcium to avoid osteoporosis?
- Seek our quality dairy products – organic dairy and un-homogenised milk are best;
- Consume other high calcium food sources like sardines, green-leafy veg, broccoli; cauliflower, almonds, brazil nuts, and molasses;
- Mimimise stimulants like caffeine and alcohol;
- Get your stress under control – try simple things like yoga, meditation, a walk outside, or seek professional help if you need.
What do you think? Do you eat dairy? Have you had your calcium levels checked?