Got Milk?

Got Milk?

Now that’s a question that has received tons of controversy in the past 30 years. Is milk really good for you? Does it make you fat? Does it make you thin? Does it play a role in cancer or heart disease? Does it help promote bone development? Is whole milk better? Is skim milk better? What about pasteurization and homogenization? One day, milk is good for us. The next day, milk is bad for us. I will be honest, in my own personal research on milk, for every article I find praising milk, I can find another one tearing it apart. So, what should we believe? What is the truth?

Well, the truth is milk can be good and milk can be bad for us. Huh? I believe the difference depends on some very important questions. Ask yourself, where does the milk come from (organic and pastured-fed or conventional and grain-fed), are their additives (synthetic Vitamin A, D, and thickeners like carrageenan), has it been pasteurized and homogenized, is it whole fat or skim, and finally, what if the person drinking the milk has a milk intolerance? The question of, is milk really good for us? depends on so many variables. So, for us to make an educated decision on choosing or not choosing to add milk to our diet we need to understand a few things…

Organic and pasture-fed vs. conventional grain-fed milk.

As I discussed in a previous blog, Where is the grass-fed beef? pastured, grass-fed cattle produce a far superior product than commercial, grain-fed cattle. This is not only true in the meat they produce, but also in the milk they produce. One of the big reasons for this is pastured, hormone-free cows produce less milk than commercial cows, but the milk is richer in vitamin content. When farmers try to increase their milk production by using synthetic hormones like rBTH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), selective breeding, and an energy-dense grain diet, they end up increasing the milk volume, BUT diluting the nutritional content of the milk. This means less Vitamin A, D, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, B2, B12, and phosphorous in the conventionally farmed milk. This is one of those times when less is more.

In addition, grass-fed pastured cows produce milk that has higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is a family of at least 28 isomers of linoleic acid that is best known for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammation properties. In a 1999 study by the Journal of Dairy Science, it was concluded that cows grazing on pasture and receiving no supplemental feed had 3 to 5 times more CLA in their milkfat than cows fed a grain diet. In many animal and human studies, CLA has been shown to not only slow the growth of cancer on the skin, breast, prostate and colon, but also help in weight loss and increased metabolism.

*Just a side note, many people take a synthetic version of CLA that is widely promoted as a diet aid and muscle builder. New research shows that the type of CLA in the pills may have some potentially serious side effects, including promoting insulin resistance, raising glucose levels, and reducing HDL. Just another reason to eat real food and toss out your expensive supplements.

Finally, organic, grass-fed pastured milk is free of any hormones (free of rBGH) and antibiotics. We should assume what goes in the cow, will end up in the milk, which will eventually end up in us. The hormone rBGH has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer in humans. The additive has been banned in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the entire European Union — yet, here in America, it is widely used in the conventionally farmed dairy industry.

As you can see, grass-fed organic milk is an entirely different product than conventional grain-fed milk. From what I have read, most of the negative research on milk has been on conventional grain-fed milk. So the question is… Is it really the milk that is bad for us? Or is it how we’re treating the cows?

Lets keep going…

Milk additives.

Most milk products contain some form of synthetic vitamin A and D. Yes, this is even true for some organic brands. Due to their lower fat content, US law requires most organic low-fat and skim milks to be fortified with additional Vitamin A and D. All conventionally farmed milk products, including whole, low fat, and skim milk varieties, are fortified with Vitamin A and D.

What does this mean to you?

According to Josh Rubin of East West Healing and Performance, many people have an inflammatory response to these synthetic vitamins. Some are very cheap and many come from overseas where the quality standards are much lower than the United States. The FDA reports that less than 20% of these overseas vitamins are actually regulated by their standards. The only milk products I have found that have no Vitamin additives are all raw organic milk products and some pasteurized whole milk products. Just another reason to read your food labels.

In addition, some milk products, including skim, low fat versions, and chocolate milk contain carrageenan. If you have not already read my Carrageenan blog, Carrageenan is natural emulsifier and thickener used in many products. It has been linked to several types of cancer, arthritis, ulcerations of the intestines, and many other issues. Once again, is it the milk you are drinking OR the additives in the milk that are making it unhealthy for you?

Pasteurization.

Pasteurization is a process of heating a food, usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a specific length of time and then cooling it immediately. The purpose is to kill off all harmful bacteria and pathogens. The problem is that pasteurization also kills the good bacteria (probiotics); alters the enzymes, proteins, fats, and sugar in milk, and creates a dead food. Non-pasteurized (raw) milk consumption has been shown to positively influence the immune system’s resistance to the development of asthma, hay fever and atopic sensitzation (skin allergy). In fact, many cultures use raw milk as a homeopathic healing food.

The only positive thing about pasteurization is that it allows for a longer shelf life. Raw milk, due to it being a live food, will spoil much faster. Remember, the improved shelf live is a big plus for the commercial dairy farmer. Longer lasting milk = less spoiling = more money.

Is pasteurized milk really safer than raw milk? I believe raw milk and pasteurized milk are equally susceptible to contamination. The only way to make milk safe is to keep it clean —clean cows and clean dairies. Instead, to make things easier, we kill a lot of the good in milk and produce a less healthy product.

Whole fat milk vs. low fat and skim milk

One of the many reasons milk has received such a bad name is due to its saturated fat content. Saturated fat has received a bad name because it has been linked to increase cholesterol, heart disease, and heart attacks. However, as I discussed in my blog on saturated fat, this is not the case. Saturated fat can be very beneficial to our bodies. It is the most stable of all the fats, it contains vital nutrients, it can help with metabolism, digestion, thyroid function, and liver detoxification. Once we remove the saturated fat from milk, what we are left with is cheap sugar water with a little protein. The milk fat contains vitamin A and D, and is needed for proper vitamin absorption. Remove the fat, you remove the nutrients…as to why the government has to add them back in.

Lactose Intolerance.

For many years, it was almost en vogue to be lactose intolerant. Now gluten intolerance seems to be the new hip “intestinal issue”. Still, many people are claiming they have a hard time breaking down the lactose (milk sugar) in milk because they are no longer producing the enzyme lactase. This ends up giving them all sorts of problems like gas, upset stomach, cramps, and bloating. The enzyme lactase is needed to break down the milk sugar lactose. Lactase is produced in the microvilli of the small intestine, and is released once lactose enters the intestines. The problem starts when the gut and intestines become inflamed and damaged (usually happens over time with the consumption of alcohol, drugs, PUFAs, grains, processed foods, additives, etc.) and lactase production shuts down. When this happens, lactose cannot be broken down and what we develop is intolerance to anything containing lactose.

So why not just consume lactose-free products?

Well, you could do this, but there is a reason milk contains the milk sugar lactose. Lactose is needed in helping calcium get absorbed by your body and into the bones. Yes, milk sugar is needed for optimal calcium absorption into the right areas (bones, not arteries). A better idea would be to heal the gut and slowly start adding dairy back into the diet. According to Dr. Ray Peat, you can heal the gut and intestines of lactose intolerance in as little as two weeks. Peat says you may want to try adding a small amount of additive-free cheese first, and then start adding in a little whole organic, grass-fed milk over time.

As you can see, there is more to Got milk? than meets the eye. Yes, milk can be considered bad for us. But given the right quality of milk, with the right person, in the right amounts, milk can be very beneficial. Personally, I drink milk every day. For me, the benefits of milk far outweigh any negatives.

Not only is milk a complete food (contains fats, proteins and carbs), but it contains CLA, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Vitamins A, B2, B12, and D. I would suggest, if you are going to start adding in milk to your diet, purchase the best source available.

My personal selections are:

1) Raw (non-homogenized, non-pasteurized), grass-fed, organic whole milk is best (no additives)

2) Pasteurized, non homogenized, grass-fed, organic whole milk (no additives)

3) Pasteurized and homogenized organic, grass-fed whole milk (no additives)

4) Pasteurized and homogenized organic, grass-fed 2% or 1% milk

Remember, the less processing, additives, and degradation your milk has gone through, the more healthful this food will be for you. Quality is king!

Your Optimal Health Coach,

Kate

“Disclaimer:  I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor.  I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles.  I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them.  I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body.  If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”

References:

  1. A. Aro et al, Kuopio University, Finland; Bougnoux, P, Lavillonniere F, Riboli E. “Inverse relation between CLA in adipose breast tissue and risk of breast cancer. A case-control study in France.” Inform 10;5:S43, 1999)
  2. Jensen, S. K. “Quantitative secretion and maximal secretion capacity of retinol, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol into cows’ milk.” J Dairy Res 66, no. 4 (1999): 511-22. )
  3. Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56
  4. Riserus, U., P. Arner, et al. (2002). “Treatment with dietary trans10cis12 conjugated linoleic acid causes isomer-specific insulin resistance in obese men with the metabolic syndrome.” Diabetes Care 25(9): 1516-21.
  5. Dr. Ray Peat: “Milk in context: allergies, ecology, and some myths”,  “Calcium and Disease: Hypertension, organ calcification, & shock, vs. respiratory energy”
  6. Ron Schmid, ND; The Untold Story or Milk
  7. Josh Rubin; East West Healing and Performance; www.eastwesthealing.com

 

What is up with Vitamin D?

What is Up With Vitamin D?

The other day I was consulting with a new client (I’ll refer to her as Julie) about her recent lab work. One thing Julie had a concern about was her Vitamin D level…which was considerably low. Julie wondered how these levels could be so low since she played hours of tennis outside every day. She explained how she was out in the sun daily with only SPF 15 sunscreen. She thought she was getting enough sun…yet was she?

It seems in today’s world that everyone is deficient in Vitamin D. I live in the sunniest place on earth, San Diego, and everyone I speak with has some level of Vitamin D deficiency. Knowing we can synthesis our own Vitamin D from the sun, why are we all so deficient? Who or what is to blame about this? Is it too much sunscreen? Poor diet? Liver problems? Kidney issues? Some combination of all four factors? Let’s go deeper so we can see…What is up with Vitamin D?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient obtained from food or sunlight. Vitamin D can be attained by plant sources as ergocaliciferol (D2) and animal sources as cholecalciferol (D3). Its main function is to regulate calcium and phosphorous in the bloodstream and to promote healthy bone formation. With adequate amounts of sunlight, the body can synthesize Vitamin D. By definition vitamins must be obtained by the diet since they cannot be synthesized in sufficient amounts by the organism. This makes Vitamin D unique, since it can be obtained from a source outside of food and can be synthesized by the body itself.

Vitamin D’s Function

Once Vitamin D enters the body either through food or sunlight it is transported by the blood system to the liver. The liver is where Vitamin D is converted to the prohormone (a precursor to a hormone) calcidiol. Calcidiol is then transported to the kidneys and monocyte-macrophages of the immune system where it is converted to calcitriol, the active form of Vitamin D. Calcitriol then binds with Vitamin D–binding protein (VDBP) and is transported to certain target organs.
Once at the target cells calcitriol binds to Vitamin D Receptors (VDR). This binding allows the calcitriol-VDR connection to control the flow of calcium absorption in the intestine. This is why Vitamin D is so essential for calcium absorption and healthy bone development. Low Vitamin D levels will decrease calcium absorption, which can create low blood calcium levels, which can lead to bone break down.

Who knew so many organs, proteins, enzymes and receptors where involved for the body to properly utilize Vitamin D? I bet you thought you just needed more sun…which you do. However, you also need a healthy liver, kidneys and a good diet to ensure proper Vitamin D absorption and utilization.

Why is there an epidemic of low Vitamin D levels?
To be honest, nobody knows for sure, but I can think of a few culprits that may be having an effect…

1. Liver Dysfunction. The liver plays a vital role in the conversion of Vitamin D to the prohormone Calcidiol. If the liver is overburdened with toxins (PUFA’s, drugs, alcohol, estrogen, additives, preservatives, environmental toxins, processed foods, etc.) it cannot perform optimally. Your over burdened liver spends too much time and energy trying to detox your body, thus the Vitamin D to calcidiol conversion suffers.

2. Kidney Dysfunction. The active form of Vitamin D, calcitriol is produced in the kidneys from calcidiol. Low functioning kidneys caused by renal failure or chronic kidney disease (CKD) will lead to low levels of active Vitamin D. Things that can lead to kidney dysfunction are: accidents; injuries; complications from surgeries; drug overdoses; overloads on antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen; chemotherapy; diabetes; and high blood pressure.

3. Sunscreen. We all know over exposure to the sun can cause skin damage and lead to skin cancer. Therefore sunscreen seems like the right answer when it comes to protecting your skin from the harmful sun’s rays. The problem is we need the sun to synthesis Vitamin D. When I was in my teens, I think the highest SPF (sun protection factor) was around 10 or 15 SPF, now it’s closer to 75 or even 100 SPF. An SPF, as low as 8, can decrease vitamin D’s absorption capacity by 95 percent. With these increased SPF sunscreens, our skin may be receiving less harmful (UVB) rays. However, these are the same rays that provide Vitamin D to our skin.
Yet the million-dollar question is…why did skin cancer incidents double from 1994 to 2006 while sunscreen sales with higher SPFs increased? Physiologist and Chemist Dr. Ray Peat’s theory is the increased level of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in the diet. Stored PUFAs oxidize with heat and oxygen exposure, which can lead to skin damage, aging and cancer.

4. Diet. Although the sun is the best way to get adequate levels of vitamin D, your diet can be a contributing factor. A diet lacking in Vitamin D can lower serum D levels in the body. The best sources of Vitamin D are those found in animal products since they contain cholecalciferol (D3). Tuna, mackerel, salmon, beef liver, egg yolks and goat’s milk are good sources. D2 can also be used to increase levels of Vitamin D in the body but most research says D3 is more effective in humans. Good sources of Vitamin D2 are portabella and shiitake mushrooms and alfalfa.

Deficiency of Vitamin D
Outside of poor calcium absorption and poor bone health a deficiency in Vitamin D is linked to many other health concerns.
* Cardiovascular risks
* High blood pressure
* Multiple sclerosis
* Weight gain
* Cancer
* Fatigue
* Mental health issues
* Inflammation
* Asthma
* Poor hair health
* Diabetes

What can you do to increase your Vitamin D Levels?

1. Get more sun. Try and get at least 10-30 minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 10AM and 3PM each day. This means full body exposure, or at least show as much skin as you can. If you are sensitive to the sun or burn easily start with 5 minutes and work yourself up.

2. Avoid oils and foods high in PUFAs. Polyunsaturated fats are very unstable and oxidize quickly with heat (sun exposure) and oxygen. PUFA’s are stored in your fat tissue and when they are broken down and used as energy, they oxidize in your body causing aging, skin pigmentation, and eventually cancers. For more information on polyunsaturated fats refer to my blog, Polyunsaturated fats…Essential or toxic?

3. Eat more foods with Vitamin D3. Tuna, salmon sardines, egg yolks, goat’s milk and beef liver are good options.

4. Remove toxic and inflammatory substances. Removing or at least limiting alcohol, drugs (recreational, prescribed or over-the-counter), processed foods, fast foods, hard to digest foods, additives, carrageenan, PUFAs, estrogenic foods like soy, most grains, HFCS, and non-organic foods will help increase liver, gut and kidney function. This will encourage better Vitamin D synthesis.

5. Supplement. If all else fails take a liquid or topical Vitamin D3 supplement. The liquid or topical will absorb into your system better than a pill. I believe most pills are never a good option since they contain binders and fillers. Depending on the person, where they live, how much sun they get, time of year, and their diet, anywhere from 400IU to 10,000IU can be beneficial. Vitamin D supplements have been to shown to be incredible safe, yet Vitamin D can be toxic if levels that are too high for the individual. Most research states these are levels higher than 40,000IU.

At the end of the day we need to make sure we get adequate levels of Vitamin D into our body. Whether you choose the sun, food or supplementation…just get it in.
If you are unsure of what your Vitamin D levels should be, ask your doctor for a simple blood test. A person’s whose level is under 32 ng/ml is in need of more sun, more Vitamin D foods, or a supplement. Optimal levels are 40-50 ng/ml.

Your Optimal Health Coach,
Kate

“Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles. I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them. I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body. If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”

References

1. Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc and Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH. VITAMIN D IN PATIENTS WITH RENAL FAILURE: A SUMMARY OF OBSERVATIONAL MORTALITY STUDIES AND STEPS MOVING FORWARD
J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 March; 103(3-5): 487–490.Published online 2007 January 2. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.11.009
2. Anderson JL, Vanwoerkom RC, Horne BD, Bair TL, May HT, Lappé DL, Muhlestein JB. Parathyroid hormone, vitamin D, renal dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease: dependent or independent risk factors? Am Heart J. 2011 Aug;162(2):331-339.e2.
3. D L Andress. Vitamin D in chronic kidney disease: A systemic role for selective vitamin D receptor activation. Kidney International (2006) 69, 33–43. doi:10.1038/sj.ki.5000045.
4. Malham M, Jørgensen SP, Ott P, Agnholt J, Vilstrup H, Borre M, Dahlerup JF. Vitamin D deficiency in cirrhosis relates to liver dysfunction rather than aetiology. Department of Medicine V (Hepatology and Gastroenterology), Aarhus University Hospital, DK-8000, Aarhus C, Denmark.
5. Vitamin D Deficiency Common In Patients With IBD, Chronic Liver Disease. ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2008)
6. Data show incidence of skin cancer rising at alarming rate. American Academy of Dermatology NEW ORLEANS (Feb. 4, 2011)
7. Laura A. G. Armas, Bruce W. Hollis and Robert P. Heaney. Vitamin D2 Is Much Less Effective than Vitamin D3 in Humans. Armas et al. 89 (11): 5387 ENDOCRINE CARE
8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56078/
9. Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):842-56
10. Josh Rubin. www.eastwesthealing.com
11. Dr Ray Peat. www.raypeat.com

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K?  “I didn’t even know there was a Vitamin K?” This is usually the answer I get when I start talking about this amazing Vitamin.  Who knew there was a Vitamin K?  Well, to be honest…you should know.   Vitamin K, although discovered back in 1929, has gained new press these days because of its association with increased bone density and decreased artery calcification.  In fact, Vitamin K could be the missing link scientists have been looking for, in solving the Calcium Paradox.  (The Calcium Paradox is the simultaneous excess of calcium in one part of the body, arteries, and lack in another, bones, which may occur regardless of calcium supplementation.)  So are you eating enough foods with Vitamin K?  Do you even know what foods contain Vitamin K?  No?  Well, good thing you are reading this blog…

First:  what is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble Vitamins needed for blood coagulation (blood clotting) increasing metabolic pathways of bone generation and decreasing arterial calcification.  There are two main natural forms of Vitamin K; K1 and K2.

We will discuss both since they have significantly different functions.

Vitamin K1.

Vitamin K1 (also known as Phylloquinone or phytomenadione) was discovered in 1929 by Danish scientist Henrick Dam, and was referred to as Koagulationsvitamin.  As its name implies, Vitamin K1 is involved in blood coagulation.  Without K1 we could bleed to death from a simple paper cut.  Unlike your other fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, and E) your body does not store high levels of Vitamin K1 in your tissue.  Luckily your body has a special mechanism that recycles the vitamin, so dietary requirements of Vitamin K1 are minimal.

The best sources of Vitamin K1 are green leafy plants like kale, spinach, collards, chard and broccoli.  There are also smaller amounts of K1 in roots vegetables and fruits.  My personal recommendation for someone in need of more Vitamin K1, is to drink a mineral broth.  Essentially you cook kale spinach, lettuce, chard and any other leafy greens in a pot of filtered water.  After the water turns a pretty green, you remove the vegetables and drink the broth (about a1-3 once a day).  As some of you know I am not a big fan of eating lots of above ground vegetables, especially leafy greens.  Drinking only the mineral broth and not eating the vegetable fibers will protect you from the polyunsaturated fats, vegetable toxins and cellulose found in the vegetables.  For more on this topic refer to my blog Leafy Greens- Essential or toxic?

 Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2, the main storage form in animals, is primarily used to move Calcium around the body.  To be more specific, Vitamin K2 helps Calcium move into the bones and out of the arteries—which is pretty important, right?  Vitamin K2 is sometimes referred to as the “grass-fed” Vitamin.  Westin A. Price, the dentist who discovered Vitamin K2 back in the 1940’s (Yet, he didn’t realize this and termed the Vitamin, “activator x”), noticed a huge correlation between Vitamin K2 levels and the amount of grass an animal ate.  What he realized was the more green leafy plants (grass) these animals ate the higher the Vitamin K2 content was in their milk, egg yolks, organs, and butter.  You see, K2 can be created from K1 in the testes, pancreas and arterial walls of certain animals.   And since we know there are high levels of K1 in leafy green plants (refer back to reading about K1 if I lost you here), it would make sense that this would produce more K2 levels.

Now, I know my vegetarian friends are already thinking, “If animals can produce K2 from K1, can humans do this as well?  Can humans produce our own K2, thus making eating animal foods unnecessary?”  Well, kind of…Humans can produce very small amounts of K2 by the bacteria in our intestinal tract from K1.  However, these very small amounts are not nearly enough to prevent a Vitamin K2 deficiency.  In fact, Vitamin K2 is now being looked at as an essential nutrient; since we now know we cannot produce adequate amounts by our intestinal flora.  In addition, unlike Vitamin K1, K2 is not recycled in the body, creating a daily need for this nutrient.   This means we have to get Vitamin K2 directly from our foods.

What foods contain Vitamin K2?

Vitamin K2 is primarily located in the milk fat of animals and in their organs and fatty tissue.  Good sources are foie gras (goose liver), butter, ghee, egg yolks, and grass-fed meats and organs.  Vitamin K2 can also be synthesized via fermentation in certain foods.  Dutch Gouda cheese, French brie and other cheeses are good sources of fermented foods with high Vitamin K2 levels.  Natto, or fermented soy, is also a great source of Vitamin K2.  As long as you understand the negative effects of soy, this may be the way to go if you are a vegetarian and need more K2.  The only BIG problem with natto is it taste like an old shoe and has the texture of stringy, gooey, slimy cheese…yum.

It wasn’t until 2006 that the US Department of Agriculture along with Tufts University determined the K2 content in most foods.  It has taken years of current research for scientist to realize how different K1 and K2 actually are, and that K2 needs its own daily requirements outside of K1.

The Science behind Vitamin K2.

Bone Health

Current research is linking Vitamin K2 to increased bone calcification and decrease arterial calcification.  In 2000, the team of M. Shiraki studied 241 osteoporotic patients for 2 years.   After 2 years the treated group that ingested 45mg of oral K2 had far lower incidents of repeat fractures. In 2004 another group of Japanese researchers found that vitamin K2 sustains the lumbar bone mineral density (BMD), prevented osteoporotic fractures in patients with age-related osteoporosis, and vertebral fractures in patients with glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.  They concluded that K2 not only increases bone formation but also suppresses bone re-absorption.  Based on these and many others studies Vitamin K2 is already used in Japan as a way to treat osteoporosis.

As I stated in my Calcium blog, there is much more to increasing bone density than just Calcium.  No nutrient works without its “team”.  Just like you cannot play football with only a quarterback, you cannot build healthy bone with only Calcium.  Your team–Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, fats, proteins, sugars and the newest member to this bone building team, Vitamin K2 –are all essential.

Cardiovascular Health

In 2004 the Rotterdam study reported that after following 4,800 individual for 10 years, those who ingested higher levels of Vitamin K2 had lower levels of cardiovascular disease and mortality.  In 2009, a team of researchers from the Netherlands analyzed research from the Prospect-EPIC cohort of over 16,000 women.  They concluded that those who ingested higher levels of K2 had far lower chances of cardiovascular heart disease (CVD).

For years people have tried to understand how the French can eat a diet rich in saturated fats and cholesterol and maintain lower levels of heart disease.  Well, the fact that the French love foie gras, butter and cheese may actually prove to their favor.  These foods are high in saturated fats, proteins, Vitamin A, D, E and Vitamin K2.  Since we now know saturated fat and cholesterol are not the bad guys we were all lead to believe – these foods may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to the health of your heart and bones.

In addition to helping with osteoporosis and CVD, Vitamin K2 has also been linked to:

Treating Alzheimers patients;

Protecting against certain types of cancers including liver, lung, prostate and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma;

Improving insulin sensitivity in diabetics;

Preventing joint damage; and

Increasing elasticity in skin improving wrinkles and varicose veins.

How much Vitamin K2? 

Most scientific research says we should be consuming around 45mcg of K2/day.  This is equal to about 2 ounces of raw Gouda cheese. In supplement form, 15 mg- 45 mg. of liquid K2 is recommended.  Personally, I use a combination of both: the days I eat more cheese and liver, I use less liquid K2.  The days I eat less Vitamin K2 enriched foods the more I supplement with liquid Vitamin K2.  Every person will be different, but for most people adding in a Vitamin K2 supplement should prove to be beneficial.  I prefer liquid K2 by Thorn research.

There are no known toxicity levels with Vitamin K2.  However, Vitamin K2 foods and supplements can interfere with the activity of oral anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin  (Coumadin). Patients who are using warfarin should only use vitamin K2 supplements with the knowledge of the prescribing physician.  In addition, if you are pregnant or nursing please consult your physician before adding in a Vitamin K2 supplement.

Although, Vitamin K2 research is still in its infancy, it has already proven to be a big player in your bone and cardiovascular health.  As always the best source of all vitamins and minerals is a real food diet.   However, proper supplementation of Vitamin K2 can prove to be beneficial.  If you are concerned about your bone or heart health please consult your physician.

Your Optimal Health Coach,

Kate

Disclaimer:

“I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor.  I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles.  I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them.  I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body.  If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”

References:

1.  Pearson DA.  “Bone health and osteoporosis: the role of vitamin K and potential antagonism by anticoagulants”. Nutr Clin Pract. 2007 Oct; 22(5):517-44.

2.  Vermeer C.  “Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation – an overview”.
Food Nutr Res. 2012 Apr 2.

3.  Vermeer C, Theuwissen E.
Vitamin K, osteoporosis and degenerative diseases of aging”.
Menopause Int. 2011 Mar; 17(1):19-23.

4.  Jie KS, Bots ML, Vermeer C, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE.
Vitamin K intake and osteocalcin levels in women with and without aortic atherosclerosis: a population-based study”.
Atherosclerosis. 1995 Jul; 116(1):117-23.

5.  Yoshida T, Miyazawa K, Kasuga I, Yokoyama T, Minemura K, Ustumi K, Aoshima M, Ohyashiki K. “Apoptosis induction of vitamin K2 in lung carcinoma cell lines: the possibility of vitamin K2 therapy for lung cancer”. Int J Oncol. 2003 Sep;23(3):627-32.

6.  Iwamoto J, Takeda T, Sato Y. “Role of vitamin K2 in the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis”. Curr Drug Saf. 2006 Jan;1(1):87-97.

7.  Wallin R, Schurgers L, Wajih N.  “Effects of the blood coagulation vitamin K as an inhibitor of arterial calcification”.
Thromb Res. 2008;122(3):411-7.

8.  Iwamoto J, Takeda T, Sato Y. “Effects of vitamin K2 on osteoporosis”. Curr Pharm Des. 2004;10(21):2557-76.

9.  Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, Bots ML, Beulens JW, Geleijnse JM, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE, Peeters PH, van der Schouw YT. “A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease”. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Sep;19(7):504-10.

10.  Weijs B, Blaauw Y, Rennenberg RJ, Schurgers LJ, Timmermans CC, Pison L, Nieuwlaat R, Hofstra L, Kroon AA, Wildberger J, Crijns HJ.  “Patients using vitamin K antagonists show increased levels of coronary calcification: an observational study in low-risk atrial fibrillation patients”.
Eur Heart J. 2011 Oct;32(20):2555-62.

11.  Schurgers LJ, Vermeer C. “Determination of Phylloquinone and Menaquinones in Food. Haemostasis”. 2000; 30: 298-307

12.  Price, Weston A. “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. Self-published, 1945

13.  Couvreur S, Hurtaud C, Lopez C, Delaby L, Peyraud JL.  “The linear relationship between the proportion of fresh grass in the cow diet, milk fatty acid composition, and butter properties”.  J Dairy Sci. 2006 Jun; 89(6):1956-69.

14. Chris Masterson, On the Trail of the Exclusive X factor: A 60 year old mystery finally solved. Thurs, 14, 2008

15. Orimo H, Shiraki M, Tomita A, Morii H, Fujita T, Ohata M (1998) “Effects of menatetrenone on the bone and calcium metabolism in osteoporosis: a double-blind placebo-controlled study”. J Bone Miner Metab 16:106–112

16. Shiraki M, Shiraki Y, Aoki C, Miura M (2000) “Vitamin K2 (menatetrenone) effectively prevents fractures and sustains lumbar bone mineral density in osteoporosis”. J Bone Miner Res 15: 515–521

17.  “Vitamin K found to protect against liver cancer”

http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Vitamin-K-found-to-protect-against-liver-cancer

18.  Allison (2001). “The possible role of vitamin K deficiency in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and in augmenting brain damage associated with cardiovascular disease”. Medical hypotheses 57 (2): 151–5.

19.  Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J (April 2008). “Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. (EPIC-Heidelberg)”. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 87 (4): 985–92.

20.  “Vitamin K May Protect Against Developing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Say Mayo Clinic Researchers”. 201, Science Daily

21. Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, ND. “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox –How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life”.  Pub. Wiley, 2012

22. Dr. Ray Peat.  Calcium and Disease: Hypertension, organ calcification, & shock, vs. respiratory energy. www.ray peat.com

The Great Egg Debate

Much like the milk and meat controversy, the egg debate has been going on for years. One day, eggs are a major power protein. The next day, they are as bad for you as cigarette smoking. Just last month, national headlines reported, “Egg yolks almost as bad as smoking”, “Eggs Are Nearly as Bad for Your Arteries as Cigarettes”, and finally, “What do egg yolks and cigarettes have in common?” We are once again left confused, and wondering if that three-egg omelet is really a good idea after all?

Recently, a research study by Dr. David Spence, a professor at Western University of Ontario Canada, proclaimed that eating egg yolks regularly (at least 4.5/week) was 2/3 as bad as smoking. Yes, you heard it: eating eggs could kill you almost as fast as puffing away on a pack of Marlboros.

Dr. Spence questioned 1,231 elderly men and women from the London Health Science Center, who were recovering stroke patients, on their egg consumption, smoking habits, medications and other lifestyle habits. Ultrasound was then used to measure the amount of plaque build-up in each of the patients.

The study found that those who ate more egg yolks per week had almost 2/3 the plague build-up of heavy smokers. The study showed that those who smoked the most and ate the most egg yolks had the most plaque build-up. In comparison, those who smoked the least and ate the least amount of yolks had far less plaque build up. The study also concluded that those who smoked the most also ate the most egg yolks. Apparently, in this study, it seems that egg yolk eaters had a few other bad habits other than just eating eggs. Which, in my opinion, should have made Dr. Spence look deeper into other causation factors as to why egg-yolk eaters had increased plaque build-up.

To really judge if eggs are the death trap Dr. Spence makes them out to be, we need to look at a few possible problems with his study…

1. The questionnaire

Dr. Spence used a questionnaire asking, based on the average per week, throughout your entire life, how many eggs have you consumed each year (“egg-yolk-years”)? Now, I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember what I ate last week. So I am not too sure these elderly stroke patients have a clear memory of their dietary habits for the last 50-70 years. Studies that actually follow patients through out their growing years, and survey them yearly or a few times a year, will show far more accurate results. Asking elderly recovering stroke patients to recall 50 years of eating habits seems a little absurd. Although I am sure these patients did the best they could, I’ll bet there were a few inaccuracy in their answers.

2. Selection bias

All of the people questioned were patients of a vascular clinic and were in recovery for a stroke or mini-stroke. These patients had already demonstrated a tendency toward artery blockage. According to Dr. Joseph Raffaele, “Even if it is true that egg yolks cause an increase in plaque area in people who are proven to be plaque formers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will cause it in the general population. What they should have done was compare the egg consumption and carotid plaque of the clinic subjects to that of a group that hadn’t had any clinical evidence of atherosclerosis. Indeed, this study suffers from the classic research flaw known as selection bias.”

3. Correlation is not causation

Let’s say all 1,231 patients have memories like an elephant and can remember exactly their egg-yolk-years. How do we really know it’s the eggs that caused the plaque? All we really know is those that had more plaque ate more eggs. We also know that those who ate more eggs, smoked more too. Maybe those who ate more eggs just had more bad habits. Maybe those who ate more eggs also ate more bacon, more white bread, more pancakes, more vegetable oil, or maybe they just ate more food. None of these questions were asked in the study. Since Dr. Spence was looking for an egg-correlation, why would he care about all this other non-important information? We must remember, just because there is a correlation between two things does not mean one causes the other. It just means there is a correlation and maybe we should ask more questions.

4. Like…What kind of eggs were they eating?

In my eyes, the quality of the egg is very important when it comes to health. Pastured-organic eggs from chickens fed worms and grass are going to produce a far different egg than a conventionally-farmed chicken living in a battery cage (small chicken cages) being fed soy and grains. In fact, in a 2008 study, Dr. Niva Shapira demonstrated how the diet of egg-laying hens could change the nutritional quality of the eggs. Dr. Shapira fed one group of hens a diet high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (corn and soy), while the other group of hens received a diet low in Omega-6 fats and additional anti-oxidants. Dr. Shapira showed how eating two high corn-soy eggs a day elevated oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol by 40% in normal, healthy individuals. The individuals who ate two low Omega-6 eggs a day had normal levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol. The Spence study did not clarify what kind of eggs any of these individuals were eating. So is it really the eggs that had a negative effect on the body or is it the crap the hens were eating that had the negative effect? Hmmmm?

5. How did they cook their eggs?

Three eggs cooked in vegetable oil (which is high in polyunsaturated fats/PUFA) vs. three eggs cooked in coconut oil are going to produce an entirely different effect on your body. As I have expressed time and time again, PUFA’s oxidize easily under high temperatures and within the presence of oxygen. Coconut oil, which is a protective saturated fat, is much more stable. According to Dr. Ray Peat:

“When oxidized polyunsaturated oils, such as corn oil or linoleic acid, are added to food, they appear in the blood lipids, where they accelerate the formation of cholesterol deposits in arteries (Staprans, et al., 1994, 1996).

Stress accelerates the oxidation of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the body, so people who consume unsaturated vegetable oils will have some oxidized cholesterol in their tissues.”

In addition, overcooking the yolks can oxidize the cholesterol in the egg. Runny yolks are usually considered the best alternative when preparing your eggs. So if you are not into eating raw eggs in the morning, soft boiling, sunny side up, or poached eggs are best.

Essentially, what all this means is it may not be the eggs themselves causing the plaque build-up but the addition of certain cooking oils, or the overcooked yolk, that could be contributing to increased oxidized cholesterol in the arteries.

6. Did the patients exercise?

This is a very important question Dr. Spence left out of his study. Why is it important? Because we now know that exercise decreases the chances of artery blockage and other heart issues. Maybe the people who ate fewer eggs also exercised more. So maybe it was not the eggs at all, but maybe the lack of exercise that led to the increased arterial blockage. Of course, I am making some guesses here. But we have to consider everything when making such a strong claim.

7. Thyroid and liver health.

The health of your thyroid and liver plays an important role in cholesterol plaque build-up in your arteries. Your thyroid is responsible for producing thyroxine (T4) and a small amount of Triiodothyronine or T3(the active form of thyroid) in the body. Most of T4 is converted into T3 in your liver. T3 is responsible for converting cholesterol to all your steroidal hormones. Without T3, cholesterol cannot be converted, which can lead to a cholesterol back up and increased cholesterol levels. Increased cholesterol is a major marker for hypothyroidism. This back-up could lead to higher levels of oxidized cholesterol if healthy levels of the thyroid hormone are not met.

“Although cholesterol is protective against oxidative and cytolytic damage, the chronic free radical exposure will oxidize it. During the low cholesterol turnover of hypothyroidism, the oxidized variants of cholesterol will accumulate, so cholesterol loses its protective functions.”

–Dr. Ray Peat.

Let us remember cholesterol is protective, is part of our immune system, and is essential for our bodies to live. The liver produces 80% of our serum cholesterol, the other 20% comes from our diet. A recent study from Harvard Medical School showed that dietary cholesterol has little effect on serum cholesterol. Our body self-regulates: if we do not consume cholesterol, our bodies will make it. Therefore, whether the cholesterol comes from our diet or from our own liver, it will rise when we are in a hypothyroid state. Thus, the great egg is getting all the blame when, in all reality, it may be the health of the patient’s thyroid and liver that is more of a contributing factor.

Who knew we had to look at so many factors?

To be honest, there was so much wrong with this study that I am surprised it actually got published. Yet, studies and claims like this are published every day. Trust me, I read a lot of research articles. And for every article I read supporting a claim, I’ll read another one saying the exact opposite. The truth is most studies testing foods have problems, whether it’s the population’s health, the use of animals, a questionnaire, a meta-analysis, the quality of the food being tested, other foods being eaten at the same time, the length of the study, who is paying for the study, research bias, patients’ memory and honesty, or the overall interpretation of the results. Ugh. It can definitely get a little frustrating when trying to decide what to put in your mouth. Knowing all this, I am sure you are still wondering… “Should I be eating eggs?”

Well, here is my take…

Egg Nutrition

Eggs contain carotenoids, vitamins A, E, D and K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, B12, pantothenic acid, choline, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, selenium, and are a complete protein. Most of the nutrients, all of the fat and cholesterol and about 50% of the protein is found in the yolk of the egg. In fact, every part of the egg, including the egg-shell can be eaten for its nutritional content. The egg-shell is an amazing source of Calcium. For such a little amount of food, the egg is a powerhouse full of nutrition.

Egg Research

There, of course, have been plenty of studies demonstrating that eating 1-2 eggs/day does not affect plaque build-up in healthy adults. The fourteen-year Nurses study and the eight-year Health Professional Follow study documented the eating habits of over 120,000 men and women collectively. Both studies concluded that eating one egg/day was very unlikely to have a substantial impact on cardiovascular disease or stroke in healthy individuals.

When the body is working optimally and you are taking care of yourself by eating the right foods and exercising, I think consuming eggs regularly is far more healthful to your diet than harmful. Therefore, when deciding to make eggs a part of our daily diet, I would take into consideration the following things:

1. Hens Diet

Be aware of the health and diet of the chickens/hens producing the eggs. Eggs can add value to your diet if they come from a healthy source. Be aware of tricky words food manufacturers use on their egg cartons–words like, “vegetarian diet”, “natural”, and “free-roaming”. Each of these means very little. If possible, buy your eggs from a local retailer at a farmers’ market or direct from the farm. Eggs should be organic, pastured- raised, corn- and soy-free.

2. Cooking style

When preparing your eggs, leave the yolk runny and cook them in the right oils (coconut, butter or ghee). These oils are all saturated fats. They do not oxidize under high heats like PUFA’s and MUFA’s (monounsaturated).

3. Restaurant eating

When eating out at restaurants, limit your egg consumption. Almost all eggs prepared in a restaurant are NOT pastured-organic raised. Almost all eggs cooked in a restaurant will be cooked in some sort of vegetable oil. If you decide to eat eggs at your favorite restaurant, ask for poached eggs or hard-boiled eggs. These will be the safest.

4. Side dishes

Take into consideration the other things you are eating with the eggs. A cup of fruit or pulp-free OJ is a nice complement. A few pieces of bread, bacon and pancakes are not the best of side dishes. Eggs are not a miracle food. They can add to your health or take from your health, depending on what you eat with them.

5. YOUR health

Look at your overall health. If you are hypothyroid, diabetic, prone to heart disease or arteriosclerosis, I would limit the amount of eggs in your diet until you have worked on healing your body and metabolism. If you are a healthy individual, who exercises and eats healthfully, then I say don’t be afraid to eat an egg or two on a daily basis.

Eggs are an important food and should not be avoided. However, you have to be conscious of your egg selection, how you are preparing them, how many you are eating, and the state of your health. Also, we must remember you cannot believe everything you read and everything you hear in the news or on the internet. Question everything (including me), do your own research, and find out what resonates with you. Health and healing are so individualized, what is working for your neighbor may have the opposite effect on you–another great reason to be taking full responsibility of taking care of yourself!

Happy Learning!

Your Optimal Health Coach,

Kate

“Disclaimer:  I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor.  I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles.  I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them.  I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body.  If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”

References:

1. Niva Shapira, Joseph Pinchasov. Modified Egg Composition To Reduce Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidizability: High Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Antioxidants versus Regular Highn−6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008; 56 (10): 3688 DOI: 10.1021/jf073549r

2. J. David Spence, David J.A. Jenkins, Jean Davignon. Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis Volume 224, Issue 2 , Pages 469-473, October 2012

3. Staprans I, Rapp JH, Pan XM, Hardman DA, Feingold KR. Oxidized lipids in the diet accelerate the development of fatty streaks in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1996 Apr;16(4):533-8.

4. Staprans I, Rapp JH, Pan XM, Kim KY, Feingold KR. Oxidized lipids in the diet are a source of oxidized lipid in chylomicrons of human serum. Arterioscler Thromb. 1994 Dec;14(12):1900-5

5. Kummerow FA, Kim Y, Hull J, Pollard J, Ilinov P, Drossiev DL, Valek J. The influence of egg consumption on the serum cholesterol level in human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1977; 30:664-73.

6. Dawber TR, Nickerson RJ, Brand FN, Pool J. Eggs, serum cholesterol, and coronary heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1982; 36:617-25

7. Qureshi AI, Suri FK, Ahmed S, Nasar A, Divani AA, Kirmani JF. Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit 2007; 13:CR1-8.

8. Jones PJ, Pappu AS, Hatcher L, Li ZC, Illingworth DR, Connor WE. Dietary cholesterol feeding suppresses human cholesterol synthesis measured by deuterium incorporation and urinary mevalonic acid levels. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1996; 16:1222-8.

9. Dr. Joseph Raffaele. THE CANADIAN YOLK STUDY’S SCRAMBLED SCIENCE

Raffaele Reports. 25 August 2012

10. Frank B. Hu, MD; Meir J. Stampfer, MD; Eric B. Rimm, ScD; JoAnn E. Manson, MD; Alberto Ascherio, MD; Graham A. Colditz, MD; Bernard A. Rosner, PhD; Donna Spiegelman, ScD; Frank E. Speizer, MD; Frank M. Sacks, MD; Charles H. Hennekens, MD; Walter C. Willett, MD. A Prospective Study of Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women . Jama April 21, 1999, Vol 281, No. 15 >

FREE

11. McNamara DJ. The impact of egg limitations on coronary heart disease risk: do the numbers add up? J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Oct;19(5 Suppl):540S-548S.

12. Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Eggs and Heart Diseasehttp://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/eggs/#1

13. Cheryl Long and Tabitha Alterman, “Meet Real Free Range Eggs”

October/November 2007 http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx#ixzz27yFbfsJn

14. Zazpe I, Beunza JJ, Bes-Rastrollo M, Warnberg J, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, Benito S, Vázquez Z, Martínez-González MA; SUN Project Investigators. Egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in the SUN Project. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;65(6):676-82. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

15. Eguchi E, Iso H, Tanabe N, Wada Y, Yatsuya H, Kikuchi S, Inaba Y, Tamakoshi A; Japan Collaborative Cohort Study Group. Healthy lifestyle behaviours and cardiovascular mortality among Japanese men and women: the Japan collaborative cohort study. Eur Heart J. 2012 Feb;33(4):467-77.

16. Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health. 2012 Aug 28;12(1):704. [Epub ahead of print]

17. Saremi A, Asghari M, Ghorbani A. Effects of aerobic training on serum omentin-1 and cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight and obese men. . J Sports Sci. 2010 Jul;28(9):993-8

18. Dr. Ray Peat. www.RayPeat.com. Cholesterol, longevity, intelligence, and health.

Calcium Supplements…Do you need them?

Calcium supplements… Do you need them?

I think this is a very important question to ask since it seems everyone I encounter these days — primarily women — are on some sort of Calcium supplement. Whether it was their doctor, last nutritionist, trainer, or the latest magazine article that told them to take it, most believe their Calcium supplements are necessary. And yes, for some this may be true. Especially since so many people these days are scared of dairy (the best source of Calcium) for one reason or another.

Still the question stands, “do you really need it?” And if you do, is the supplement you are taking really working?

Most of us know we need Calcium for bone health. Many of us know we need it for proper cell and nerve function. Yet, few of us really understand how Calcium works in the body and what other cofactors are needed for proper absorption and utilization.

To really understand if we need to supplement our diets with Calcium and to understand if it is working in our body, we need understand so much more… only then can we make an educated decision on if we actually need a supplement.

First, what is the role of Calcium in the body?

*Bone and teeth structure

*Blood clotting

*Nerve and cell function

*Muscular contraction

*Regulates the heart beat

*Lowers blood pressure by down-regulating parathyroid hormone (PTH)

99% of Calcium is stored in the skeletal system (the bones are referred to as Calcium banks). The other 1% is located in the soft tissue and blood. Every day there is a transfer of Calcium among the bones, cells, and blood. Thus, since we do not make our own Calcium within the body, a constant intake of dietary Calcium is needed. Without proper intake, the body will pull Calcium from our Calcium banks (bones) and use it for cellular function. This is one big reason why we need to be ingesting an adequate level of Calcium every day. Ok, so it does make sense for doctors to prescribe Calcium supplements, right? Well, maybe…

The Calcium paradox

Although there are many paradox’s surrounding Calcium, a big one is this. Why do some nations like the US, who supplement with more Calcium than most other nations, have a higher level of osteoporosis (bone breakdown)? In a 1992 study between the US and Japan, the US showed almost 3 times as many hip fractures than the Japanese, even though on average the Japanese ingested far less Calcium on a daily basis. In fact, in a nation where people are trying to consume the recommended daily allowance of Calcium, some 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, while another 34 million have low bone mass. Why is this happening? If Americans are consuming more Calcium, shouldn’t we have less osteoporosis?

Another factor to consider is a 2010 study published by the British Medical Journal concerning Calcium supplementation and cardiovascular risks. In a meta-analysis (compiled results of several studies that address a related research hypotheses) of 12,000 individuals, it was concluded that taking Calcium supplements increased the chance of a heart attack by 30%.

Kate! Are you saying increased Calcium supplementing may NOT prevent osteoporosis AND it may also increase my chance of a heart attack? In some respects, yes… in others, no. Huh? Have I confused you yet?

You see, for Calcium to work properly, there are so many other factors to consider. Calcium needs many helpers and a certain gut environment for proper absorption and utilization. If these helpers or conditions are unavailable, Calcium may be excreted through the urine… or worse — calcified in tissues and arteries. Obviously, over time, this could lead to bone breakdown and stiff, blocked arteries.

So, before popping your next Calcium supplement, let’s look at what really needs to be occurring in your diet and body for proper Calcium absorption and utilization.

1. Adequate levels of Vitamin D (specifically D3). Vitamin D helps Calcium to be absorbed through the small intestine by increasing the number of Calcium-binding proteins. Without enough Vitamin D, the absorption of Calcium decreases significantly. Know anyone with a Vitamin D deficiency? It seems just about everyone these days. Best source of Vitamin D — the sun. Other sources are milk, butter, eggs, shellfish, and white fish.

*In the British 2010 meta-analysis, it was shown that those supplementing with Calcium plus Vitamin D did not show an increase in heart attacks ONLY those taking Calcium alone.

2. Adequate levels of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin required in proper Calcium metabolism. Good sources are liver, milk, cheese, and eggs.

3. Adequate levels of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for proper Calcium metabolism. Good sources are milk, blueberries, blackberries, butternut squash, olive oil, crab, nectarines, and papaya.

4. Adequate levels of Vitamin K (more specifically K2). Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. Increased levels of vitamin K are showing a decrease in calcification of tissue and arteries and increase in bone development. In a clinical study from Rotterdam, Holland: “When Vitamin K2 is lacking, the Calcium remains in the blood and ends up getting deposited in the walls of arteries and other sites, which is very undesirable.” Good sources of vitamin K2 are foie gras, Gouda, and Edam cheese.  Good sources of K1 are green leafy vegetables. Bacteria in the small intestine can convert K1 to K2.

5. Adequate levels of Magnesium. Magnesium is needed for Calcium absorption and retention. According to Dr Ray Peat, “Magnesium deficiency and Calcium deficiency have some similar symptoms (such as cramping). But Magnesium is antagonistic to Calcium in many systems. It is the basic protective Calcium-blocker. G. Jasmin, showed that Magnesium deficiency causes inflammation. A deficiency of either Calcium or Magnesium can stimulate the parathyroid glands to produce more hormone (parathyroid hormone, PTH), which increases Calcium absorption, but also removes Calcium from the bones. This hormone, responding to a dietary Calcium or Magnesium deficiency, is an important factor in causing cells to take up too much Calcium. And its excess is associated with many inflammatory and degenerative diseases.”

Good sources of Magnesium are Epson salt baths, tropical fruits, coffee, dark chocolate, bone broth, squash, spinach, some nuts.

6. Stomach health. Calcium is an alkaline mineral. However, it needs an acidic environment to break down to allow for proper absorption. If your stomach does not produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCl), Calcium will not be able to break down and be absorbed in the small intestine. HCl naturally decreases with age.

7. Adequate levels of protein. Too much or not enough protein can interfere with Calcium metabolism. According to Dr Ray Peat, “Traditional meat-eating cultures efficiently use the whole animal, including blood, skin, bones, and the various organs, rather than just the muscles. That diet is favorable for Calcium regulation, because it provides more vitamin A, D, E, and K, Calcium, and gelatin, and less of the pro-inflammatory amino acids — tryptophan and cysteine.”

8. Adequate levels of fat. Fats contain all the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) that are needed for proper Calcium metabolism.

9. Adequate levels of sugar (carbohydrates). As I told you in my Milk blog, lactose or other sugars are necessary to help increase Calcium absorption.

10. Small intestine health. Calcium is absorbed into your body through your small intestine. If you have intestinal inflammation (due to stress, processed foods, PUFA’s, alcohol, drugs, food additives, etc.) all your minerals, including Calcium, have a hard time entering your system. The unabsorbed Calcium ends up being excreted through the urine.

11. Stress. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) increases under stress. PTH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland and acts to increase levels of Calcium in the blood. Under stress, PTH pulls Calcium from the bones and kidneys to increase blood Calcium levels. This is needed to keep blood Calcium levels within the normal range. However, like all stress hormones, chronic high levels will cause damage. Chronic elevated levels of PTH will lead to bone breakdown and calcification of soft tissues.

12. The quality of the supplement. Most supplements these days are filled with additives, fillers, and binders. Due to the binders, these supplements can be hard for your system to break down and absorb. And the additives and fillers can cause an allergic reaction. The end result may be an expensive pill that creates intestinal inflammation or is just excreted in your urine or feces.

13. Other influences. Smoking, caffeine, corticosteroids, drugs, oxalates, insoluble fiber, and Phosphorus all inhibit the absorption of Calcium.

Holy cow! Can you see why taking a Calcium supplement might not be doing you any good?

So then what is the answer to, “Do I really need to take Calcium supplement?”

Well, here is my take… Are you ready?

My theory is really complex….

Eat REAL food and remove the CRAP!

You should always try to get your Calcium from food first. Why? Because the right Calcium-enriched foods usually will contain a lot of the other nutrients to help with proper Calcium absorption and utilization. This is why food should be your supplement…

Best sources of Calcium.

1. Milk. An 8oz (1 cup) serving of milk contains about 300mg of Calcium. In addition, milk contains proteins, sugars, fats, Vitamins A, D, and E, plus Magnesium. Do you see why I like real milk so much? *Remember there is a BIG difference between conventionally farmed milk and grass-fed organic milk. So choose wisely!

2. Cheese. One ounce of cheese contains about 200mg of Calcium. Cheese, in addition to milk, contains Vitamins A, D, E, and Magnesium. Most cheese contains only fat and protein (no sugar or carbs). Once again, where the cheese comes from makes a difference. Grass-fed organic is always best. Try to find cheese that is void of fillers and additives.

3. Yogurt. One cup of plain Greek yogurt contains about 230 mg of Calcium. It contains, fat, protein, and sugars, plus Vitamin A, D, and E. Fage Greek yogurt is a good option.

4. Ice cream. ½ cup of vanilla ice cream contains about 100mg of Calcium. Ice cream also contains fats, sugars, and proteins, plus Vitamin A, D, and E. I only use Hagan Daz (no fillers or additives — just milk, sugar, eggs, and cream).

Other good sources of Calcium are sardines, salmon, almonds, and *egg shells.

Although many other sources (spinach, chard, berries, and nuts) contain adequate levels of Calcium, these sources also contain oxalates. Oxalates bind with Calcium and increase Calcium excretion from the body. This just means less Calcium absorption.

*Ground up, boiled eggshells are a great way to get your Calcium if you have a hard time getting Calcium via food. One eggshell equals about 800mg of Calcium without added fillers and binders.

How much do you need?

The RDA recommends anywhere from 1200-1500mg a day. The exact amount for you may depend on your activity, your gut health, stress, age, sex, and the source from where you are getting it. Each of these may increase your need for Calcium while also increasing your need for other minerals and nutrients.

It is also recommended to take Calcium throughout the day. But no more than 500mg is recommended at one serving/meal. Too much at once will not be absorbed and will be excreted from the body.

We must remember that there is a reason real food is designed the way it is…it is a perfectly designed energy source. Real, unaltered food provides all the nutrients we need without having to become a nutritional scientist and concocting a supplemental cocktail.

In a world of genetically modified foods, environmental toxins, pesticides, processed foods, fast-food, herbicides, fertilizers, additives, preservatives, fillers, emulsifiers, hormones, and antibiotics, it does seem to make sense that we would need to supplement our food. However, doesn’t it make more sense to just eat well? Yes, it may cost more NOW, but in the long run, it will cost far less.

Pay NOW or pay LATER… The choice is yours.

Your Optimal Health Coach,
Kate

“Disclaimer:  I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor.  I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles.  I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them.  I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body.  If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”References:

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2. Cees Vermeer, Laviena Braam et al. Vitamin K supplementation: A simple way to bone and cardiovascular health, AgroFOOD industry hi-tech, Nov/Dec 2003 17-20

3. Cranney, A; Horsley, T, O’Donnell, S, Weiler, H, Puil, L, Ooi, D, Atkinson, S, Ward, L, Moher, D, Hanley, D, Fang, M, Yazdi, F, Garritty, C, Sampson, M, Barrowman, N, Tsertsvadze, A, Mamaladze, V (2007 Aug). “Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health”. Evidence report/technology assessment (158): 1–235. PMID 18088161

4. Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA. Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69:74–79.

5. R. Bowen. Endocrine control of Calcium and Phosphate Homeostasis. 2003

6. Dr Ray Peat. “Calcium and Disease: Hypertension, organ calcification, & shock, vs. respiratory energy”

7. Effect of Calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ 2010; 341 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c3691 (Published 29 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3691

8. Iwamoto J, Takeda T, Sato Y. “Effects of vitamin K2 on the development of osteopenia in rats as the models of osteoporosis.” Department of Sports Medicine, Keio University School of Medicine, 35 Shinanomachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan. jiwamoto@sc.itc.keio.ac.jp

9. Wallin R, Schurgers L, Wajih N. “Effects of the blood coagulation vitamin K as an inhibitor of arterial calcification.” Department of Internal Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157, USA. rwallin@wfubmc.edu. Thromb Res. 2008;122(3):411-7. Epub 2008 Jan 30

10. Heaney RP (2000) “Calcium, dairy products and osteoporosis.” Journal Am Coll Nutr 19 (2 Suppl) : 835-995 PMID 1075913

11. Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE.  “Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency.”  J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Apr;28(2):131-41.