Lara Pizzorno is the author of “Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life – Naturally” and a member of the American Medical Writers Association with 29 years of experience specializing in bone health.
Recently we asked Lara if she would help us provide a series of short, ongoing videos to help you (our customers and readers) stay up to date on the latest facts and science related to bone health.
In this latest video, Lara answers a question regarding a Weight Watchers diet and the potential of getting too much calcium. Watch the video below (or read the transcript provided) and let us know what you think in the comments. 🙂
Hello, my name is Lara Pizzorno and I’m here to I hope, answer some questions that you submitted after our first round of videos was posted. I’ll only answer one question per video because they’re great questions and there’s a lot of information to reply. So if your question isn’t answered in this video, don’t worry, it will be coming up in the next one!
So the first question I’d like to answer is this:
“I eat 3 servings of dairy products as recommended by Weight Watchers. I recently started taking 2 AlgaeCal Plus (capsules) 2 times per day as recommended. Am I getting too much calcium? I’m concerned that it might end up in my blood vessels and clog them.”
This is a great question. First of all, it’s not likely that you’re getting too much calcium, nor if you’re taking AlgaeCal Plus that it will end up in your blood vessels.
Let’s discuss the blood vessel calcification issue first. AlgaeCal contains a nutrient called vitamin K2 and this vitamin is responsible for activating the proteins that put the calcium where your body absorbs, where you want it to go, into your bones. This is accomplished by a protein activated by vitamin K2 called osteocalcin and also keeps it out of your arteries where you don’t want it. And also your kidneys and your breasts and your brain where you certainly don’t want it either. This is a protein called matrix gla protein and both of these proteins are activated by vitamin K2. So if you don’t have enough vitamin K2 on board, you won’t be able to activate these proteins and you do stand a chance of having the calcium deposit where you don’t want it to go. But if you’re taking AlgaeCal Plus you are getting vitamin K2 and you should be fine.
If you want to learn all about K2, probably more than any one except for me would want to know. You can read about it in several medical review articles that I have written on this topic, which are posted on the internet and are free access at Longevity Medicine Review, the medical journal Longevity Medicine Review. I also wrote in depth and at length about K2 in “Your Bones” about 20 pages worth so you can look at all this there if you don’t get it in the video.
The only really good source of vitamin K2 is a food called natto.
It’s a fermented soybean product that’s eaten in Japan, but it’s hard to find in the US because it’s also slimy and smells like dirty gym socks that have been left to marinate in a gym locker for several weeks. So it’s not a taste that Westerners easily acquire and there are a few other foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin K2. In the western diet, probably the best ones are full fat cheeses from pastured cows. It’s important that the cows being pastured are not eating corn. You need to have them eating grass to produce good amounts of K2 in their food products.
Weight Watchers of course does not recommend you eat full fat cheese because of its fat content but even if they did you’d have to eat way too much of these cheeses anyway to get adequate amounts of vitamin K2. This is a nutrient in which I recommend a supplement and I take one myself, AlgaeCal Plus and that supplies the most active, most potent and long lasting form in your body of vitamin K2 which is the MK-7 form of this nutrient. So if you are taking AlgaeCal Plus, you’ll be getting the K2 that you need to activate the proteins, osteocalcin and matrix gla protein that will enable you to put the calcium you’re absorbing into your bones where you want it and keep it out of your arteries and kidneys and breast and your brain where you don’t want it.
Now, to reply to your second question: are you getting too much calcium? The information I could find on Weight Watchers’ calcium recommendations indicates that they recommend consuming very dairy foods and other calcium rich foods that provide you with 1000 mg of calcium per day. Such as low fat yogurt which will give you 250 mg in a cup or fat free milk which will give you 300 mg of calcium in a cup or low or non fat cheese which delivers 300 mg in an ounce and a half of cheese. And this is a really good start towards meeting your calcium needs, but it is not likely to be optimal for a number of reasons.
First of all, I don’t know your age or if you’re postmenopausal but if you are, you should be getting at least 1200 mg of calcium or more likely 1500 mg of calcium per day to meet your calcium needs.
Secondly, even if you are consuming 1000 mg of calcium from dairy foods each day, you will not be absorbing most of it, unless you are also taking vitamin D3, which is required for the active absorption of calcium from the small intestine. Not having enough vitamin D3 in your system will result in you only absorbing about 15% or even less of the calcium you consume. I strongly suggest that if you don’t already know your blood levels are of the circulating form of vitamin D3 that’s in the blood this is called 25OHD and it’s the form that’s tested in blood draws. Optimal levels of 25OHD are 60-80 ng per mL and they can be easily checked with a simple blood draw or the Vitamin D council now has a finger prick test that you can now order from them and run them at home. But most medical insurance now covers the lab draw and that can be run to determine your vitamin D levels.
If you’re taking the full 4 capsule dose of AlgaeCal Plus in other words 2 capsules in the morning and 2 capsules in the evening, you will be getting 1600 IU of vitamin D3 daily and will help you actually absorb the calcium you consume. Depending on your blood test results however you may need more vitamin D than this. You’ll just have to check to see what they are. And write me again and I can tell you what you might want to consider if they’re not in that range!
Thirdly, how is your digestion? If you’re not producing adequate stomach acid which becomes more and more common as we age, you will not be able to do a good job breaking down your food and releasing the calcium that it contains. And what you do manage to digest will not be solubilized. Calcium has to be solubilized before it has to be absorbed and this is a job done by stomach acid. If you’re taking AlgaeCal Plus, the calcium that it provides does not need to be broken out of the food matrix, it will be immediately be released and will require less stomach acid for you to absorb it. You just need enough to solubilize it before it passes into the small intestine. And with the help of vitamin D3, it will be absorbed. Two capsules of AlgaeCal Plus contains 360 mg of calcium. So when we take it twice daily as directed, we receive 720 mg of calcium each day just with our supplement. So it will be very easy to get to the 1500 mg you probably actually really need for your full days requirement of calcium.
On the other hand, it’s best not to take calcium all at once, which is why AlgaeCal tells you to take it in two doses.
We absorb the most calcium when our need for the mineral is high and the amount that is provided is 500 mg or less at one time. About 360 mg has been shown to be the optimal amount to maximize calcium absorption.
If you’re taking AlgaeCal with a meal that includes calcium rich foods, and you end up consuming more than 500 mg of calcium at once, you’ll absorb less of the extra calcium, but the calcium that you don’t absorb is going to provide important health benefits for you as it moves throughout your digestive tract, which I’ve talked about in another video so I won’t repeat that.
So to sum up, if you are postmenopausal you are likely to need 1500 mg of calcium per day, not 1000 mg. Thus Weight Watchers falls short of your needs. It is most important that you vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 needs are also being met so you can actually absorb the calcium you consume and put it safely and healthily into your bones where you want it while keeping it out of your bones, kidneys, breasts and brain where you do not want it.
AlgaeCal Plus will provide the D3 and K2 that you need while also delivering a variety of trace minerals that we also require to build healthy bones.
So thank you again for submitting such a great question and I hope that this information has been helpful to you! Tune in next time, bye!
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Delmas PD.Treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Lancet. 2002 Jun 8;359(9322):2018-26. PMID: 12076571