Can calcium alone strengthen bones?

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Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in nature and is found in everything from pearls to seashells to eggshells. Calcium is also the most abundant mineral in your body. Over 99 percent of your body’s calcium is located in your bones and teeth.

While calcium is extremely important for your bones and teeth, you need to also consume adequate amounts of vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium in your body.

Luckily, nonfat milk is an excellent source of both calcium and vitamin D!

Elizabeth Casparro, MPH,RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Calcium is one of many vitamins and minerals that help strengthen bones. First, calcium cannot be absorbed without vitamin D. This is why many calcium food sources are now fortified with vitamin D such as milk, soymilk and orange juice. Second, vitamin C helps with collagen formation and can be found in many fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers. Third, vitamin K has been associated with less risk of fractures and can be found in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Fourth, vitamin A helps with cell differentiation in bones and can be found in egg yolks, cantaloupe and carrots. Fifth, fluoride also helps with calcium regulation in the bone and can be found in seafood, seaweed and molasses. 

It can certainly help when the diet has very poor calcium content, but the body needs other nutrients simultaneously in order to maximize calcium’s bone-building potential. The primary nutrient co-factors are magnesium and vitamin D. Unless instructed by a qualified health professional, calcium should never be taken alone. At a very minimum when supplementing calcium also use a daily multivitamin and mineral formula (MVM) to make sure you get the all the calcium bone-building co-factors including vitamin K. Your calcium supplement should have some vitamin D and magnesium but the MVM will give you everything else nutritionally necessary to maximize bone strengthening/building. Also, supplement only 500 mg of calcium at a time because that’s about all the body can use effectively from one dose. Therefore, if your health professional tells you that you need to add 1000 mg/day of calcium in the form of a supplement, take calcium carbonate in 2 doses: one 500 mg tablet with a morning meal and one with an evening meal. That said, you always want your daily intake of vitamins and minerals to stay within the safe optimal range, which you can be assured of when using dotFIT products. All formulas are designed to work synergistically with other dotFIT products in order to avoid nutrient overages, which are common with typical, indiscriminate supplement use.
Kathleen Dunn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Your body relies on more than calcium to build and maintain strong, sturdy bones. Bone is actually a very dynamic tissue. It’s in a constant state of turnover as old bone is reabsorbed and replaced by new bone. For peak performance, this bone remodeling process demands a steady supply of key nutrients throughout your lifespan. Read on to learn the basics.

Your key nutrients for strong bones

Calcium. An essential mineral that plays an important role in providing sturdy structure to bones and teeth.

Vitamin D. An essential fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate calcium levels in the body, enhances calcium absorption from foods, controls the amount of calcium lost from the body and keeps blood calcium levels steady.

Vitamin K. An essential vitamin that works by activating several proteins that help build strong bones.

Magnesium. An essential mineral that plays an important role in calcium and bone metabolism and bone cell function.

Copper, Manganese and Zinc. Essential trace minerals for human health. Copper is a component of collagen (a protein that is part of the connective tissue in bones), ligaments, cartilage and skin. Manganese and zinc are essential parts of many enzymes in the body, including enzymes involved in bone metabolism.

Boron. An emerging trace mineral that may play a role in calcium and vitamin D metabolism.

Silicon. An emerging trace mineral that may play a role in the formation of collagen required for bone and connective tissue health.

Your best strategy

A balanced diet is your go-to strategy to nourish your body, including your bones. However, you may want to consider adding a high-quality supplement for bone health to your daily routine. It can help bridge any nutrient gaps between what your diet provides and what your bones demand.

As with all dietary supplements, talk to your doctor or other licensed healthcare professional prior to use if you have or suspect a medical condition, if you are taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs or if you are pregnant or lactating.
Eric Olsen
Fitness
It's not clear whether dietary calcium or supplementation is all that effective in the absence of physical activity. Think of calcium as the raw material and exercise as the work necessary to turn that raw material into something useful, such as increased bone strength and a lowered risk of osteoporosis. You can't build a brick wall without bricks; likewise, a pile of bricks is just a pile of bricks unless someone makes them into a wall. In the same way, you won't get the full benefit of calcium unless you take it along with the stimulus of exercise.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.