Calcium: Nutrient Combination and Ratios

Calcium is centrally important, as most people already know. Not only is it necessary for the health of bones but also for the health of the heart, nerve cells, gut microbiome, hormonal system, skin, etc and will affect such things as grip strength and fatigue. As usual, there is a lot of misinformation out there and newer information that has changed our understanding. Let me clear up the issue to the degree I can. The following represents my present understanding, based on the sources I could find.

We can store calcium when we are younger, but lose this ability as we age. On the other hand, it turns out we don’t need as much calcium as previously assumed. And too much calcium can be harmful, even deadly as can happen with hardening of arteries. In fact, the healthiest societies have lower levels of calcium. It’s not so much about the calcium itself for, as always, context matters. Calcium deficiencies typically are caused by a health condition (kidney condition, alcohol abuse, etc), rather than lack of calcium in the diet. Importantly, other nutrients determine how the body absorbs, processes, utilizes, and deposits calcium. Furthermore, nutritional imbalances involving deficiencies and excesses create a cascade of health problems.

Let me explain the interrelationship of micronutrients. There is a whole series of relationships involved in calcium processing. Vitamin B6 is necessary for absorption of magnesium; and magnesium is necessary for absorption of vitamin D3 — zinc, boron, vitamin A, bile salts, and a healthy guy microbiome are all important as well. Of course, cholesterol and sunlight are needed for the body to produce it’s own vitamin D3, which is why deficiencies in these are also problematic. Statins block cholesterol and sunscreen blocks sun; while stress will block vitamin D3 itself whereas exercise will do the opposite. Then vitamin D3 is necessary for absorption of calcium. But it doesn’t end there. Most important of all, vitamin K2 is necessary for regulating where calcium is deposited in the body, ensuring it ends up in bones and teeth rather than in joints, arteries, brain, kidneys, etc.

About on specific issue, the often cited 2-to-1 ratio of calcium and magnesium is actually on the high end indicating the maximum calcium levels you don’t want to exceed as part of your total calcium intake from both diet and supplementation. So, if you’re getting a 2-to-1 ratio in your supplements combined with high levels of calcium from food, such as a diet with plenty of dairy and/or greens, your calcium levels could be causing you harm. Speaking of magnesium deficiency is a relative assessment, as it depends on calcium levels. The body is rarely depleted of magnesium and so, on a superficial level, your body is never deficient in an absolute sense. Yet the higher your calcium levels go the greater your need of magnesium. Nutrients never act alone, such as how vitamin C requirements increase on a high-carb diet.

Here is another example of nutrient interaction. With more salt in your diet, you’ll need more potassium and magnesium to compensate. And potassium deficiency is associated with magnesium deficiency. But that isn’t to say you want to decrease sodium to increase these others, as research indicates higher salt intake is associated with greater health (Dr. James DiNicolantonio, The Salt Fix) — and I’d recommend getting a good source of salt such as Real Salt (although natural forms of salt lack iodine and so make sure to increase iodine-rich foods like seaweed, that being a good option since seaweed is extremely nutrient-dense). As an interesting side note, calcium helps your muscles contract and magnesium helps your muscles relax, which is why muscle cramps (also spasms, twitches, and restlessness) can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Plus, excess calcium and insufficient magnesium will increase cortisol, the stress hormone, and so can interfere with sleep. There is yet another dual relationship between these two in the clotting and thinning of blood.

Macronutrients play a role as well. Higher protein ensures optimal levels of magnesium and is strongly linked to increased bone mass and density. Animal fat intake also plays a role with these minerals (B. Baggio, Fatty acids, calcium and bone metabolism; E, Bandali et al, The Higher Calcium Absorption Associated with a High Fat Diet is Not Due to Intestinal Calcium Availability; F. Nielsen, Dietary fatty acid composition alters magnesium metabolism, distribution, and marginal deficiency response in rats; R.W. Ordway et al, Arachidonic acid and other fatty acids directly activate potassium channels in smooth muscle cells; J.H. Bolivar, Multiple Binding Sites for Fatty Acids on the Potassium Channel KcsA). Certainly, fat is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. If you’re eating pastured (or grass-fed-and-finished) fatty animal foods, you’ll be getting both the protein and the fat-soluble vitamins (A as beta-carotene, D3, E complex, & K2). Even greater, with cultured, fermented and aged foods (whether from animals or plants), you’ll get higher levels of the much needed vitamin K2. Assuming you can stand the taste and texture of it, fermented soy in the form of natto is the highest known source of K2 as the subtype MK7 which remains in the body longer than other subtypes. By the way, some multiple vitamins contain MK7 (e.g., Garden of Life). Vitamin K2 is massively important. Weston A. Price called it Activator X because it controls so much of what the body does, specifically in relationship to other nutrients, including other fat-soluble vitamins. And all of the fat-soluble vitamins are central in relationship to mineral levels.

Another factor to consider is when nutrients are taken and in combination with what. Some minerals will compete with each other for absorption, but this probably is not an issue if you are getting small amounts throughout the day, such as adding a balanced electrolyte mix (with potassium, magnesium, etc) to your water or other drinks. Calcium and magnesium are two that compete and many advise they should be taken separately, but if you take them in smaller amounts competition is not an issue. Some research indicates calcium has a higher absorption rate in the evening, but magnesium can make you sleepy and so might also be taken in the evening — if taking a supplement, maybe take the former with dinner and the latter before bed or you could take the magnesium in the morning and see how it makes you feel. By the way, too much coffee (6 cups or more a day) will cause the body to excrete calcium and salt, and yet coffee is also a good source of potassium and magnesium. Coffee, as with tea, in moderate amounts is good for your health.

As a last thought, here is what you want to avoid for healthy calcium levels: taken with iron supplements, high levels of insoluble fiber, antacids, excessive caffeine. Also, calcium can alter the effects of medications and, in some cases, should be taken two hours apart. Keep in mind that many plant foods can be problematic because of anti-nutrients that bind minerals or interfere with absorption. This is why traditional people spent so much time preparing plant foods (soaking, sprouting, cooking, fermenting, etc) in order to eliminate these anti-nutrients and hence increase nutrient absorption. It is irrelevant the amount of nutrients in a food if you’re body can’t use them. For example, one of the highest concentrations of calcium is found in spinach, but the bioavailability is extremely low. Other foods, including other leafy greens, are a much better source and with any leafy greens always cook them.

This problem is magnified by the decreased nutrient content of most plant foods these days, as the soil itself has become depleted. Supplementation of many micronutrients is maybe necessary for almost everyone at this point, although great caution should be taken with supplementing calcium.

* * *

Sometimes I write posts about diet and health after doing research for my own purposes or simply for the sake of curiosity about a topic. But in many cases, I have family members in mind, as my own health improvements have gone hand in hand with dietary changes my parents also have made, and my brothers are health-conscious as well although with a vegetarian diet quite different than my own. This particular post was written for my mother.

Just the other day she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She had osteopenia for decades. Now looking back, she realizes that her bone loss began when she started taking fiber and antacids, both of which block calcium. And all the years of calcium supplementation were probably doing her no good because, even to the degree she was absorbing any of the calcium, it wasn’t balanced with other needed nutrients. I gathered this information in order to help her to figure out how to improve her bone health, as her doctor was only moderately informed and her recent appointment was rushed.

This was researched and written on Mother’s Day. I guess it was my gift to my mother. But I hope it is of value to others as well.

* * *

Without Magnesium, Vitamin D Supplementation May Backfire
by Joseph Mercola

Calcium with Magnesium: Do You Need the Calcium?
from Easy Immune System Health

Expert cites risk of calcium—magnesium imbalance
from Nutritional Magnesium Association

Optimum Calcium Magnesium Ratio: The 2-to-1 Calcium-to-Magnesium Ratio
by A. Rosanoff

Nutritional strategies for skeletal and cardiovascular health: hard bones, softarteries, rather than vice versa
by James H O’Keefe, Nathaniel Bergman, Pedro Carrera-Bastos, Maélan Fontes-Villalba, James J DiNicolantonio, Loren Cordain

Why You Need To Take Vitamin K With Calcium Supplements
by Stacy Facko

For Bone Health, Think Magnesium
from Harvest Market Natural Foods

Calcium Deficiency: Are Supplements the Answer?
by Jillian Levy

Calcium to Magnesium: How the Ratio Affects Your Health
from Juvenon Health Journal

How to Correct Your Calcium-to-Magnesium Ratio
by Sandra Ketcham

Calcium & Magnesium: Finding the Right Ratio for Optimal Health
by Dr. Edward Group

Magnesium, NOT Calcium, Is The Key To Healthy Bones
by Jackie Ritz

Calcium Supplements: Things to Consider before Taking One
by Chris Kresser

How to Get Enough Calcium Without Dairy
by Katie Wells

Is The Paleo Diet Deficient In Calcium?
by Michael Ofer

Paleo & Calcium | Friendly Calcium Rich Foods
by Irena Macri

Mineral Primer – The Weston A. Price Foundation
by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig

The science of salt and electrolytes (are we consuming enough?)
by Will Little

13 Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency + How To Finally Get Enough
by Dr. Will Cole

Top 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods
by Rachael Link

Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, and Calcium: A Winning Combo
by Joseph Mercola

Vitamin K2: Everything You Need to Know
by Joe Leech

The Ultimate Vitamin K2 Resource
by Chris Masterjohn

Vitamin K2: Are You Consuming Enough?
by Chris Kresser

Promoting Calcium Balance Health On A Paleo Diet (Easier Than You Think)
by Loren Cordain

Calcium: A Team Sports View of Nutrition
by Loren Cordain

How To Keep Your Bones Healthy On A Paleo Diet
by Chris Kresser

10 thoughts on “Calcium: Nutrient Combination and Ratios

  1. Hey Benjamin. Salt of the earth post.

    I spent 47 minutes on the phone with my Mom on Mother’s Day. A fair portion was spent discussing her sister’s challenges with the onset of short term memory.

    Did you get a chance to listen to the podcast? Blair Warren? Bob Trubshaw?

    I have a meeting today with a bunch of preying managers. I am getting sick and tired of these m-fckr’s… 😧

    • When I posted this, I did think of you. I do like to research info and share it. So, quite likely you’ll see plenty more such posts. But it really is a side issue to me in many ways, not a central focus. I replied about the books over at the other post. And I did listen to some of the podcast. I heard the audio of you with the manager. It sounded frustrating from listening to the interaction. I quit about halfway through it. I could only take so much of it.

      For all the shitty things I’ve experienced with depression and all that, I’ve at least had good relations with bosses so far. My present job is pretty sweet, I must say. My employer is local city government and it’s a smaller city. There isn’t much distance between management and workers. Plus, I’m unionized and my job is protected. Even if they eliminate my position, they have to offer me another position elsewhere.

      I’ve been in far worse places at other points in my life, though. Before this job, I was a janitor living under the poverty line and barely making ends meet. That was the lowest point and depression was overwhelming. There was the advantage of never seeing my boss. I showed up for work, cleaned what needed to be cleaned, and a paycheck would appear in the janitor’s closet. Such isolation didn’t do any good for my mental state, but in some ways it was desirable.

  2. Excuse me. You seem to be superficially projecting a value judgement onto ‘most people’ as being superficial in their appreciation of other people. Most people may resent that but I cannot speak for the majority…can you keep doing it?

    Ignoble is a word like noble is. Janitors are not necessary if people were raised to clean after themselves. This habit of writing “most people” is a messy habit. As an ops manager on a uranium exploration site I was scrubbing toilets because I wanted to maximize utility. I was the boss and I had better work for everyone that day and I was able to alter my mindset by engaging in physical cleaning. No one grieved me. No unions. You have read more books than me. I have spent more time in remote places immersed in natural events. I will watch the film you referenced. Jim Carey is gone goo-goo over Trump. You were hired cleaners as young men. Sidis and I came to it later but that does not mean we did not take up mop and broom beforehand. I apologize for my caustic attitude toward your seemingly (to me here this morning not enlightened so much, hungry, and paying bills) haughty response and challenge you to look within your self and not toward guessing most people’s prejudices. Capitalism like shamanism and psychedelics are words that mean so much these days that they lose utility. A Swiss army knife is not useful to a person with the proper tools at hand. These words are shortcuts. You can hear his friend laughing in the background of the “yohohoplease” episode. He tells me to go find a girl and enjoy it. He probably patronized a prostitute after I was done with ‘making him famous’ I apologize for being saucy and contrite to you here as an exercise in dabait debate. I got “nasty” with Dave at work last night but I did apologize and we came to agree that the managers are abusing people at work. I won’t let you pull the noble janitor union card on me. (Don’t let me twist your message.) It is not noble to speak for most people in such a superficial way. Thank you for appreciating my way with words. I believe in your ability to work as a scholar. I am a bigger fan of yours than I am of Jim Carey. He was loyal to his Mother. That says a lot. Thank you for seeing past my prickly exterior into the heart of an artist! The meat skeet cartoon is the current icon for the Loan Woof podcast, a commentary on society. Ground beef is on sale at no frills today. It is provincial election day in Newfoundland and Labrador. Excuse me. I am trying to get you to react. I am not just doing it out of malice. I do enjoy fair debate. Most people, are not working. I am willing to be corrected here today in response. Also you may choose to ignore my pedantic arguments because you have a life. I should be doing something in the garage right now. Excuse me. I look forward to someday working on something fun with you Benjamin. We seem to complement each other. I need more honest intellectualism in my life. Thanks for entertaining my words and daring to explore conciousness.

    • No Frills should be capitalized. My apologies. Dave understands how the managers got me wound up. Yohoho. #youtoo

    • This will be the last comment in this exchange, for both you and, at this post and at the other post where the exchange began — this isn’t a mere suggestion. We appear to have some fundamental differences, not only of opinion but also attitude and approach. I’ll not mince words, as I’ve already wasted enough time in this comments section.

      (1) There is plenty of miscommunication between us. You have made multiple statements that I didn’t understand what you meant to say. And I feel the same way about you — I don’t recognize myself in your comments about me, rather they often feel like you projecting onto me. Maybe we are both right, as we seem to talk past one another. Worse still, our respective senses of humor (yours weird and mine dry) seem to go mutually unappreciated and unintentionally adds to the sense of conflict. I don’t care about the reason for, if we are constantly miscommunicating, I’d rather not communicate at all — that is to say I’ll stop accepting your comments. This is my blog. It’s your responsibility to make your comments coherent and comprehensible to me, not to mention relevant to the posts. I’m the judge, jury, and hangman.

      (2) You talk of debate. I have zero interest in debate. I enjoy conversational discussion and friendly dialogue. But in my experience, debate is rarely intelligent, much less fruitful. Most of the time when people try to engage me in debate, it’s because they’re being confrontational assholes and so I treat them in kind by ripping them a new asshole. I doubt you want to elicit that side of my personality. Don’t be confrontational and for damn sure don’t be caustic. This is my personal space and I will defend it against any who refuse to be a respectful guest. For repeat offenders, that means being blocked. Consider yourself warned.

      (3) You don’t accept the common meanings of words as defined in dictionaries and as used by most people, including by experts in specific fields. I’m interested in the origin of words and I do probe deeper meanings and hidden connotations, but I’m uninterested in negotiating each and every word as if I’m speaking in a foreign language and must translate for you. The words you question and those you don’t is arbitrary or else contrarian for no particular reason other than to be confrontational and critical, so it seems to me (maybe you see yourself as being a gadfly or playing devil’s advocate, the same difference). You constantly use scare quotes without justification and you never explain what you think words mean or should mean or whatever. It’s simply irritating. I’m not going to play word games with you.

      (4) You don’t believe in a common humanity. I do. That is the entire basis of the scientific approach, whether for diet or consciousness. If we lack a common humanity or a common view of a common humanity, then we lack enough commonality to genuinely communicate at all. Assuming this really is your position, you are simply in the wrong place. Common humanity is a premise of this blog. I will not debate it. Either accept this or go away. I will not tell you this a second time.

      I realize you have your own troubles and I wish you well in life. As long as you’re willing to participate as a respectful guest, you are welcome here. But I refuse to continue on as before. I know what I need for my own mental health and I won’t compromise. This is my blog, my personal space, and my rules. From now on, I will enforce a zero tolerance policy for the confrontational, caustic, and overly critical. Contribute in a way that is kind and considerate, meaningful and relevant… or remain silent. I’ve tolerated you so far, but your comments have caused me more irritation than enjoyment. You have been a net loss to my blog. Work toward being a net gain.

      I’m hyper-aware that I’m part of the problem, quite possibly the largest part. But I can’t avoid my own problems. What I can do is avoid other people’s problems that worsen my problems, that is to say exacerbate my depression and irritate me. I’m willing to accept that this is my weakness and failure. Still, it’s also my personal reality that I must deal with as best as I know how. I’ve learned to do so by being extremely protective of my personal space and by being highly cautious in who I allow into it. I’ve said my piece and you have said yours. That is the end of this particular discussion. The comments section here is already cluttered enough with irrelevant comments (I’m tempted to delete our entire discussion here, something I’ve never done before).

      Remember this. You are here in this blog by your choice and by my generosity. There is no reason for you to heed my demands. Maybe I’m being unfair to you. But it is what it is. I finally felt a need to spell all of this out because you didn’t seem to pick up on subtle hints. I was trying to be kind by speaking indirectly and without harshness, and yet you continued to respond in the same way, oblivious to what affect you were having on me. I realized the more I tolerated your behavior the more you’d continue it. My only other choice was to simply block you without explaining anything. That would have been simpler. In fact, I did block you once, but decided to unblock you and give you one more chance. This is that one more chance.

      I hold nothing against you. It’s simply an awareness that there is an inherent conflict between us that feels irresolvable. You are the way you are. And the same for me. I must admit that I doubt there is a point in either of us trying to change for the sake of the other. And so I suspect this might be the end of our relationship. But I’m open to finding a new way to relate. It’s up to you, if you want to try. Don’t respond here, though, as this discussion is over. Just give it some thought before further commenting on other posts of mine in the future.

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