The Calcium & Protein Relationship: What You Need To Know

The importance of calcium in our bodies cannot be stressed enough. Calcium, along with vitamin D, is what builds and strengthens our bones and basically keeps them knitted together. A deficiency in calcium can lead to smaller, less noticeable symptoms like achy joints, tingling in the arms or legs, brittle nails, insomnia or muscle cramps. A further depleted calcium intake can result in far more severe symptoms such as heart palpitations, hypertension, increased risk of fractures and even osteoporosis.

Today, 25% of women above the age of 65 in the US are routinely diagnosed with osteoporosis, which means that 25% of 65+ American women have lost at least 50% of their original bone material. And osteoporosis has slowly but surely emerged as a new and dangerous serial killer on the horizon, with more deaths by it than breast and cervix cancer combined!

How much calcium do I need?

Women and men between the ages of 19 and 50 need about 1000mg of calcium every day, while anyone who’s 51 or older needs to up this intake to about 1200mg per day. The highest dose of calcium is needed by pre-teens and teens – 1300mg per day for nine to 18-year-olds. Younger children need less – 500mg for ages one to three and 800mg for ages four to eight.

Where do I get my calcium?

Salmon, spinach, OJ & cheese, milk, tofu, and yogurt are all good sources of calcium. A good idea is to balance your calcium intake from animal and plant sources. Do remember to consult the doctor before you start popping any supplements as overdosing on calcium can result in kidney or renal problems.

Do women need calcium more than men?

Women have smaller and less dense bones than men – and many studies point out that women simply do not get as much calcium as they should. Estrogen does protect women from calcium loss, so menopausal women need that extra bit of calcium intake to make their RDA. But that doesn’t mean that men don’t need calcium – calcium deficiency symptoms are not gender-specific. Any signs of joint pain, or more importantly recurrent or chronic back pain, may benefit from a diet rich in calcium. Teens or young adults may be at risk too if their diet contains more colas and sodas as these drinks leach calcium from bones. Lactose intolerant people and vegans especially need to take care of their calcium quotas to ensure bone health, since their diets lack enough calcium intake.  

The flip side of calcium on a high-protein diet

Two really strange results have come from indigenous diets and the connection of calcium with protein and osteoporosis. Take the case of Bantu women – they bear plenty children, breastfeed equally plenty and are on calcium deficient diets. And yet, they do not have brittle bones at all. Eskimos on the other hand, get more than 2000mg of calcium a day and yet have the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world. Why?

High-protein diets which contain plenty of dairy and animal protein intake acidify the body. To maintain ideal pH balance, the body then leaches calcium from the bones as an alkaline counterbalance. So you see the pattern here – the more milk, meat, fish and eggs you consume in hopes of getting calcium, the more calcium the acidifying protein leaches from your bones. The solution? Eat a moderate diet with enough alkaline counterbalances in the form of vegetables and fruits as well as neutral foods like beans to keep the body’s pH balance, balanced!

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That bit about Eskimos and your mention of vitamin D exclude a very important detail: Your body produces vitamin D by using sunlight and cholesterol. Vitamin D is essential for *absorbing* calcium, so people who live in, say, Alaska, where there is less sunlight in certain times of the year, have a deficiency. I'm pretty sure it's also healthier to produce vitamin D from exposing your skin to the sun than it is to take it as a supplement. I read you should expose around 2/3 of your skin to the sun for about 10-15 min a day three days per week to get enough D (or a little longer if you have more melanin in your skin).

Hi Rachel, I should have mentioned this indeed. Shows you can never research too much... Thank you for taking out the time to point this to me, and to our readers... While the article focused more on the calcium and protein relationship, I should have mentioned the lack of sun bit... Cheers

My son is, 23, had blood drawn for a follow up after having issues with his heart racing. The dr said his levels of protein and calcium were too high and told him to drink more water and come back in 4 weeks to draw blood again. I don't think that will make a difference simply because my son drinks a lot of water everyday. What's your thoughts

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