Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Warning About Orange Juice & Calcium

If you're one of the many people who rely on fortified orange juice for most of your calcium intake, beware! Reuters reports that researchers from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska have found that your body may be absorbing much less calcium than the juice label would indicate. It's important to note that the label isn't misleading. The juice does contain the amount of calcium listed on the label. The problem is that the calcium may not be well absorbed by your body--so you get much less than you think you're getting.

Previous research has reached similar conclusions. When calcium is added to foods, it can vary widely in how well it's absorbed. Lead study author Dr. Robert P. Heaney, says consumers need to know that their bodies may not actually be getting all the calcium the label claims. It's not clear why the calcium in different foods varies in its "bioavailability," or absorbability, Heaney told Reuters. He says it all comes down to the quality of fortification.

The study: Twenty-five healthy, young women drank two different brands of orange juice that were both fortified with calcium. They drank the two juices on separate days with breakfast. Both juices provided 500 milligrams of calcium; however, one provided it through calcium citrate malate and the other through a combination of tricalcium phosphate and calcium lactate. Through blood samples, the research team then measured how well the calcium from each juice was absorbed.

The results: On average, the absorption of the calcium citrate malate was 48 percent greater than that of the calcium in the other O.J. product. The problem is not limited to orange juice. There is no way for consumers to really know how well calcium in any fortified food or pill supplement is actually absorbed by the body.

What can you do? Heaney recommends getting your calcium from natural sources, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, turnip greens, and broccoli. The study findings were published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


This article offers some good advice, as well as some poor advice, and a glaring omission that can compromise the intent of the article. First, the article completely ignores the basic fact that there are two types of calcium found in nature (organic and inorganic). The calcium additives intended to fortify the orange juice (calcium citrate malate and a combination of tricalcium phosphate and calcium lactate), are inorganic. His statement to Reuters that, "It's not clear why the calcium in different foods varies in its "bioavailability," or absorbability", reveals a weakness in Dr. Hearney's understanding about his subject matter. The answer is found in the fact that the human body can only recognize and utiliize one type of calcium: organic calcium.

The good advice appears as part of the statement recommending "getting your calcium from natural sources, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, turnip greens, and broccoli". However, animal dairy products contain inorganic calcium, which is not recognized, nor utilized by the body. Independent medical studies (those not funded by the Dairy Council), have concluded that excessive calcium found in the blood stream will not be recognized. Instead, this inorganic calcium from animal sources are removed from the blood and collected in the kidneys. This can lead to the development of kidney stones, and the loss of organic calcium from the bone matrix, resulting in a net loss of calcium brom the bones, which, in turn, causes a weakening of the bone that results in osteoporosis.

As early as 1995, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) began lodging complaints with the Federal Trade Commission against the Dairy industry, focusing on what they consider deceptive ads for milk and milk products that imply that calcium intake is the answer to the bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Additionally, research conducted by PCRM revealed that milk consumption later in life actually contributes to calcium loss. Around the world, countries with lower calcium intake have a significantly lower bone fracture rate than countries with the highest intake.

Dr. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, professor of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, has studied nutritional bio-chemistry for forty years. He is the director of the largest study of diet and disease in medical history, and supports the necessity of organic calcium intake. He agrees with Dr. Heaney, the author of the Creighton University study, as regards consuming "kale, turnip greens, and broccoli", as well as other fruits, vegetables and grains as a source for organic calcium.

SUMMARY: Excessive calcium intake does not fool hormones into building more bone, any more than delivering an extra load of bricks will make a construction crew build a larger building. With very few exceptions, Calcium supplements, and calcium from animal sources (milk) provide ineffective, inorganic calcium, and the body does not utilize this form of calcium. Furthermore, inorganic calcium promotes a net calcium LOSS, creating the potential for disaster over time in the unsuspecting individual.

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