Almost everyone gets enough calcium from their diet, but they are lacking the cofactors needed for their body to use it properly.

Lunch Hour Lesson #16

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What is calcium? Calcium is a mineral that is the main component of our skeletal system.Most people, especially women, are told to take calcium supplements to prevent developing weak and brittle bones and teeth.

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But that is only a tiny part of a fascinating concept I’m going to share with you today. Usually I wait until the end, but I’m going to announce the Lunch Hour Lesson right up front, and it is:

Almost everyone gets enough calcium from their diet, without supplements, but they are lacking the cofactors needed for their body to use it properly.

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Calcium is a very easy-to-get mineral because both plant and animal foods contain high levels. What is not well understood is that just eating calcium-rich foods doesn’t mean the body can use the calcium well.

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How do we want calcium to be used? We want it to build strong bones and teeth. But the second part of my Lunch Hour Lesson says that we’re often missing the cofactors needed for the body to use the calcium for these purposes. Without the cofactors, a whole bunch of things can go wrong.

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What are cofactors? They are other components of our diets that work with calcium to be effective. Without them, the calcium that we ingest may simply pass out of our bodies without being utilized, or it may actually do more harm than good. More on that in a bit.

There are many calcium cofactors. I’ll mention a few briefly, then go into detail about one in particular.

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In Lunch Hour Lesson #9, I talked about how drugs that lower stomach acid have a side effect of making bones more likely to fracture. This is because calcium needs a high acid environment to be absorbed and used to strengthen our bones. So adequate stomach acid is a cofactor for calcium. Another cofactor is adequate hydration with mineral-rich water, and an overall mineral-rich diet.

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Now, I’d like to go into more detail about an important cofactor called Vitamin K2. Some of you may be familiar with the research of the dentist Dr. Weston Price. In the 1930’s, when his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration was published, he described a nutrient that he found very important for good dental health. It increased the activity of the other fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E, and made the teeth more resistant to decay. He called this mystery vitamin “Activator X”.

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Since these foods are not commonly consumed in our average diet, just eating MORE of these foods will go a long way towards helping you make the most out of your calcium.

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Only since 2007 has it now been fully understood that Activator X is in fact Vitamin K2. And we are learning that it plays a huge role in not just dental health, but cardiovascular health, brain health, kidney health, and proper fetal development.

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Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that there are two forms of Vitamin K – Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2.

  • Vitamin K1 – activates proteins required for blood clotting. K1 is found in leafy greens like spinach, and is much more widely studied primarily because of the development of blood thinning drugs like warfarin. But this form of Vitamin K is not the calcium cofactor.
  • Vitamin K2 – activates proteins that are required for calcium binding in bones, and it works alongside Vitamins A and D to support their functions. This is the one we’re emphasizing today as a calcium cofactor.
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So what does Vitamin K2 do? It effectively “tells” the body to put calcium into the bones, teeth and cartilage. I believe that Vitamin K2 deficiency is going to be the next major area of research, because we already are coming to understand that calcium intake without enough K2 can lead to the calcium being deposited in the body where we don’t want it.

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Calcification of the arteries, gallstones, kidney stones, calcifications around joints, bone spurs, and even calcification in the brain and skin are significant concerns right now. And without enough Vitamin K2, we may also have a lack of calcium where we do want it, say in bones, teeth, and cartilage.

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Most people lack adequate amounts of K2 in their daily diet because: consumption of trans fats blocks the absorption of K2, and the foods that are highest in K2 are not widely consumed in the Standard American Diet.

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Rather than recommending dosing for supplements, I encourage you to focus on food. Some food sources with the highest levels of Vitamin K2, in order, are:

  • emu oil
  • goose liver
  • egg yolk
  • butter
  • chicken liver
  • hard and soft cheeses
  • full fat kefir and yogurt
  • sauerkraut

Weekend Tip

Do a Google search for “Health benefits of Vitamin K2” and read at least one article that shows up. Personally, I think the Healthline article gives the most accurate information. As always, reach out to me with questions!

Lunch Hour Lesson #16: Make The Most Out Of Your Calcium

Posted by Allison Mädl Nutritional Therapy and Education on Wednesday, February 20, 2019