RX for readers: Calcium confusion
Bone health is influenced by the diet as a whole and not only by calcium consumption.
X-ray Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Since I – at 62 years old – have osteoporosis, I am very concerned about calcium
intake and absorption. Recently I have heard lots of new information, some
contradicting my long-held beliefs.
For example, I have been told that it
is best to eat dairy foods (yogurt, milk, cottage cheese and so on) with higher
fat content. Another friend told me she has improved her bone density by
avoiding dairy foods altogether, since they leach calcium from the bones. And
what about drinking soda water and soft drinks? Do they prevent calcium
absorption? Some time ago, I had a 24-hour urine sample analyzed and it showed
that calcium was not leaving my body; So should I assume that the foods I am
eating are adequate?
Dorit Adler, chief clinical dietitian at
the Hadassah University Medical Centers in Jerusalem, replies: Bone health is
influenced by the diet as a whole and not only by calcium
This is the reason for different information.
DASH diet, which was proven to lower hypertension, has been found to have
protective influence on the bones as well. This diet is based on seven to nine
daily portions of vegetables and fruits, plus whole grains and pulses; low-fat
milk products; nuts; fish and poultry. I recommend this as the basis of your
diet and to consult a physician and or dietitian before taking any supplement,
as their benefit is questionable and they should should be considered on an
Dr. Olga Raz, director of the department of nutrition
and dietetics at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and head of the nutrition
science department at the Ariel University Center, adds: If a patient has been
diagnosed with osteoporosis, he must get medication. It’s important to
understand that calcium is not a drug but a nutritional supplement given if a
person is not getting enough from his food alone. For calcium to be effective,
it’s important to have a steady, adequate level of vitamin D3. A lack of this
vitamin boosts osteoporosis and can cause secondary
Another factor that is even more important than
calcium is magnesium; Most of us do not get enough of it. So it’s worth taking
300 to 400 milligrams a day, even if your level is normal. With a shortage of
magnesium, calcium is not absorbed properly in the body by the digestive system
or by the bones.
As for calcium itself, you can eat one or two dairy
products a day – a container of yogurt or 100 grams of white cheese of any kind,
whatever the fat content, equals one serving. Absorption of calcium from water
is excellent, even if the water has no fat at all.
You can also get
calcium from vegetables, tehina, nuts and sardines; not only from dairy
products. It is apparently true that cheeses may cause some of the calcium to
exit the bone. It is possible to eat too much of them.
What does one do
in an emergency over the weekend or another time when one’s dentist is not
available and a crown or a filling falls off, a child’s baby tooth breaks in a
fall, a cavity causes pain or the gums are hurt from eating a foreign object by
Recently retired Jerusalem dentist Dr. Steve Sattler and
Tel Aviv dentist Dr. Ronen Bordovski reply: Some pharmacies sell an emergency
dental kit for the home. It has some oral glue in it, oil of cloves for
toothache and other materials for emergencies. It is usually possible to stick a
crown back in place with chewing gum, toothpaste or even some flour and water
mixed into a paste.
A broken tooth should be stored in a glass of milk or
sterile water. Hold ice over the area in the mouth if there is any bleeding and
quickly seek first aid. If a whole tooth falls out, quickly wash it in water
without wiping it, and put it in milk or sterile water. If it’s an adult, hold
it inside the cheek, but do not do this for a child as he may swallow it. One
must reach a dental practitioner within an hour. If the tooth can be returned to
its socket, do so immediately but do not use force.
If a filling has
fallen out, don’t bite on the tooth or put any pressure on it until you reach a
The Israel Dental Association has a roster of emergency dental
clinics that are open on Shabbat, holidays and at night in every city. See the
IDA website or call the IDA office in Tel Aviv.
For serious dental
emergencies, all major hospitals have a maxillofacial department with a duty
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical
problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for
Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000; fax your question to Judy
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