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The Everyday Calcium Cookbook, bone health

It’s “Calcium Balance” That Causes Osteoporosis

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

Why would I give my wife a new cookbook when she’s often threatened to turn the kitchen into a den? I took a calculated risk that I wouldn’t end up stirring the pot. But I believed she would see the benefits of “The Everyday Calcium Cookbook”. It’s loaded with sound advice on calcium-rich nutrition for whole-body health. And why normal amounts of calcium in the blood are causing an epidemic of osteoporosis (brittle bones).

Helen Bishop MacDonald has taught nutrition at several Canadian universities, is author of four books on the subject and currently chair-elect of Dietitians of Canada. She says, “It’s no secret that most Canadians do not get enough calcium for optimum bone health”.

TV talk shows, morning programs, and news publications all stress the need for healthy food choices. Yet the vast majority of recommendations for a healthy diet never mention calcium or its major source, milk products. It’s a prime reason why one in four women and one in eight men have osteoporosis.

Patients who are concerned about calcium in the diet ask me, “Can’t you do a blood test to see if I’ve got enough calcium?” This is possible for magnesium, potassium and iron but not for calcium.

The reason is that “calcium balance”, the amount of calcium in the blood always remains the same. So if you haven’t followed mother’s advice to drink three glasses of milk a day, the body then robs the needed calcium from bones. This is why you can have “normal” blood calcium on a diet of cola and donuts and still break a bone from a trivial injury.

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to acknowledge early in life that failing to consume sufficient calcium is actually a pediatric disease. Then think like a banker, as money and osteoporosis have something in common. Bankers know that clients never become paupers late in life if they have built up reserves earlier that they can draw on during retirement. Similarly, bones don’t snap like a dry twig if sufficient calcium has been stored early in life to keep aging bones strong.

Vitamin D is also essential to prevent osteoporosis. This vitamin helps to absorb calcium from the intestines. For six months of the year we all get sufficient D from sunlight unless house bound or wearing sunscreen. But during the winter months the angle at which the sun hits the skin prevents it from manufacturing vitamin D. So unless you drink milk, the only product to which vitamin D is added, and eat fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, you’re lacking in D.

Many people are crippled by bones that are pitted like Swiss cheese. These “holey” bones cause backache and often result in fractured hips. We hear stories frequently of elderly people who have fallen and broken a hip. But another scenario is that, while walking, the frail hip joint fractures of its own accord causing the fall.

At times I must sound like a broken record to my patients. I repeatedly remind them that drinking milk isn’t just for kids, but must become a lifetime habit. It is nature’s most perfect food. In addition to calcium milk contains ample amounts of B12 and many other nutrients. We now know that deficiency in vitamin B12 is associated with decreased mental acuity in both adolescents and the elderly.

In the Everyday Calcium Cookbook I found a host of goodies. I’d almost commit murder for cheesy mashed potatoes. There’s a recipe for overnight cheddar bagel casserole, savory ham and Swiss tartlets, mixed seafood casserole, a variety of calcium rich soups, high performance pasta salads, fresh fruit pizza and strawberry rhubarb cake and many others rich in calcium. The book also provides the number of calories and the amount of calcium in each recipe.

Luckily my wife hasn’t yet renovated the kitchen into a den, nor did she toss the book at me, so I’m now tasting many of these calcium-rich osteoporosis-prevention delights.

The book sells for 24.95. It can be obtained at your local bookstore or by calling the toll-free number 1-800-267-3366.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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