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Steel is More Than Iron and Bone is More Than Calcium

Pan-Stove-Flame-Cooking.jpgThis is part two of a four-part aricle.

To help you understand why other minerals (besides calcium) are so important to bone health, let’s draw a comparison between the calcium in our bones and the iron in steel. Iron is the major component in steel, but iron alone doesn’t make steel.

So, what’s the difference? It’s in the other elements that are blended with the iron. Cast iron is primarily iron with a high carbon content. Steel has a lower carbon content and is blended with other metals such as manganese, chromium, vanadium and tungsten. By adjusting the quantity of other minerals in the steel, manufacturers can make the steel more or less flexible and control other qualities in the finished metal.

If you think about the structure of chalk, which is calcium carbonate, you will recognize that it soft and brittle. It needs to be combined with other minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, vanadium, boron and silica, in order to have the flexible strength of healthy bones. 

Furthermore, these mineral depositions are held together in a protein matrix which creates the bone structure. This protein structure is composed of a special protein called collagen, which when hydrolyzed (broken down in water) becomes gelatin. This same protein forms the basis of cartilage, which protects our joints.

Once we understand these facts, it’s very easy to explain why people have so many problems with their bones in Western culture. It’s not from a lack of calcium, per se, but more from a general lack of good nutrition, especially trace minerals.

The Health of Teeth and Bones Reflects Overall Nutritional Reserves

teeth.jpgThis conclusion is supported by the work of Dr. Weston Price, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In the 1930s, Dr. Price, a dentist, traveled the globe studying the diet, dental health and general health of people living on traditional diets, versus people living on modern diets in the same part of the world. Everywhere he went, Dr. Price found the same pattern. Native people living on traditional diets had practically perfect bones and teeth and wonderful physical health to go with it.

A second conclusion of Dr. Price was that tooth decay was one of the primary signs of malnutrition. Teeth and bones are both composed primarily of minerals, so a lack of health in the teeth suggests mineral deficiency in the bones, too. Thus, our problems with tooth decay are intimately linked with the widespread incidence of arthritis and osteoporosis in our culture. Dr. Price’s research suggests that these structural problems are essentially evidence of malnutrition.

The conclusion Dr. Price came to in his research was that traditional foods, and traditional diets, were more nutritionally dense. That is, there were more nutrients (minerals, vitamins, etc.) present in the food traditional people consumed than are found in the same quantity of food in modern diets.

Modern research supports Dr. Price’s conclusion. I have seen other research that suggests that the mineral content of commercially grown fruits and vegetables may be as much as 90% lower than fruits and vegetables organically grown in traditional, compost-rich soil. Since bone is the mineral storehouse of the body, if we are eating a diet that contains less than 10% of the trace minerals it should, it is no wonder our mineral storehouses become increasingly empty as we age.

Let me add a special note here about pregnant women. Many women develop problems with teeth, hair, bones and skin during pregnancy or after repeated pregnancies. The reason for this is simple—the developing baby gets first “dubs” on the minerals and mom’s mineral reserves become depleted. This explains why my midwife friend Joan Patton found that giving women a formula of mineral rich herbs during pregnancy (see next page) eliminated 90% of complications in pregnancy.

Calcium is Necessary, But....

The problem with calcium carbonate is that it neutralizes hydrochloric acid production. Hydrochloric acid is absolutely essential to absorbing calcium, magnesium, iron and numerous other minerals. The calcium in calcium carbonate is absorbed as free calcium. Calcium must be properly bound in the gut to be utilized by bones and tissues. Unbound or free calcium is generally flushed out of the body through the kidneys and increases the risk of kidney stones. A high level of unbound calcium in the blood is also a risk factor for cancer.

If one is going to use calcium supplements, I think one should at least consider forms of calcium like amino acid chelates, calcium citrate or other forms which assimilate better. However, the best way to get calcium is from the diet.

The next page discusses how to get the minerals we need for healthy bones...