Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements
Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD
Since the 1950s recommendations for calcium intake for U.S. citizens have continued to climb, and are currently set at 1000 milligrams (mg) for men and women fifty-one to seventy years of age, and more for those over seventy. These amounts are most achievable with supplements.
Despite these recommendations, the results from a number of studies conducted between 1978 and 2012 show that bone fractures are not caused by a lack of calcium, that increasing calcium intake does not prevent fractures, and that supplements are of little value. The focus of current studies turns to the risks of calcium supplementation, which include kidney stones, digestive problems, cardiovascular-related death in men, stroke risk, calcification found in cancerous tumors and more.
Dr. Thomas Levy examines this very topic in his latest book, Death by Calcium, in which he disputes the long-standing beliefs that osteoporosis is caused by a deficiency of calcium and that arteriosclerosis is caused by high levels of cholesterol. Both conditions, he claims, are in fact caused by high levels of calcium. It is not calcium, Dr. Levy claims, but rather vitamin C that is the “foundation and cornerstone of strong bones,” and osteoporosis is a kind of chronic “focal scurvy” caused by lack of vitamin C. Osteoporosis is caused by oxidative stress, he says, and vitamin C is an antioxidant needed in sufficient amounts to combat that stress. A large part of the book discusses vitamin C: how to take it, how to administer it, varieties of vitamin C, and why it is a superior nutrient. However, his recommendations include only supplemental forms of vitamin C, and there is no discussion of natural forms.
Vitamin C is essential for synthesis of collagen, which makes up 90 percent of the organic matrix of the bone. But in studies where vitamin C supplements are given to prevent or heal fractures or prevent bone loss, the results are not consistent: some studies show a benefit while others do not.
Dr. Levy recommends 6,000-15,000 mg of vitamin C of any kind per day in divided doses, or, in the case of those who may experience watery diarrhea from taking those doses, 2,000 mg per day of liposomal vitamin C, which is generally well-tolerated. He also recommends supplementing with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 which direct calcium into the bones and away from the heart and other organs.
Dr. Levy pays special heed to vitamin K2, and rightfully so. Research shows that calcification can be reversed in blood vessels, kidney stones and coronary arteries with appropriate intake of vitamin K2, specifically the MK-4 form. He also recommends that magnesium intake from supplements be sufficient and that magnesium glycinate be taken with every serving of dairy food to combat its purported artery-clogging properties. Dr. Levy regards magnesium as a calcium channel blocker. Recent research shows an association between low serum magnesium and coronary artery calcification.
In his book Dr. Levy argues that calcium supplements are not only unnecessary but are dangerous and can cause heart disease. Because dairy foods are high in calcium he considers that the calcium in milk functions in the same way as calcium supplements: it is extraneous and unnecessary. Calcium supplements and dairy foods are both considered toxic by Dr. Levy, statements that appear boldly on the cover of his book.
We know right off the bat that the author of this book is no fan of the milk mustache and the “milk does a body good” advertising campaigns, which aim to persuade Americans to drink more commercial pasteurized milk produced from animals given antibiotics and hormones. But, as it turns out, he is not a fan of raw milk either, even though he does acknowledge that raw milk has “significantly less negative impact on your health than pasteurized, processed milks with added vitamin D.” He warns us not to drink milk as a regular beverage and to indulge in cheese, yogurt, and sour cream only sparingly.
Dr. Levy believes that we “outgrow” our need for milk. Except for cheese and yogurt, there is “no room in a healthy diet for milk as a beverage, and no place for cow’s milk in the diet of a health-seeking individual.” He applies that logic to children as well but concedes that milk is “less negative for kids than for older folks because (in kids) skeletal growth is still using calcium from the diet.” Milk just has too much calcium in it, he says, and was meant for calves which have much bigger bones than humans.
Curiously, the studies he references to build his argument against calcium and dairy foods apply only to calcium supplementation and not to milk products. There is not one study in the book relating dairy foods to excess calcium or adverse events. In the entire book of over four hundred pages, there are approximately ten pages devoted to dietary calcium, while perhaps only five pages mention dairy foods or milk. In fact, the terms “dairy” and “milk” do not even appear in the index of the book.
We know that pastured dairy products in particular are also a good source of fats, cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2 as well as other vitamins and minerals. Dairy foods are the primary source of the natural trans-fat conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may have anti-cancer and other beneficial properties. Raw milk contains built-in protective immunologic systems, enzymes, hormones, mucins, fibronectin, beneficial bacteria and other healthful substances all in one package.
Dr. Levy describes how excess calcium from supplements and dairy foods accumulates in cells, tissues and organs, a phenomenon called “ectopic calcification.” The real problem, he says, is not a lack of calcium in the diet, but rather a “relocation” of calcium from the bones to other areas of the body where it does not belong, a scenario that concurs with current research. “You are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack and up to 20 percent more likely to have a stroke if you take an extra 500 mg of calcium per day”—this is the consensus from a review of fifteen independent studies. If you take the recommended 1,400 mg per day, the risk of cardiovascular disease goes up 40 percent. And taking calcium with vitamin D together is also dangerous because more calcium is absorbed. “Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D modestly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, especially myocardial infarction.”
Maybe Dr. Levy’s writing style is a bit preachy and autocratic and less entertaining than that of other health writers. Perhaps he expects too much of us, strongly admonishing us to give up dairy foods, even raw dairy, with no suggestions on how to replace it, except to find other food sources of calcium such as nuts, seeds and fruits. Eliminating a beloved food is difficult to do and may be the lonely path of only those with the worst food allergies.
Most people who enjoy raw dairy products understand their health benefits. If our children were to give up good raw milk, what could they possibly drink that might be equivalent or better? Certainly soda or fruit juice, both highly problematic for children, teens and everybody else, are implicated in obesity. All would agree these have no place in a healthy diet. Furthermore, some of the oldest people in the world drink fermented milk into old age and it is considered one of the secrets of healthy aging. Recent scientific literature describes the positive effects of probiotic bacteria on calcium absorption. Raw milk contains natural probiotics as well as short-chain fats and butyric acid which positively affect bone mineral density. It seems Levy didn’t go far enough in his research before condemning milk consumption.
The remainder of Dr. Levy’s book is devoted to discussions of antioxidants, calcium channel blockers, hormones, detoxification and dental issues such as amalgams, root canals, and cavitations.
The book is mostly well-referenced with some real nuggets of wisdom regarding the dangers of calcium supplementation. But it is long (429 pages) and difficult to get through. Much of the information in this book was already presented in his other books. Can the condemnation of milk and dairy foods be justified? Milk is a healthy traditional food cultures, and animal herding gave early peoples a distinct survival advantage. Reading the book was a real “slog,” and I am not talking about the game of cricket here, but in keeping with the Merriam-Webster definition: “to keep doing something even though it is difficult or boring.” I give this book a thumbs down rating.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2015🖨️ Print post
From what I have read on this webpage, the Thumbs Down is related to a long and tedious book but not to the message in the book?? There is no comment as to whether Dr Levy is correct about calcium supplementation causing serious health issues? It would help your readers if there was proper comment – true or false – on the contents of the books that are reviewed. Root out the False News.
I had been on all possible supplements for bones except calcium. Still had leg cramps, 10/10 on the pain scale for arthritis. Was looking up insomnia and ran across calcium, then looked up Dr Joel Wallach discussing calcium supplements only providing a fraction of calcium so one must take more. I did this and slept better, but more, my arthritis went to 2/10 on the pain scale. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. Also no more leg cramps. I had been on 8 grams daily of magnesium and 10,000 iu of D for leg cramps, but they were always just under the radar. Ready to get me if I lifted my leg too high. I also have been researching mitochondria because of chronic fatigue, and wouldn’t you know it, calcium is a major factor for mitichondria function.
Also keep in mind the Weston Price tribes we’re all on high sources of vitamin k2, factor X, he knew they were on high D, 5 to 10 times higher than Americans at the time. Must be worse now. But also on this website, a great study of vitamins A and D together and how they work as a team, eliminating any toxicity either alone might have, and A being necessary for bones too. That’s seldom mentioned in any other forum. Yes, C is a big one, magnesium, and also boron, lysine even, copper and zinc are both bone support and immune support. My goats taught me that. Our local soils are everything deficient, particularly copper and selenium, so if you drive around, our local horses are obviously plagued with swayback. Goats will get this too, but when copper is provided they come right out of it. I also can’t tell you how many cases of pneumonia we have had from the copper deficiency, my hay man lost half his cattle from copper deficiency, and no antibiotics would touch it. The vets here didn’t know either. His wife was at school at UC Davis and she talked to the Ag dept, found out about copper, got shots for all the cattle, stopped the pneumonia. The more I learn, the more I find out there isn’t just one or two nutrients involved, there us a whole complex, and the skeleton needs so many things. If studies focus just on calcium, no wonder they are confused.
Jeanne Hensley says
Eight GRAMS of magnesium daily? That’s beyond a massive intake. How on earth did you do that without reaching bowel tolerance? If it was actually 8 grams per day, that may have been part of the problem and why calcium supplements helped. Calcium and magnesium have a balance to maintain which is actually more important than the daily intakes to some degree. And of course keeping calcium in the areas of the body it should be is a concern. Most of Dr. Levy’s concerns, I believe, are because calcium is routinely added to processed foods and supplements are just recommended for all without considering the effect nor the amounts received and the accompanying balances of the other minerals and nutrients needed, which causes a lot of health problems. Personally I like all of Dr. Levy’s work, and he is always learning, even though I think his dairy views are not entirely correct, as noted in this review. As well, though, he is lumping it all together rather than researching on the effects of various forms of dairy. I suspect this is in part due to his focus which is the general effects of supplementing and dietary intake of calcium.
Well I can tell you, since I started on the 60 minerals protocol of Jole Wallach, I can now only tolerate 1-2 grams of C a day and 400 mg of magnesium a day- which tells me I was not absorbing those before and thanks to getting back into Dr Wallach’s other videos and books, I found out the kelp meal was not enough of the 60 minerals, but (now there are a few 60 minerals formulas out by different vitamin companies now, so I’m not necessarily hawking Youngevity’s 60 minerals- the fact is they really have helped me get back on track in the absorption. In fact , he cites 10 centenarian cultures that live in the mountain ranges all over the world and they get their 60 minerals from the glacial milk, this seems to be their longevity key. ) I also found a superior most of the multiples liquid, Source of life Gold, it comes in powder, chewable and liquid. MUCH easier to take than the swallowing of pills routine. I have changed my calcium protocol to calcium citrate powder from bulk supplements (cheapest I can find so far) and magnesium carbonate as even glycinate make me loose now. So the 60 minerals have boosted my gut absorption enormously. I also have to take the calcium in lower doses through the day or CALCIUM makes me loose. ( mixes in any liquid but you have to keep it stirred till it’s down). But again, there is a whole important team of bone support. Mag, lysine even, K2, C, boron, manganese, copper/zinc, D, etc.
I am currently trying to dowse my garden and pasture with dolomite and limestone (Ca/Mag/60 minerals) so my animals will get all the nutrients (if the minerals are not in the soil, the minerals won;t be in the plants, we are VERY deficient, and the plants NEED the minerals to MAKE the vitamins. IE, selenium deficient soil can’t make vitamin E rich seeds. So E and selenium deficient hay produce floppy kid syndrome goats, or white muscle disease lambs, or multiple Dystrophy human beings. We have had to deal with floppy kid syndrome many times and luckily dosing kids w Se and E get them up and going in a few days, but if we would keep our mothers on rice bran through the pregnancy, it would not ever have to be a problem again.
But yeah, I supplemented with every Calcium team member but calcium, and the leg cramps and insomnia continued. Finally, I got calcium as citrate (or calcium phosphate , youngevity uses both, the =most effective forms), and now I have no trouble sleeping anymore. Amazing cure to me. He is worth a listen and has many good talks up besides Dead Doctors Don’t Lie; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARB73jV4mro There is also Somebody Needs to Go to Jail, and Dead Athletes Don’t Lie, and some great books, Immortality, Rare Earths; Forbidden Cures, Epigenetics, He’s a pathologist with 26,000 autopsies under his belt. Wrote the only copy of Diseases of Exotic Animals, (2000 pages). wroked with NASA monkeys for the NIH , discovered that polyunsaturated fats in excess can cause selenium dificency, and in turn discovered selenium deficiency can cause Cystic Fibrosis like clockwork. also discovered Se deficiency causes Keshan’s disease, and Muscular Dystrophy. He knows a LOT but not everything (doesn’t have a good handle on coconut and palm oil or vitamin K2). So He also stands out as the only doc who emphasizes calcium as a cure for osteoporosis, (but not alone- the team is needed). But he pointed out that the body only absorbs 14 mg of 1000 mg of calcium carbonate. So all the nurses in all the hospitals are giving calcium supplements as it the 600 mg stated on the label are all that patient absorbs. This is not true. I have been giving calcium wrongly for years. I should have to go back to all those medbooks and file med errors on all that calcium, because in reality none of those patients absorbed more than 7 or 8 mg of those calcium supplements. And we wondered why it wasn’t doing any good. The question is, how do all those calcium supplement companies get away with lying on the label?
Why didn’t my nursing program teachers know this? Why don’t they have classes on it in the pharmacology section? Or the Nutrition section? Why don’t hospitals have inservices on this?
Years ago, in the 90’s , Joel Wallach and his wife Dr Lam, were trying to get people to use simple cheap substances to get their proper nutrients. But people didn’t want to do the work. I run into this too. People just can’t be bothered , they think it’s too complicated. The original “Pig Arthritis Formula” is printed in Wallach’s Let’s Play Doctor. It is 5 ounces of calcium fortified OJ, 2 packets of gelatin, and the 60 mineral toddy. If people want to do this they certainly can. But it seems weird to me, but when people pay more for things, they respect it more. I recommended a whole food multiple that ran $10 for 90 pills. I had a lady in my church that didn’t trust me evidently. But she lost her driver’s license for 3 years from getting caught with meth in her car. So she had me drive her to a professional herb lady with a store, and she paid $75 for the SAME formula as the one I recommended! I asked my church member, “Did you read the label? Can you see this has the same stuff as my multiple? ” and she hadn’t bothered. And this lady was on SSI and had a limited and small income. And I will never get why she preferred to pay more for the same thing. I wasn’t getting any cut of the pills I recommended. Maybe I should. Maybe that would give me more credibility. Being a nurse doesn’t seem to increase my credibility.
Wow after readi g his new book Hidden Epidemic I thought he would be a bit more educated about WAP and the facts surrounding raw dairy… He might want to talk with Dave Asprey on some of this as well.