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Why There’s No Calcium In Essential for Women

By Emily Gladders

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Notice something missing in Essential for Women (EFW)? It’s not your imagination: there’s really no calcium in your capsule.

When we were formulating EFW, we sifted through thousands of scientific studies to determine what you really need from a daily vitamin. After months of research, we came to a surprising conclusion: calcium doesn’t belong in your multivitamin. Instead, we’ve included four vital helper nutrients that may actually maintain your bone density more than calcium alone. Want the short(ish) version of what we learned? Keep reading…

You Need Helper Nutrients, Not More Calcium

Calcium is not an island when it comes to bone health. In fact, calcium is actually kind of an unpredictable diva. Without helper nutrients (mainly vitamin D3, vitamin K2, magnesium and boron) to wrangle her, calcium won’t always end up in your bones where she belongs. She might wander around your arteries or stumble into other tricky spots. Magnesium, vitamin K2, and boron help transport calcium out of your soft tissues (like arteries) and into your bones. Vitamin D3 increases calcium absorption, but not necessarily utilization. You need all five of these nutrients in order to fully support bone health.

How do we know? Recent large-scale human supplementation studies have shown that taking calcium (with or without vitamin D) results in unexpectedly poor outcomes for building bone mass. Worse, calcium supplementation has actually been shown to correlate with increased calcification inside the arteries, which is bad news for your heart health. These findings are evidence that an increased intake of calcium alone without the helper nutrients does not solve bone loss and may even exacerbate adverse cardiovascular effects.

Adding to the evidence that calcium alone doesn’t do much to increase bone health is the fact that American women get more calcium in our diets than women in other countries, and yet we experience as much or more bone loss and arterial calcification. While this isn’t hard evidence, it does suggest that our practice of taking calcium supplements (without also supplementing helper nutrients) may be doing more harm than good.

Daily Values are Based on Outdated Info

So what about Daily Values? We’ll be straight with you: the Daily Value set by the Institute of Medicine does suggest that you need more calcium than what you’re getting in your diet. However, there’s a bigger picture to this story.

First, the Daily Value for calcium was set in 1968, which is before the research on helper nutrients had been done. Combining the old data with what we know now, we believe that the 1968 Daily Value was based on a population that was simultaneously deficient in vitamin D3, vitamin K2, magnesium, boron, and perhaps other minerals. A deficiency in any one of these four helper nutrients has been shown to increase the need for calcium intake, which may be why scientists at the Institute of Medicine in 1968 thought that more calcium was a good idea.

The new Daily Values going into effect are a sorely needed update, and based on data that is more recent. But for calcium, the same deficiencies of the helper nutrients D3, K2, magnesium and boron are still ongoing (which is why they are in Essential for Women), so the new Daily Value has the same issues as the 1968 values - not enough helper nutrients.

That brings us to the second piece of evidence that the Daily Value may not be quite right: the Daily Values for calcium in the United States are higher than the Daily Values set in other developed countries. As we mentioned before, American women have higher rates of bone loss than women in other developed nations where calcium Daily Values and intakes are lower. Another sign that more solo calcium might not be exactly what we need.

The Problem with Calcium in Supplements

Aside from the evidence that we’re actually deficient in helper nutrients rather than calcium itself, calcium also doesn’t always play nice when ingested with other nutrients. Studies have shown that ingesting calcium at the same time as magnesium and other minerals actually depresses the body’s ability to absorb those minerals. So even if a pill seemingly has all the right stuff to supplement your mineral needs, it may not actually work in your body if it contains calcium. Long story short, we think we’re better off leaving the calcium out of the pill and supplementing helper nutrients that make the most of the calcium you already get in your diet.

Do Some People Need More Calcium?

While most adult women don’t need to supplement calcium, the most recent Daily Values released by the Institute of Medicine suggest that a small amount of supplementation might be a good idea for adolescent girls, pregnant and nursing women, and women over 55. Essential for Women was created for women 18-55, a group that typically doesn’t need more calcium.

The Ritual Way

By supplementing helper nutrients, Ritual helps your body utilize all the calcium you already get from healthy foods like yogurt, seeds, beans, and some leafy greens. If you ask us, the calcium you get from food is plenty; you just need to escort it into your bones with vitamin D3, K2, magnesium and boron. By leaving calcium out, we bring you closer to the worldwide micronutrient intakes that are associated with bone and cardiovascular health during a woman’s life.

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