Reader: "Danny Roddy might be on his way to a heart attack... Whole9 Life: What About Calcium"
Normally I wouldn't bother with something like this, but Whole9's article encapsulates the paleosphere's marginalizing of a mineral that is intimately involved in modulating the inflammatory stress cycle.
In short, the article suggested that one needn't worry about consuming >1,000 mg of calcium per day. Instead, Whole9 suggested that calcium cofactors (VD, VK) were more important, and that even that increased levels of calcium could be dangerous.
This article's aim is to explain why Whole9's (orthodox paleo's) stance on calcium is misguided and perhaps why the amount of calcium in your diet is worth worrying about.
Whole9 and I agree that calcium needs numerous cofactors to work properly. Vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, sodium, carbon dioxide (CO2), and thyroid are all important in the absorption and utilization of calcium.
CO2 is an especially important factor considering that deficient levels lead to the inappropriate handling of calcium by the cell (Peat) and interrupts vitamin K2 from working properly (Masterjohn). The best way to produce CO2 is to adopt a diet that optimizes thyroid performance and fuels an oxidative metabolism.
While Whole9 suggested that a diet based around meat and vegetables (and cofactors VD, VK) is adequate for calcium status, they don't address the overabundance of phosphate in relation to the small quantity of calcium.
Diets containing high amounts of phosphate increase parathyroid hormone (PTH)—which is responsible for removing calcium from bones to increase deficient levels in the blood.
This is HUGE. Elevated levels of PTH inhibit oxidative energy, promote the release of stress hormones, and create inflammatory cytokines.
Serotonin, Stress & Bone Loss
If you'll remember from the article entitled, Serotonin: The Misery Hormone, the cultural perception of serotonin is ass-backwards:
"Meanwhile, in popular culture the depression/serotonin theory is proven and absolute, because it was never about research, or theory, it was about marketing, and journalists who pride themselves on never pushing pills or the hegemony will still blindly push the model until the cows come home." (The Guardian)
WTF does serotonin do then?
"Serotonin acts centrally to affect renin release, and it promotes ACTH secretion." (Martin)
"The amine [serotonin] plays important roles in the regulation of pituitary hormone secretion. It is implicated in promoting prolactin release in response to suckling stimulus, and it affects the secretions of growth hormone, ACTH, TSH, and the gonadotropins." (Martin)
"Excessive serotonin is a major factor in kidney and heart failure, liver and lung disease, stroke, pituitary abnormalities, inflammatory diseases, practically every kind of sickness, at the beginning, middle, and end of life." (Peat)
In short, serotonin activates the inflammatory stress system.
There are several different ways to increase serotonin levels, but a diet low in calcium may be the most common:
"Serotonin and IL-6 stimulate each others secretion, and PTH and serotonin each stimulate the others release." (Peat)
Another misstep in the article was buying into estrogen's supposed bone-protective properties. If conventional wisdom tells us that estrogen is good for bones, but it increases prolactin (a factor in bone loss we'll talk about in a second), than we can safely dismiss that idea:
"A former editor of Yearbook of Endocrinology had reviewed a series of studies showing that excess prolactin can cause osteoporosis. Then, he presented a group of studies showing how estrogen promotes the secretion of prolactin, and can cause hyperprolactinemia. In that review, he wryly wondered how something that increases something that causes osteoporosis could prevent osteoporosis." (Peat)
"Estrogens augment PRL secretion in several ways. They lower the sensitivities of lactotrop DA receptors, and they affect DA turnover in the brain." (Martin)
"Estrogen tends to cause increased secretion of prolactin and the glucocorticoids, which cause bone loss, but it also promotes insulin secretion, which tends to prevent bone loss. All of these factors are associated with increased cancer risk." (Peat)
Serotonin and estrogen both increase the anti-bone, anti-sex, pro-inflammatory hormone, prolactin, which as stated above, is another factor in bone loss:
"Prolactin, which is increased under the influence of estrogen or serotonin, causes the body to lose calcium (drawing it from the bones), and it stimulates the secretion of PTH, which compensates for the calcium loss by increasing its mobilization from bones." (Peat)
"PRL levels can be lowered with calictonin and elevated with PTH" (Martin)
What can you do about it?
"It is universally agreed that hypercalcemia leads to accelerated degradation of PTH within parathyroid cells." Endocrine Physiology 1985, Constance R. Martin p.467
Calcium and calcium cofactors (VD, VK, VA, etc.) can all help lower or even suppress PTH.
I was able to suppress my own PTH with several thousand milligrams of calcium a day.