The human body is a very complex system. It is a whole much larger than the sum of its parts. And most importantly, all of the parts work together in synergy, and all depend on one another for proper function. Being but one element in this complex system, calcium needs many other nutrients to balance it in order to be useful to the bones.

As we know, a common misconception is that a high intake of calcium is by itself the main element required for bone health and the prevention of fractures.

Why do populations who consume low-calcium diets have fewer fractures than do people in Western societies, who consume high-calcium diets?

Balance is the key, which means that focusing on a single element is counterproductive and causes imbalance. All of the elements have to work together harmoniously, without any of them in either deficiency or excess. This relates to what I like to call the "there bears rule": Too much is no good and too little is no good; we need to get it just right. Too much supplemental calcium can actually cause problems. For example, one study found that it increased the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease (Bolland et al. 2008).

Beyond calcium there are many other nutrients and factors that have a crucial influence on how bone is formed and absorbed. Here are some of the major ones:

- Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from the intestines.
- Phosphorus is essential for proper mineralization of bones and teeth.
- Vitamin A helps in the bone growth of infants and children.
- Protein and Vitamin C stimulate collagen matrix formation.
- Magnesium increases calcium absorption from the blood into the bones.
- Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and maintaining good bone density.
- Healthy fats are required to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as D and K.
- Strain, stress, exercise, and movement increase bone deposition.


Excerpt from: THE WHOLE-FOOD GUIDE TO STRONG BONES: A Holistic Approach (New Harbinger Publications)

Author's Bio: 

Annemarie Colbin, PH.D., is a health educator and award-winning writer, consultant and lecturer. She is the founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. She is the author of several books, including Food and Healing, and writes a column, "Food and Your Health," for New York Spirit magazine.

Mark Hyman, MD, foreword writer, is editor-in-chief of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and coauthor of The Detox Box and Ultraprevention.