By Earl Staelin
Americans have been taught that they need lots of calcium, especially post-menopausal women who frequently develop osteoporosis with the risk of spontaneous fractures. Older men also lose calcium in their bones, more gradually at first, although they tend to catch up with women when in their seventies. Adequate calcium absorption and levels of calcium in blood and tissues are of course essential for all children and adults for bones and teeth, and for women who are breast feeding or pregnant. In the U.S. 10 million men and women have osteoporosis, a disease of seriously weakened bones. One out of two women and one in eight men breaks a bone due to osteoporosis. After a hip fracture one in five dies within a year.
However, excess calcium intake may cause muscle spasms, the calcium may appear as unwanted deposits in organs and tissues, such as bone spurs or plaque in the wall of blood vessels or in kidneys, heart, and liver, and it may increase the risk of cancer and cause other symptoms, including migraine headaches, pain, kidney stones, depression, and heart arrhythmia. Americans consume milk and milk products as well as calcium supplements at one of the highest rates in the world. Yet we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.
Of course the goal is to have calcium in the right amounts in all tissues. But how much do we need? Despite all that has been written about calcium, it is not at all clear how much calcium humans need. This article will show that the conventional wisdom about calcium, which a number of prominent nutrition authorities reject, is faulty and incomplete, and that optimal health requires a substantial revision of our thinking about calcium.
The conventional wisdom about calcium is embodied in the government guidelines for vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The current U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium is: for ages 9-18, 1,300 milligrams (mg)/day; ages 19-49, 1,000 mg/day; age 50 and over, 1,200 mg/day. In 1986 the RDA was raised from 800 mg/day for adults to present levels. The World Health Organization recommends 500 mg/day for children and 800 mg/day for adults. Professors such as Willard Willett, chairman of the Harvard Nutrition Department, T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutrition at Cornell University, and Marion Nestle, chairman of nutrition at NYU, believe that these current RDA’s are too high and are not supported by the evidence. On the other hand Prof. Robert Heaney of Creighton University, Bess Dawson-Hughes of Tufts University, past president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and a number of other prominent experts stand by the current RDA’s. The calcium proponents have the upper hand right now, with many doctors pushing calcium, and with calcium being added to orange juice and numerous other foods to make it easy for everyone to meet the RDA. The calcium proponents cite many studies in their favor, some of them involving fewer fractures, so it becomes necessary to sort out the apparent conflicts between studies.
The RDA requires that in order to get enough calcium people must consume foods high in calcium, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, or take calcium supplements. Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and other foods are also moderately high in calcium, but a person would have to consume such high quantities to meet the RDA that this approach is not at all practical.
Despite all the calcium hype, in this article I will present evidence that in general people who consume about half as much as the RDAs of 1,000 and 1,200 for adults actually have fewer bone fractures and better health than those who follow the RDA, and that high calcium consumption may actually interfere with calcium absorption, result in weaker bones, and cause calcium to be deposited where it is not wanted. I will then present a revolutionary theory that may explain these paradoxical results and why magnesium and/or silicon and a number of other nutrients are just as important for bone formation and preventing fractures as calcium. Finally, I will show that hormone production is very important for calcium balance and bone health, and present a natural approach to improve hormone levels without taking supplemental hormones or drugs. First, let’s see what some large scale studies have found.
A recent 12-year study of 77,761 women nurses aged 35 to 59 (the Harvard Nurses Health Study) found that the quartile of American women with high milk intake actually had 45 percent more hip fractures and 5 percent more forearm fractures over 12 years from 1980 to 1992 than the quartile with the lowest intake.1 Approximately 98 percent of the women in the total cohort were white. The quartile with the lowest milk consumption and lowest fracture rate drank <1 glass of milk per week, while the quartile with the highest fracture rate drank >two glasses per day. Those with the lowest total dietary calcium intake consumed <450 mg calcium per day, and those with the highest dietary calcium intake consumed >900 mg calcium per day, and had 104 percent more hip fractures and 8 percent more forearm fractures than the women consuming <450 mg dietary calcium per day during the 12 years of the study. (Those who consumed 451-625 mg dietary calcium per day had 102 percent more hip fractures, and those who consumed 626-900 mg dietary calcium per day had 85 percent more hip fractures than those who consumed <450 mg dietary calcium per day. Women who took calcium supplements were excluded from this study. The subjects were all registered nurses and the reporting of milk and food consumption and fractures was deemed to be reliable.)
A 1994 study of 209 subjects and 207 controls in Sydney,
Australia, found that the one-fifth portion (quintile) of men and women over age 65 with the highest milk product consumption, especially at age 20, had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to the quintile with the lowest consumption.2 In this study the quintile with the highest milk product consumption consumed about 11.5 units of milk products per week (glass of milk = 1 unit; serving of cheese or milk on cereal = 0.5 units), and the quintile with the lowest milk product consumption consumed one unit per week. The authors cite seven other case control studies of the relationship between calcium and dairy product consumption and the risk of hip fracture, and note that only two of those reported a protective effect of calcium or dairy, one of which was conducted in Hong Kong where the average calcium intake was only 171 mg per day. They also cite D. Mark Hegsted’s article concluding that ecologic studies suggest that populations with high calcium intakes (mainly from dairy products) have the highest hip fracture rates.3 Hegsted, who was chairman of nutrition at Harvard, in the same article wrote:
“It seems quite clear that we do not understand the etiology of osteoporosis; the epidemiological data need an explanation, and something is wrong when current explanations are inconsistent with general experience.
“It is dangerous to ignore the epidemiological data. The first rule in formulating public health policy should be the assurance that the recommendations are not detrimental. It will be embarrassing enough if the current calcium hype is simply useless, it will be immeasurably worse if the recommendations are actually detrimental to health.”3a
An ecological survey of women in 65 rural Chinese counties was conducted to obtain dietary and lifestyle factors associated with health. The study, published in 1991, found that the mean calcium intake in rural China was only 544 mg/day, about half the RDA in the U.S., while the mean bone fracture rate was only about one-fifth as great as in the United States.4 A related study of 764 women aged 35-75 years in five of these counties in China concluded that higher calcium intake was beneficial in increasing bone mass at skeletal maturity.5 The authors noted that all of the women in three of the five counties consumed no dairy products and therefore consumed amounts of calcium well below even the Chinese standard of 800 mg/day, and virtually all of them over 50 had bone mineral densities (BMD) <0.325 g/cm2,which the authors thought would place them at high risk of fracture. But they found that these women were healthy and had virtually no signs of osteoporosis. The authors said:
“However, the majority of women included in this study appeared to be normal, showing no signs of osteoporosis, such as back pain and dowager’s hump, at the time of the survey on the basis of a physical examination. Moreover, … <4 percent of these subjects had reported a history of Colle’s [wrist] and other fractures suspected to be related to osteoporosis during their lifetime. This fracture rate is very much lower than those reported in studies in Western countries with subjects of the same age range and similar sample size.… Obviously, other factors besides bone mass, such as daily physical activity and chance of fall, may also be very important in understanding this discrepancy in bone fractures.”6
The authors also note that the assumption that these Chinese women with low bone density have a high risk of fracture goes against the findings from other studies showing that “incidence rates of hip fracture were much higher in those countries where bone density was usually reported to be high,” and a study by Ross et al.7 that “reported a two-fold lower fracture rate for native Japanese and American-born Japanese than Caucasians, even though Japanese and other Asian people were often reported to have lower bone mass than whites.”8 The authors also state:
“In fact, analyses of the prevalence of hip fractures between nations suggest a positive relationship between calcium intake and osteoporosis risk. Osteoporotic fractures appear to be more common in the United States, Britain, and Sweden where calcium intakes are higher than those in other countries.”9
In one of the five counties of this study in China consumption of dairy was associated with increased bone mineral density and bone mineral content. Individuals in this subset were members of a nomadic group where vigorous outdoor physical activity (e.g. horseback riding) was more common. However, in this subset consumption of more calcium did not result in fewer fractures. In Part 2 of this article (see link at end of this article), I will discuss the importance of outdoor light in hormone production and the formation of strong bones, and the role of exercise, both of which may apply to this subset as well as to women in rural China in general. One of the principal authors of these studies of rural Chinese women, T. Colin Campbell, was raised on a dairy farm in Virginia. For many years he accepted the conventional wisdom that milk consumption produces strong bones, until long experience as a researcher, including 10 years in China, convinced him that the conventional wisdom was mistaken. Dr. Campbell believes that a largely vegetarian diet with relatively low protein consumption is a significant reason why societies that do not consume milk products have a history of many fewer bone fractures. The evidence regarding protein consumption, which I will discuss in Part 2, is complex. However, diets that exclude milk products also have substantially more magnesium, silicon, and potassium relative to calcium, which may be more important than low protein consumption in forming strong bones.
Thus, the American focus on bone density in studies of osteoporosis may be overemphasized because it misses the main point, which is not how to increase bone density, but how to make bones healthier and more resistant to fracture. Increased bone density brought about by high calcium intake may make bones weaker and more susceptible to fracture. This is not to say that bone density is of no importance, as there is a general decline of bone density in adult women after menopause and in men at a somewhat later age, which is associated with an increase in the incidence of bone fractures. However, it is obviously not the most important factor in bone strength. Until scans or other tests are developed that have the capability to measure the strength of bone, it makes sense to give greater weight to studies that measure fracture rates.
The evidence indicating that the current U.S. RDA may be too high appears to relate to other areas of health besides bones and teeth. For example, studies indicate that men with the highest calcium intake had an increased risk of prostate cancer. In one study, men who consumed >600 mg per day of milk products had 32 percent higher risk of prostate cancer than those consuming <150 mg per day.10 The increased risk occurred whether the calcium came from food or from supplements alone, indicating that the risk was caused by the increased calcium rather than something else in milk products. The prospective Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that men who consumed >2000 mg of calcium daily had a 4.57 times greater risk of metastatic prostate cancer than those who consumed <500 mg of calcium per day.11 The authors concluded that the increased risk of prostate cancer may result from the fact that calcium was found to reduce the level of the active form of vitamin D (1,25(OH2D3), since vitamin D is known to have a protective effect against cancer. Thus, the vitamin D in milk (non-active form) was not protective or at least did not overcome the adverse effects of the milk. Other studies have shown that the incidence of other forms of cancer such as breast cancer in women is substantially higher in those who consume milk products.
A very different approach to osteoporosis was taken by Guy E. Abraham, M.D., and H. Grewel who conducted a study using magnesium therapy in 26 postmenopausal women, all of whom were taking estrogen or estrogen and a progestogen. The women were given dietary advice to (1) avoid processed foods, (2) limit protein intake and emphasize vegetable protein over animal protein, and (3) limit the consumption of refined sugar, salt, alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate, and tobacco. Each was offered a daily supplement containing 500 mg of calcium (citrate) and 600 mg of magnesium (oxide). The supplement also contained vitamin C, ten B-vitamins, vitamins A, D3, and E, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, boron, iodine, selenium, chromium, and other nutrients. Nineteen women took the supplement while seven did not. Bone density studies were performed on the calcaneous (heel) bone, both before and an average of 9 months (range 6 – 12 months) after treatment was begun. In the women who did not take the supplement, average bone density increased slightly, by 0.7 percent. However, in those who did take the supplement, the results were dramatically better—an average increase in bone density of 11 percent, a 16-fold greater improvement.12 This study was relatively small and brief, and did not attempt to measure the incidence of hip or other fractures. However, the results were much more favorable than the results of the many calcium studies in postmenopausal women, which often do not report increased bone density from taking high levels of calcium, but rather a slowing of the loss of bone, or increases in bone density of no more than 2 or 3 percent per year. Here with dietary changes and the use of a 500 mg calcium supplement (~42 percent of the RDA), and a 600 mg magnesium supplement (~200 percent of the RDA for women), and other nutrients, an impressive 11 percent increase in bone density was achieved in only nine months. This study is consistent with research studies showing that various other minerals and vitamins have a beneficial effect upon formation of strong bones, including magnesium, silicon, zinc, copper, strontium, manganese, boron, fluorine, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K, and other nutrients, although the study design did not allow a determination of the role of any single nutrient in bringing about such positive results. The role of magnesium and other nutrients will be discussed further in Part 2 of this article. (In his study, Dr. Abraham did not use silicon, strontium, or vitamin K, each of which has also been found to increase bone strength).
Several years ago I had occasion to advise a woman in her 70s about calcium absorption. She was formerly a professional dancer and teacher of dance. I had not seen her for some time until I saw her in March 1998 at a meeting where she was in a wheelchair. When I asked what happened she told me that four months before that she had been in a bad auto accident causing multiple fractures of her right tibia (shin bone) just below the knee. She was still in a wheelchair because according to her doctor her fractures were healing very slowly or not at all, and she found it extremely painful and difficult to move her leg and she could not put any weight on it.
I asked if she was taking supplemental calcium, and she said she had been taking about 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day. I advised her to cut down to no more than 400 mg of calcium per day and to take at least as much magnesium. I asked if she was taking horsetail, an herbal (plant) source of silica. She said she had not heard of horsetail, and was not taking any silica supplement. I suggested that she begin taking horsetail, as it is high in an easily absorbed form of silica (Ionic forms of mineral silica are also absorbable), and low in calcium, and is available inexpensively through health food stores and pharmacies. I advised her to take about six capsules daily with meals, as recommended on the bottle (about 2,640 mg of horsetail per day). I explained to her briefly why that might be helpful, and how it might also reduce the pain in her tibia. I talked to her a week later and asked how she was doing. She said for the past week her recovery was like “a miracle every day”; that her tibia was rapidly improving, the pain was less, she was finally gaining mobility, and she was able to start putting weight on her right leg by standing. She told me that she had followed my advice and bought some horsetail the day I talked to her and had taken it daily for the past week as recommended, and that she had also cut her calcium intake down to about 400 mg per day, and was taking 400 mg of magnesium per day. She continued this regimen. Within about two weeks she was out of her wheelchair and walking short distances using a walker, and she continued to make rapid improvement. Five weeks later she was walking with the aid of only a four-pronged cane, and six weeks later she was walking without assistance and got a car and began driving again. She said her doctors told her that her x-rays showed rapid healing of her bone after the time she started taking the horsetail and magnesium, and reduced her calcium intake. In contrast to her despair about her condition when I first talked to her, she was in a very positive mood each time I talked to her after she changed her regimen.
A second incident involves a personal experience. I was involved in a head-on collision in 1995 when a drunk driver turned left in front of me. I had three badly broken ribs, two of them completely severed and misaligned, a punctured lung, and a bruised pericardium. I followed my own advice and took horsetail, some magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids and other vitamin-mineral supplements, and some homeopathic remedies. Four weeks and one day after the collision I was able to play a vigorous game of racketball for an hour, accompanied by only moderate soreness in my chest. One week after that I was able to play at nearly 100 percent without any discomfort. My physician opponent said he was amazed that I could heal that fast.
A third case was an eighty-one-year-old woman who fell and fractured her wrist in July 2000. Two months later it was not healing well, so in September I advised her to take supplemental horsetail. She took two capsules of the herb three times per day for a week, then one capsule three times per day. Five weeks later her doctors reported that her x-rays showed complete healing.
Every one of the approximately six persons with similar problems to whom I have given the same advice to take horsetail and in some cases to take magnesium and reduce calcium intake has experienced the same rapid healing of bone fractures after a long period of very slow healing or no healing. In one case the orthopedist treating the patient used the word “miracle” to describe the sudden appearance of rapid healing that began after the patient started taking horsetail, as confirmed by her x-rays. That patient was a 24-year-old woman with a congenital estrogen deficiency whose badly fractured tibia had not healed at all in the two months before she started taking the horsetail. Her estrogen deficiency caused scoliosis when she was a teenager for which she had a steel rod placed in her back.
While these cases are “anecdotal” and do not constitute scientific proof, scientific studies might be considered as large numbers of “anecdotes” studied simultaneously with a control group added. What is remarkable about these anecdotes is that in each case they match the results of controlled scientific tests of the effects of vegetal silica (horsetail) in healing broken bones of animals—that is, rapid healing of bone in those given horsetail, but very slow healing in those given calcium. In several of these anecdotal reports we have additional scientific support because four of the women served as their own controls—that is, they had an actual prior experience of healing very slowly or not at all, as well as experiencing significant pain before starting to take horsetail, and thereafter they experienced rapid healing and cessation of pain (I had not advised them to expect the pain to go away).
In science the “one person” study, where a person serves as his or her own control, is recognized as valid scientific evidence, particularly when the test can be repeated with the same person and same result over and over; that is, when the results are “reproducible,” the hallmark of a valid scientific study. Such studies have a major advantage over large studies with a separate control group because everyone is unique, and in the “one person” study or “study of one” we know definitely how each person in the study reacts to the substance being tested, whereas significant individual differences that are very positive and reproducible are often canceled out or blurred as “statistically insignificant” in a group study that incorrectly assumes everyone is the same. Many people can be similarly tested in “studies of one.”
In studies on silica and bone formation by Dr. Louis Kervran, the femurs of rats were broken. X-rays show very rapid healing effects of horsetail on the broken bones just 10 and 17 days after the break, and the very slow rate of healing in control rats who received only calcium. In the rats receiving horsetail, after just 17 days (10 days in one rat) the area where the bone was broken was completely healed and actually more solid than the rest of the bone, whereas in those receiving calcium the healing was just beginning.
If the conventional wisdom that high calcium intake strengthens bones is mistaken, and it instead actually weakens bones and causes unwanted calcium deposits, bone spurs, and an array of health problems, then how do we explain these paradoxical results given that the dominant mineral in bones is calcium? Where does the calcium in bones come from? How much calcium should people take? Here it is helpful to keep an open mind as I present a revolutionary theory that appears to fit the facts.
The conventional wisdom about calcium is based largely upon the theories of Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, propounded over two hundred years ago. One of these theories holds that chemical elements, such as calcium or magnesium, cannot be changed or combined into other elements under the usual conditions of plants and animals. However, Louis Kervran, a French biologist, has done meticulous and extensive research demonstrating that there are numerous exceptions to this theory in living organisms. Kervran was nominated for and nearly won the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1975 for his work, along with Japanese microbiologist Prof. H. Komaki, who confirmed Kervran’s results. Kervran found through his studies that one or more elements would increase in a plant or animal without an apparent exterior source at the same time that one or more other elements would decrease without any appearance of such elements in the plant or animal’s products. Lavoisier’s theory could not explain these imbalances. As a biologist Kervran held prominent positions with the French government and had an unusual opportunity to test such anomalous findings related to workers’ health, and to conduct and publish precise research studies proving that the apparent imbalances were real. He also carefully researched the scientific literature and found that many studies by competent chemists over many years documented unexplained appearances and disappearances of chemical elements in living plants, animals, and soil.
After extensive research over many years Kervran finally developed a revolutionary theory that he called “biological transmutations” to explain what was happening. This theory holds that chemical elements, especially the lighter elements, most often under the influence of an enzyme or hormone in living plants and animals, can be combined or split to form other elements. His theory has enormous potential because it is the first coherent explanation of countless baffling imbalances in the chemistry of living plants and animals, including humans, as reflected in well over a hundred studies by numerous distinguished scientists, almost none of whom had heard of Kervran’s theory. In turn it has major implications for the fields of nutrition, medicine, agriculture, geology, horticulture, and others. While Kervran’s name is not widely known in the United States he was highly respected in medical and scientific circles in France and was on the faculty of a leading medical school in Paris. He was often called upon to lecture to and explain his theories and findings to medical doctors and medical students in France and elsewhere. Since his death in 1983, evidence has gradually grown in support of his theories, although they have rarely been directly tested.
According to Kervran’s theory of “biological transmutations” calcium is laid down in bone primarily, if not exclusively, as follows: (1) silica combines with carbon to produce calcium in the bone; (2) magnesium combines with oxygen to produce calcium; and (3) potassium combines with hydrogen to produce calcium. The molecular weights of the combining elements equal the molecular weight of the resulting calcium. For example, silica has a molecular weight of 28, carbon a weight of 12, the total of which together make calcium, isotope Ca40, which has a molecular weight of 40. The atomic numbers must also match. Likewise, the weight of magnesium, 24, added to the weight of oxygen, 16, also equals 40; and the weight of potassium, 39, plus the weight of hydrogen, 1, equals 40. The reverse reactions also occur, but each under the influence of a different catalytic hormone or enzyme.
Kervran’s theory is supported by many carefully done studies by many scientists, practical observations, the experience of farmers, and folk wisdom involving plants, animals, and humans over many years. Until Kervran’s theory finally explained the phenomena, chemists could not understand their paradoxical observations and test results. For example, cows produce milk containing large amounts of calcium, even though they don’t drink milk or take calcium supplements, and they obtain relatively little calcium from the grasses and other plant foods in their diet. However, their bones and teeth remain strong and they don’t suffer any signs of calcium deficiency, despite excreting more calcium than they ingest. Interestingly, they take in substantial quantities of magnesium, silica, and potassium in the grasses they eat, and excrete less magnesium than they ingest.
Orthodox chemistry is at a loss to explain where the magnesium and silica go or where the calcium comes from, because it is based upon the theory that chemical elements cannot combine or be split except under conditions involving large “nuclear” energies.
However, grass, cows, and other living things apparently do not follow this theory. Logic would tell us that cows must suffer from a severe calcium deficiency before long. Kervran notes that a good dairy cow, weighing 700 kilograms (1,540 lb.) and giving 30 liters of milk a day, would appear to experience a substantial daily deficit of calcium such that 100 percent of the calcium in her body would be used up in about a year, which is obviously impossible.13 However, the principle of transmutations readily explains why cows do not suffer calcium deficiencies despite daily taking in substantially less calcium than they excrete, because their intake of magnesium, silica, and potassium would, if transmuted into calcium, make up the deficit.
In farming, many crops such as certain grasses contain a large quantity of magnesium, substantially more than the calcium in them, even though there is little magnesium in the soil, and much more magnesium is taken from the soil by harvesting these crops every year than is added to it. However, farmers have learned from experience that they often need to add lime (calcium) to the soil to ensure an adequate cereal grass crop, and not magnesium. Careful measurement of the large quantities of magnesium found in grasses coming from the soil would lead one to expect that the soil would have no magnesium left after two years, yet this does not happen. As long as lime is added to the soil, these grasses contain plenty of magnesium, year after year, and there is no calcium buildup in the soil.14 Under Kervran’s theory, an enzyme causes the calcium to separate into magnesium and oxygen (Ca40 = Mg24 + O16). An alternative source of calcium in soil is that earthworms produce large quantities of calcium carbonate, which Kervran believes comes from transmutation of silicon and carbon in the soil in which they thrive. Also, certain bacteria, i.e. the actinomycetes (especially streptomyces), produce calcium from silica.15 When too much calcium is added to soil, the amounts of copper and manganese decrease, and other imbalances and deficiencies occur.
Kervran discusses minerals in grass and daisies as follows:
“To have a good English style lawn the soil must contain lime (calcium). When the lime is exhausted, daisies make their appearance and the gardener knows that to improve the lawn he must correct the soil. The greater the lime deficiency, the more abundant are the daisies.
“Pfeiffer analyzed the incinerated ash of daisies, and found it to be rich in calcium. He asked where it came from, since the daisies grew when there was no more lime in the soil. He could find no answer.”16 (Kervran says when lime is added, the calcium is transmuted into magnesium and oxygen, the magnesium being abundant in the grass).
Pfeiffer also noted that buckwheat has a marked affinity for soil high in silica, yet is characterized by its high calcium content. Kervran goes on to state:
“Wheat likes a soil relatively rich in lime, but incineration of its straw has yielded, for one soil, 6% of ash (relative to weight of dry straw) with a content of 5.8 percent lime and 67.5 percent silica. On the other hand, when trefoil [clover] was sown with the wheat in the same soil, the trefoil, which prefers silica soils, had an ash content of 35.2 percent lime and 2.4 percent silica.…
“The oak is a tree of granite and schist regions (soils rich in silica where lime may be totally absent), but the tree can have large amounts of calcium in its wood and bark (up to 60 percent lime in the ash).…
“There are many such anomalies. One plant, the tilandsia, commonly known as Spanish moss (a Bromacea), will grow on copper fibres without roots or contact with the soil. Its ash contains no copper, but has 17 percent of iron oxides in addition to various other elements which could not have come from the rainwater supplied to the plant.… One could cite such plant anomalies at length.”17
Although the theory of biological transmutations challenges our present incomplete understanding of atomic physics and chemistry, we should heed the words of Claude Bernard, an eminent French physician and contemporary of Louis Pasteur: “When one is confronted with a fact which is in opposition with a prevalent theory, one must accept this fact and abandon the theory, even though the latter, supported by great men, may be generally subscribed to.”18
Louie de Broglie, 1929 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, said: “It is premature to reduce the vital (i.e. living) processes to the quite insufficiently developed conceptions of 19th and even 20th century physics and chemistry.”19 Readers interested in learning more about biological transmutations can contact Beekman Publishers, Inc. to obtain Kervran’s two books in English, which contain much additional information and references.
Although calcium is absorbed into the blood from the intestines, Kervran says that the bones tend to reject this calcium. And if calcium in the blood is too high the body will reduce it. The most important route for calcium absorption in humans and many animals appears to be the formation of calcium in bone from silica, magnesium, and potassium. Under the influence of the parathyroid hormone and other agents, calcium is withdrawn from the bones into the blood as it is needed in order to maintain a constant level in the blood for other uses in the body. Kervran concludes from the evidence that the excessive calcium consumed by many people in their attempts to meet the RDA tends to accumulate in internal organs and joints, where it forms calcium deposits and causes other problems. A catchy mnemonic used in medical schools to help medical students remember some of the more common symptoms of excessive calcium goes like this: “Moans, Groans, Stones, Fragile Bones, and Psychiatric Overtones.” However, most doctors today are so conditioned to recommend high and probably excessive amounts of calcium that they are slow to recognize the symptoms of too much calcium.
Some additional clinical evidence in support of the above theory is provided by doctors cited by Kervran. He quotes Dr. Plisnier of Belgium as follows:
“‘Children with retarded dentition receiving a normal amount of lime in the diet (by classical dietetic standards) along with fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese and meat, have had the retardation overcome within a few weeks when milk and cheese (considered good sources of assimilable calcium) have been omitted.… The same diet, poor in calcium, has led to the quick formation of a callus (healing connection) in a fracture.’ Dr. Plisnier cites in particular a case of a person over sixty years old who had a fracture of the neck of the femur. The classical methods of treatment had failed to heal it, in spite of two operations and a diet rich in calcium. A specially formulated diet, poor in calcium, brought about a recovery.”20
In support of Kervran’s theory, no published research has ever been able to show that calcium is present in appreciable quantities in areas of active bone formation. As Kervran states: “In fact, calcium has never been found to enter into the bones.”21 Dr. Edith Carlisle of U.C.L.A., perhaps the world’s leading researcher on silicon, has stated as follows:
“Earlier studies suggested a physiological role for silicon in bone calcification. In vitro studies showed the unique localization of silicon in active calcification sites in young bone. Furthermore, in the earliest stages of calcification in these sites, when the calcium content of osteoid tissue is very low, a direct relationship exists between silicon and calcium. Neither the initiating nor limiting factor in the mineralization of bone in the living animal is known…. Subsequent in vivo experiments with weanling rats also showed a relationship between silicon and calcium in bone formation. These experiments demonstrated that dietary silicon increases the rate of mineralization; this effect was particularly apparent under conditions of low calcium intake….”22
In her original research article in Science she states: “Silicon, a relatively unknown trace element in nutritional research, has been uniquely localized in active calcification sites in young bone.”23
How much silicon should people take? General recommendations vary from 500 mg of spring horsetail per day for maintenance up to 1.5 to 6 grams for healing broken bones or damaged connective tissue such as torn ligaments. Horsetail contains much silicic acid and silicates, which provide 2-3 percent elemental silicon, or 20-30 mg per gram of horsetail per gram. It is regarded as essentially nontoxic at normal doses. But, like everything, too much can cause problems, and some persons may not tolerate it. Some research shows that horsetail contains an enzyme, thiaminase, that destroys vitamin B1.24 Thus, anyone taking very large quantities should either stop soon or supplement with sufficient vitamin B1. Unrefined foods also contain significant amounts of silicon.
In the 7th edition of Present Knowledge in Nutrition (1996) the author states: “Several published reports showed either no relationship or only a very modest one between dietary calcium and cortical (long) bone mass. Garn et al. found the same rate of loss of cortical mass in ?5,800 subjects from seven countries despite wide variations in calcium intake among groups. In fact, low calcium intakes in some ethnic groups were associated with bone mass values higher than those in groups with high lifelong calcium intakes.”25
Kervran believed that the evidence indicates that thyroid activity is involved in the transmutation of silicon, magnesium, and potassium into calcium, based upon research by others involving fish, though he felt the relation applies to all vertebrates. Silicon, magnesium, and potassium increase the activity of the thyroid gland, while calcium does not.26 On the other hand, studies show that calcium may substantially reduce the absorption of thyroid medications. It may be that by a feedback mechanism, high calcium intake may impede the production of hormones by the thyroid gland, which in turn may reduce the formation of calcium in bone through a transmutation of silicon, magnesium, and potassium. (I have seen some indications that persons who suffer from hyperthyroidism may be sensitive to calcium or milk products that interfere with thyroid function.) The body then may try to compensate by an overproduction of thyroid hormones as long as it is able, and then some years later the thyroid fails and the person experiences hypothyroidism. A standard medical treatment for hyperthyroidism is destruction of the thyroid with radioactive iodine. It would be prudent to first determine whether calcium or some other food is responsible for the hyperthyroidism.
Of course, as mentioned above, an additional factor is the evidence that high calcium intake directly reduces the formation of the active form of vitamin D (1,25(OH2D3), or cholecalciferol), which is important for bone formation.
Kervran discusses the counterproductive effect of calcium supplementation on bone formation as follows:
“The chief surgeon of a hospital asked for my assistance when he found himself confronted by a delicate case: a young man with bones broken very badly in an accident. The classical treatment of Vitamin D plus a phospho-calcic salt failed to bring about any improvement. However, the administration of organic silica healed the bones rapidly. I could cite various other examples.
“At that time Professor Delbet had already arrived at the understanding that it does not help much to ingest calcic phosphates. He wrote, ‘It is questionable whether calcium phosphate is formed in the bones,’ and, ‘we do not know how the calcic phosphates come to the skeleton,’ for calcium has never been found approaching the bone.”27
In the first example above, it is not clear whether the vitamin D and the phospho-calcic salt were discontinued or that the only change was the addition of organic silica (probably horsetail). The use of bone meal would be comparable to the use of a phospho-calcic salt, because bone is largely composed of hydroxyapatite Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, a phospho-calcic salt. The principle of using bone meal or a phospho-calcic salt to heal bones of course sounds logical. However, even mainstream research finds that consumption of bone meal is not very effective for forming bone. If in fact calcium interferes with calcium formation in bone, such as through a feedback mechanism on the thyroid gland and/or vitamin D, it would appear preferable to use vegetal silica instead of bone meal or calcium, rather than in addition to it. The use of horsetail and magnesium without calcium supplementation, or where the amount of magnesium taken is equal to or up to double the amount of calcium, would appear to be a prudent approach to healing broken bones, especially when the patient has a documented difficulty with bone loss or poor healing of broken bones.
Kervran concludes from the evidence that transmutations are also involved with the formation of phosphorus in bone. For example, as with calcium, a dairy cow uses and excretes far more phosphorus than it ingests.28
In Part 2 (see link below) we will cover the vital role of additional nutrients in bone health, as well as other important influences on bone health, such as light and hormones, that are usually ignored.
The problem of how to achieve optimum bone health and strength is highly complex. However, a few general rules emerge from the facts that we have examined:
1. An exclusive focus on calcium is not helpful and likely to be counterproductive.
2. Many nutrients are important to bone health and strength. Accordingly, avoidance of refined foods, especially refined sugar and flour, is important, because these foods are very deficient in virtually all of the essential nutrients.
3. The RDA for calcium is probably set much too high, and a level of 500 mg may be closer to actual needs.
4. A readily absorbable silicon supplement is advisable, e.g. 500 mg horsetail per day for maintenance, and 1.5 to 4.5 grams/day for healing broken bones or soft tissue injury.
5. A broad spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral supplement (comparable to the one used by Dr Abraham in his study above) is recommended.
Earl Staelin, a trial attorney, began in 1976 asserting his clients’ rights to alternative health care. He was a pioneer in the use of nutritional and environmental approaches for defense and rehabilitation/treatment in cases involving crime and delinquency, child abuse, and mental commitments. He graduated from Yale University in 1962 and from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1966. In 1986, his outline for a dissertation on calcium absorption, in his doctoral work in nutrition consulting, was approved, although the university closed before he could complete the dissertation. Since then, he has made numerous presentations on nutrition, environmental illness, health and light, and the legal right to alternative health care.
1. Diane Feskanich, Sc.D., et al. “Milk, Dietary Calcium, and Bone Fractures in Women: A 12-Year Prospective Study,” Am. J. Pub. Health, 87:6; 992-997, June 1997).
2. Cumming, R.G., Klineberg, R.J., “Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly,” Am. J. Epidemiol., 1994; 139:493-503.
3. Hegsted, D.M., Calcium and osteoporosis, J. Nutr. 1986; 116:2316-19.
3a. Ibid., p. 2319.
4. T. Colin Campbell, et al., “Diet and Health in Rural China: Lessons Learned and Unlearned,” Nutrition Today, May 1999; Vol. 34, i3, p. 116.
5. Hu, J., et al., “Dietary calcium and bone density among middle-aged and elderly women in China,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1993; 58: 219-227.
6. Ibid., p. 225.
7. Ross, P.D., Norimatsu, J., Davis, J.W., et al. “A comparison of hip fracture incidence among native Japanese, Japanese Americans, and American Caucasians.” Am. J. Epidemiol. 1991; 133:801-809.
8. Hu, J., et al., supra, p. 225.
9. Ibid., p. 219.
10. June M. Chan, et al., Diary products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2001; 74:549-54.
11. Giovannucci, E., et al. “Calcium and fructose intake in relation to risk of prostate cancer,” Cancer Res. 1998; 58:442-47.
12. Abraham, G.E., and H. Grewal, “A Total Dietary Program Emphasizing Magnesium Instead of Calcium. Effect on the Mineral Density of Calcaneous Bone in Postmenopausal Women on Hormonal Therapy,” 1990, J. Reprod. Med. 35:503-507.
13. Louis Kervran, Biological Transmutations, a translation by Michel Abehsera of three of Kervran’s books in French. Swan House Publishing Co., 1971, reprinted by Happiness Press, Magalia, California, 1989, p. 68.
14. Kervran, Biological Transmutations, Beekman Publishers, Inc., 1980, and 1998, p. 60; orig. published in French, 1966; English translation by Crosby Lockwood, 1971. This book also contains translations of excerpts of several of Kervran’s books, and while there is overlap, contains much additional information to that contained in the original Swan House Publishing Co. version.
15. Ibid., pp. xii-xiii, 87, 89, 91.
16. Ibid., pp. 25-26.
17. Ibid., p. 26.
18. Kervran, Swan House Pub., p. 154.
19. Ibid., p. 1.
20. Kervran, Beekman Pub., pp. 76-77.
21. Ibid., p. 74.
22. Carlisle, E. M., in Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 4th edition (1976) in the chapter on silicon, pp. 339-340; citing her own research.
23. Carlisle, Edith M., “Silicon: A Possible Factor in Bone Calcification,” Science, vol. 167, January 16, 1970, pp. 279-280.
24. Fabre B., Geay B., Beaufils P. Thiaminase activity in Equisetum arvense and its extracts. Plant Med Phytother 1993;26:190-7.
25. Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 7th edition, International Life Styles Institute, Washington, D.C. (1996), p. 251.
26. Kervran, Swan House Pub., pp. 147-148.
27. Ibid., pp. 143-144.
28. Ibid., p. 68.