Turns Out, Calcium Isn't Actually That Great at Strengthening Your Bones

Written by Claire Hannum

Updated on June 14, 2023

Maybe you’ve taken your calcium supplements every day for years, only to find that your bone density hasn’t improved much. In fact, your bone density may have even gone DOWN.

You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, so why is your t-score still in the negative? Well, it turns out that calcium isn’t actually that great at strengthening your bones… 

In this article we’ll discuss the truth about calcium, the risks of taking calcium supplements, and a better way to strengthen your bones.

Table Of Contents

The Decline of Bone Health with Age

Before we dig into the differences between calcium and collagen, let’s explore why bone health is so important in the first place.

As you age, your risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis increases, both of which are characterized by the weakening and increased brittleness of bones (1, 2, 3, 4).

This issue is incredibly common—so much so that one in three women over the age of fifty will experience it (5, 6).

So why does bone density decrease with age?

Well, by the time you reach menopause, your body has lost a significant amount of collagen—a protein that makes up the majority of your bone structure (7).

Collagen is crucial to the health of your bones, joints, skin, and more, but your natural levels start to decline as early as your 20s. And what makes matters worse is that by the age of 35, your bones begin breaking down faster than your body can build them back up (8).

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that women are regularly encouraged to keep tabs on their bone density as they age.

But one of the tools most commonly believed to help preserve bone density—calcium—isn’t as effective as we once thought. In fact, regularly drinking milk could actually increase your risk of bone fractures (2, 9). 

How could all those dairy-friendly ad campaigns go wrong? Let’s explore what calcium actually is, versus what many of us thought it was.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

Shop Collagen

What Is Calcium—Really?

Calcium is a mineral that plays a big role in blood clotting, muscle functions, heart rhythms, and more (10).

The body doesn’t create calcium on its own, so you have to ingest it out through food or supplements. It’s found in leafy greens, certain fish, and most famously, dairy products. 

Calcium is regularly associated with bone health. Throughout our lives, our bones are continually regenerating and replacing themselves with newer, healthier bone cells in a process called bone remodeling (11, 12). At certain phases of life, calcium is especially important to this process (13).

But it’s not the supplement to reach for to protect bone density. In fact, it may not protect you from bone fractures at all…

Does Calcium Really Protect Your Bones?

We’ll cut to the chase here: no. Calcium doesn’t protect your bones the way it should.

Despite the cliches we’ve heard our entire lives about drinking milk for strong bones and the millions of calcium supplements taken every year, calcium isn’t the bone density superhero we once thought it was.

Recent studies indicate that increasing the calcium in your diet has a minimal impact on bone density in older age. Not only  that—it doesn’t even reduce fractures in people who are over 50 (1, 2). Some data even indicates that milk could increase your risk of bone fractures (10). 

Calcium isn’t absorbed as well by the body as you age, so increasing the amount of calcium you consume won’t make much of a difference (14). Even more striking is the fact that parts of the world with lower dietary intakes of dairy and calcium have lower osteoporosis rates (15)!

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

Shop Collagen

What About Calcium Supplements?

Then there are the calcium supplements…

These wildly popular tablets are frequently recommended to women who are concerned about their bone health—but they don’t come without risks. Taking 1,000 mg or more of calcium from supplements is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, stomach symptoms, and kidney stones (16).

While supplements do have a short-term effect on your bone density, it doesn’t last. There is no evidence of supplements providing cumulative benefits for your bone density, and studies have found that it doesn’t reduce the occurrence of fractures—even when taken for up to seven years (17, 18).

So how did we end up with this confusion over calcium?

Many experts believe it started in the early 90s when a study of elderly women in France was published (19)...

The women in this study weren’t getting much calcium in their daily diets, had a low bone density, and lived in assisted living facilities. The study followed the effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation over the course of 18 months. The result? A lowered risk of hip fracture and a slight increase in bone density.

So why haven’t we seen equally promising results in research that’s taken place since then?

Experts believe that it’s because the group studied was already calcium deficient and particularly sedentary—and that a healthy, active person who isn’t starting out with a calcium deficiency wouldn’t benefit in the same way (19, 20).

So the cat’s out of the bag: calcium isn’t the end-all-be-all for bone health. It’s one small piece of a larger puzzle. Getting enough calcium is still beneficial for keeping your body’s overall functions running smoothly, but it’s not the bone boosting holy grail.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

Shop Collagen

The Better Bone-Health Alternative

If you still want to protect your bones, there’s a better option: collagen peptides. Collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together.It even makes up 90% of your bones (21, 22).

As early as your 20s, your body’s natural collagen production starts to decline, and one of the ways this manifests is in the decline of bone density. By the time you’re 60, your collagen stores are 50% of what they once were (23).

This is where a high-quality collagen supplement comes into play.

Unlike calcium supplements, grass-fed collagen supplements are effective at replenishing the natural bone-building blocks your body has lost, along with replenishing bone density and preventing—and even reversing—bone loss (24, 25).

Oh, and that joint pain you’ve been feeling since menopause hit? Collagen can help with that too (26).

Joint pain is caused by a menopause-induced drop in estrogen, the hormone that helps to protect joints and reduce inflammation, among other things (27, 28). As a natural supporter of joint health, collagen can help alleviate your aches and pains (29).

In short, it does everything we thought calcium did…and even more.

How to Take Collagen for Bones

Taking collagen is easy: Just switch out your daily calcium routine for a daily dose of bioactive collagen peptides. You can do this by mixing one scoop into your morning coffee or tea, baking with it, or blending it into your smoothie. The key is consistency.

Within the first two months, you can expect to feel a decrease in aches and pains and a renewed spring in your step (30).

As the months go on, your results will multiply, and your bone density will see peak collagen benefits within a year (31).

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Strengthen Your Bones, Naturally.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

Shop Collagen

The Bottom Line

Calcium may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but collagen sure is…

Swap out that glass of milk and start supplementing with bioactive collagen peptides for your bones instead.

We recommend a collagen supplement that specifically targets bone health. Something like NativePath Bone Health Collagen. This easy-to-take powder contains our proprietary and clinically-proven Bioactive Collagen Peptides—FORTIBONE® and VERISOL®—for strong bones and healthy joints, skin, hair, and nails.

Just one scoop a day will give your body what it needs to increase your t-score and pass your next DEXA scan with flying colors.

Claire Hannum
Article by

Claire Hannum

Claire Hannum is a New York City-based writer, editor, wellness seeker, and reiki practitioner. Her writing has appeared in Self, Health, Prevention, and over a dozen other publications.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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