Halloween and the military
Halloween is not traditionally celebrated by the French and is regarded as an American holiday influenced by the Irish.
However, since Halloween is the day before the celebration in France of “La Toussaint” on November 1st, and followed by “the Day of the Dead” on November 2nd, we can connect all three. Halloween is about using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death” (1) – and comes with a supposedly festive display of ghosts, witches and skeletons.
The lobby of my building was decorated with carved pumpkins covered with a spider web; and there was a small skeleton, which reminded me of the one that casually hung in corner of the science classroom when I was in high school.
Speaking of skeletons and bones, I do not know if it is a coincidence, but there has been a number of publications in the press recently about bone density, and the benefits of calcium and vitamin D.
Last week, results were published of a recent clinical trial involving 156 men and 87 women in the U.S. military, which demonstrated the benefit of supplemental calcium and vitamin D during military training to maintain bone density (2). We all may benefit from these supplements without having to go through the drill!
Calcium is an essential mineral for the proper development of teeth and bones (Not to mention it’s a huge aid in proper muscle function, nerve signaling, hormone secretion, and blood pressure). And where there’s calcium, there must be vitamin D: the two work together to help the body absorb bone-boosting calcium. However all supplements are not equal, and it is important to choose a mineral form with optimum bioavailability (avoid cheap calcium carbonate, poorly soluble in water), and a natural form of vitamin D3.
To anyone regularly taking a calcium supplement, it is important to balance it with magnesium. Indeed studies have shown that when magnesium intake is low, calcium supplementation may reduce magnesium absorption and retention (3)(4). And, whereas calcium supplementation can have negative effects on magnesium levels, magnesium supplementation actually improves the body’s use of calcium (5).
Finally, do not forget about the benefits of vitamin K2 (menaquinone) when taking calcium supplementation to help direct the calcium to the bones and not the arteries (6).
(1) Portaro, Sam (25 January 1998). A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Cowley Publications p. 199.
(3) Norman DA, Fordtran JS, Brinkley U, et al. Jejunal and ileal adaptation to alterations in dietary calcium. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1981;67: 1599-603.
(4) Seelig MS. The requirement of magnesium by the normal adult: Summary and analysis of published data. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1964;14:342-90.
(5) Vartanian L, Schwartz, M, Brownell, K. Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Public Health. 2007;97(4):667-675.
(6) Gast et al. (Sep 2009) “A high menaquinone reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease in women”, Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases Vol.19 No.7 pp.504–510.