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Calcium Supplements May Raise Heart Attack Risk: Study

May 25th, 2012

calcium supplements

Many individuals rely on calcium supplements to prevent bone loss. Unfortunately, a recent study suggests that taking these supplements may increase the risk for heart attack.

The research contradicts previous studies that suggest calcium supplements help prevent heart attacks or stroke, said the authors. However, calcium from natural sources may help reduce the risk, they added.

“While a moderately high intake of calcium from diet may go along with a lower risk of heart attack, this is not true for supplementary calcium intake,” said lead author Sabine Rohrmann, PhD, assistant professor of chronic disease epidemiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Those who want to increase calcium intake should consume food rich in calcium instead of relying on calcium supplements, Rohrmann suggested.

Researchers gathered data of 24,000 volunteers who were between 35 and 64 years old when they participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study between 1994 and 1998.

The team determined whether the participants added vitamin and/or mineral supplements to their diet.

Over the course of eleven years, the team recorded a total of 881 deaths — 354 from heart attacks, 260 from strokes, and 267 from other cardiovascular causes.

Researchers found that those who consume moderate amounts of calcium (820 mg a day) from all sources had a lower risk of heart attack than those who had lesser intake. They also found that the risk was not significantly lower among those who took more than 1,100 mg per day. The risk of stroke did not decrease with any amount of calcium intake among the participants.

The study found an 86 percent risk in heart attacks among those who took calcium supplements regularly compared to those who didn’t take any.

Dr. Robert Recker, president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, countered the results. “It’s hard to understand why calcium in the diet can reduce the risk of heart attack, but supplements increase the risk,” he said.

Recker argues that the numbers might include the number of individuals who are already at risk for heart attacks and took calcium supplements to reduce the risk, but had heart attacks anyway.

He noted that the study’s findings might be flawed since the mechanism isn’t clearly defined.

“In the United States, the incidence of fractures from osteoporosis is greater than the combined incidence of heart disease, heart attack and stroke,” he added.

Recker recommends getting the needed calcium directly from food instead of supplements. Take calcium supplements in two separate 500 mg doses if your recommended daily allowance cannot be reached, he added.


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