A published in Heart Journal has found that the benefits of dietary calcium might not offer any significant cardiovascular benefits, and cautioned against calcium supplementation because they “might raise” myocardial infarction risk.
You read this thinking exactly what I did. Is there something about the calcium supplementation that my grandmother, sister or wife takes or somebody else I know that might be causing adverse health risks?
Call me a sensationalist but I’ve seen this so many times before. You start taking some supplement, the health claims are there. Research shows positive results and then BOOM! Like a timely filed but incorrect tax return, you get slapped with a big jolt to your reality.
Imagine the headline on February 15, 2012 reads:
Your Calcium is Killing You!
Brought to you by:
- Division of Cancer Research Centre
- Institute of Epidemiology
- Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention
These aren’t your average left wing nutjob health sites pimping scare tactics. These are legitimate scientists and researches from prestigious universities and institutions.
What’s the Study All About?
Background It has been suggested that a higher calcium intake might favourably modify cardiovascular risk factors. However, findings of an ultimately decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) are limited. Instead, recent evidence warns that taking calcium supplements might increase myocardial infarction (MI) risk.
To prospectively evaluate the associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with MI and stroke risk and overall CVD mortality. Methods Data from 23 980 Heidelberg cohort participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, aged 35e64 years and free of major CVD events at recruitment, were analysed. Multivariate Cox regression models were used to estimate HRs and 95% CIs.
After an average follow-up time of 11 years, 354 MI and 260 stroke cases and 267 CVD deaths were documented. Compared with the lowest quartile, the third quartile of total dietary and dairy calcium intake had a significantly reduced MI risk, with a HR of 0.69 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.94) and 0.68 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.93), respectively. Associations for stroke risk and CVD mortality were overall null. In comparison with non-users of any supplements, users of calcium supplements had a statistically significantly increased MI risk (HR¼1.86; 95% CI 1.17 to 2.96), which was more pronounced for calcium supplement only users (HR¼2.39; 95% CI 1.12 to 5.12).
Increasing calcium intake from diet might not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, while calcium supplements, which might raise MI risk, should be taken with caution.
That’s a pretty deadly conclusion! Take calcium supplementation and you might increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Yikes!
In response, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) issued a statement disagreeing with the study findings and affirming the benefits of calcium.
“Calcium is an important mineral with proven benefits for bone health and a long history of safe use backed by an extensive body of observational and clinical studies that supports its use for reducing the risk for osteoporosis and hip, bone and other fractures,” commented Taylor C. Wallace, Ph.D., senior director, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN. “In addition, research has shown positive effects on risk factors associated with heart health.”
Dr. Wallace went on to say that the study itself “is not reason enough to discount the important benefits of calcium, but consumers with questions—as well as their doctors—should consider these following points: The original study wasn’t designed to measure cardiovascular events; consequently confounding factors for cardiovascular disease were not equally distributed across the study groups. So, for example, the calcium supplement group had a population with a greater incidence of high cholesterol at baseline, and also included more smokers who were more likely to smoke for a longer duration. (The association between smoking and heart disease is well-established.) In terms of considering the relative risk, of the 851 individuals taking supplements containing calcium, only seven events occurred in users of supplements containing only calcium.”
In summary, he said, “The bottom line is consumers need calcium, and particularly for the elderly, who are at such great risk of falls and fractures due to weak bones, removing calcium supplements from their diets could put them at even greater risk for those kinds of problems. Our advice is for consumers to be aware of how much calcium they get from their diet, supplement with calcium if needed, and check with their doctor or other healthcare practitioner to determine their own personal needs.”
How much calcium do you need?
According to ConsumerLab.com (one of my go-to sites for mineral and supplement research), experts recommend that calcium intake from food and supplements combined should not exceed 2,500 milligrams per day.
As Layne Norton might say “Correlation does not imply causation.” This just means that because somebody used calcium supplements or had what some might consider excessive calcium doesn’t mean that is the cause when other factors such as lifestyle were not evaluated.
If they are serious about this study, they need to find an equal group with similar lifestyles and see if they can indeed pinpoint the cause which may or may not be “excessive” calcium. Chock this up to another study that rocks the supplement world and causes a scare.
I truly believe that if you are active doing weight bearing exercises and getting calcium thru as many raw foods as you can, you’ll be just fine. If you need extra calcium or have special circumstances, please see your doctor before taking life changing advice from any Internet site or blog.
Invest the time to do a bit of research for yourself. If you don’t care about your health, do you truly expect anybody else to care?
Be Fit, Stay Strong!
Marc David – CPT