New research indicates an increase in the risk of heart attack in people who take calcium supplements. It also questions the use of calcium in preventing osteoporosis and whether it really reduces fracture risk.
The body contains more calcium than any other mineral. The majority of it is found in bones and teeth. But calcium is also in muscle cells and blood. Calcium has many functions which includes formation of bones and teeth, muscle contraction, normal functioning of many enzymes, blood clotting, and maintaining a normal heart rhythm.
The level of calcium in blood is regulated primarily by two hormones: parathyroid hormone and calcitonin.
Overall, experiments providing calcium supplements show a consistent, but modest reduction in bone loss in postmenopausal women. But as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, studies have documented that calcium and Vitamin D supplementation result in reduction of 30-70% in fracture rates over 2-4 years.
Even though it’s possible to take too high a dose of calcium in supplement form, symptoms like constipation, excessive thirst, and urination are common side effects.
The conclusion in this article was way overstated in my opinion without giving details on the other health conditions of its participants. High calcium can come from a problem with the parathyroid glands, as well as from cancer or disorders affecting the bone. Hypercalcemia (too much calcium in blood) can also develop in people with peptic ulcers who ingest too much milk and take calcium antacids. Too much Vitamin D can also increase calcium absorption. This disorder can be diagnosed by simple blood tests.
The researchers didn’t collect data on heart problems from the participants, and none of the studies reviewed were specifically designed to look at heart attack risk.
All this tells me is that more research needs to be done and not to over-generalize and tell all people to stop their calcium supplements. The majority of postmenopausal women only consume an average of 511 mg of calcium per day. This is barely a third of the 1500 mg recommended by the National institutes of Health.
I wrote a blog this past May highlighting the fact that preventing osteoporosis involves more than just taking supplements daily. Stress, diet, exercise, and allergens play a role in our bodies PH and how we absorb and retain our minerals. Talk to your doctor about your supplements and determine what your needs are.
References: Brown, S. “better Bones, Better Body.” Keats Publishing, 2000.
The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Calcium.