Dietitians, doctors, and vitamin companies have been pushing calcium for years. They say it prevents osteoporosis, but the research refutes that. They say it's safe, but it isn't safe in the doses they recommend. Despite all the negative data about it they still don't stop. Can't they read? Here's a new study that once again shows the dangers of taking calcium in excess. As you can tell, it's one of my pet peeves.
In this latest study the researchers looked at a group of 182 post-menopausal women. All of the women were statistically at risk for cardiovascular disease because of their elevated cholesterol levels. The researchers gave half of them an 800 mg calcium supplement every day for two years. The other half received a placebo. The researchers monitored the affects that the extra calcium had on the cholesterol levels and on something much more important — the carotid intima-media thickness or CIMT.
CIMT is a measurement of the thickness of the innermost two layers of the carotid artery. The most common to measure it is with an ultrasound. As the carotid arteries become laden down with atherosclerotic plaque, they show up thicker on CIMT. Doctors use CIMT to detect the presence of atherosclerotic disease. They also use repeated CIMT measurements to see if the plaque is getting better or worse. Doctors also can use CIMT scores to determine the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The higher the score, the greater the risk.
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So what happened to our ladies who received the calcium pills? Their cholesterol levels became worse. Now that doesn't bother me too much because I am not on the high-cholesterol-is-dangerous bandwagon. But that's not the worst of it. Their CIMT scores also increased significantly. This means increasing levels of atherosclerosis. That's not good! The results were startling enough for the authors to state, "In postmenopausal women with dyslipidemia [elevated cholesterol levels], calcium supplements should be prescribed with caution." These bad results were solely due to the calcium supplements. The diets and physical activity levels of all the women were accounted for.
For the past 23 years, I have been warning women about the dangers of taking large doses of calcium supplements. A large dose is any dose over 500 mg per day. I have told you in previous issues of Real Cures about how calcium supplements increase the chance of heart attacks and breast cancer. I also have explained to you that the largest study ever published on the use of calcium supplements, The Women's Health Initiative, clearly showed that the extra calcium from supplements does not go on the bones. If you are taking calcium supplements because someone told you that it would strengthen your bones, ask them to look at the results of this study. It doesn't.
So taking calcium supplements in doses over 500 mg per day not only doesn't help your bones, it puts you at increased risk of disease. This is why I have never put any calcium into my
Super Immune QuickStart. And I never routinely recommend it. Every now and then I do find a patient who needs to take some extra calcium. But in those few cases, I always make sure that the daily dose is under 500 mg. Advanced Bionutritionals makes a great bone support product called
Ultimate Bone Support. And guess what? They were smart enough to leave out the calcium and put in just the good stuff.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Li S, Na L, Li Y, Gong L. et al. Long-term calcium supplementation may have adverse effects on serum cholesterol and carotid intima-media thickness in postmenopausal women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013.