I’ve told you in the past how dangerous calcium supplements can be. So it begs the question: Should you stop your calcium supplements? Should you avoid high-calcium foods?
Does a study that appeared in Nutrition Reviews provide the final answer to the calcium supplement scare?
All of these are questions women have to ask themselves. But now men need to answer these questions as well. Researchers and doctors are pushing more and more men into taking calcium supplements.
But should anyone take them?
Not according to an article in Medical News Today. That article states the answer very clearly: “Men who take calcium supplements are more likely to die of heart disease than those who do not take supplements.” That was on top of a WebMD article that declared: “Calcium Supplements May Raise Women’s Heart Risk.” What’s going on?
First of all, let me tell you that I was one of the very few docs who spoke against the use of calcium supplements almost 30 years ago. At that time, the medical establishment considered me a heretic because everyone just knew that more and more calcium was what people needed in order to keep their bones strong.
Then about sixteen years ago, I was vindicated when the Women’s Health Initiative proved that calcium supplements do nothing to strengthen bones.
One of my concerns from the beginning is if the calcium from supplements doesn’t go on the bones, where does it go? Could it be that much of it ends up calcifying the arteries instead of the bones? If so, that could lead to heart disease. One study doesn’t see calcium supplements as a problem.
In this study, the researchers reviewed every article in the U. S. National Library of Medicine that had to do with calcium supplements, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and calcification of arteries. They were looking to see if they could find any statistically significant adverse or beneficial effect of calcium supplements on heart disease. Here’s what they found.
Nothing! The authors state, “While some studies indicate a possible increased risk, there is a lack of consensus on these findings.” According to these researchers, calcium supplements don’t have any more of an effect on cardiovascular disease than placebos. But there is a problem with this review.
The review didn’t include one of the most important studies on calcium. And this study didn’t just look at calcium supplements.
The researchers in this study tracked 61,433 women for 19 years. They were specifically looking to see if there was any relationship between dying from heart disease and taking calcium supplements. But they went a step further. Here’s what they did – and what they discovered. This is very important!
During the 19-year study, 11,944 women died. And 5,794 of those died from heart disease. The rest died from other causes. The researchers determined the daily calcium intake of the women from how much calcium they had in their diet and from supplements. Here’s what they found.
Total calcium intake from diet and supplements did not present a big problem until it became quite high, more than 1,400 mg per day. Once you get above that level, bad things start to happen.
Compared with total intakes between 600 and 1,000 mg daily, taking more than 1,400 mg per day increased the overall death rate from all causes by 40%! The death rate from coronary artery disease was even higher, a whopping 114%. But here’s the thing.
The risk with calcium supplements only increased in the women whose diets were already high in calcium. These women had more than 2½ times the risk of dying from any cause if they took supplements. The risk of supplements in women who were on low-calcium diets was minimal. Also, the risk in all of the women who took less than 600 mg per day of calcium was insignificant. So here’s the take-home message.
The reason that the first study did not find that taking calcium supplements was harmful is because it did not take into account diet. And it turns out that diet is critical.
If you already have a good healthy diet, taking more than 600 mg of calcium supplements is very dangerous. Don’t do it no matter what your bone density is. You will almost triple your risk of dying from anything!
And for those whose diets are poor, don’t take more than 600 mg of calcium either. Instead, improve your diet. The best sources of calcium are broccoli, all of the dark green veggies (like spinach and kale), cheese, milk, and beans.