Dangers of Calcium
Written by Faith Anderson on May 25, 2012
Increased Risk of Heart Attack
The researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre observed 23,980 men and women for more than a decade in order to compare the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements and in those who were not. According to the study’s findings, there were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take calcium supplements at all, while people taking calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have had a heart attack during the study. The researchers said the risk of heart attack “might be substantially increased by taking calcium supplements” and that they “should be taken with caution.” Experts suggest that promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy to strengthen bones and prevent fractures, compared to taking calcium supplements.
Critics Find Fault With Study
Opponents of the study find the researchers’ recommendations “flawed.” Dr. Carrie Ruxton from the Health Supplements Information Service, which is funded by supplement manufacturers, said, “Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it is irresponsible for scientists to advise that women cut out calcium supplements on the basis of one flawed survey, particularly when the link between calcium, vitamin D and bone health is endorsed by the European Food Safety Authority.” The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said patients prescribed calcium supplements should continue taking their medication, but should speak to their doctor if they have concerns about their heart attack risk.
Calcium Supplements: Benefits vs. Risks
Others recommend weighing the possible benefits against the potential risks of calcium supplements. Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse with the BHF said, “This research indicates that there may be an increased risk of having a heart attack for people who take calcium supplements.” She continued, “However, this does not mean that these supplements cause heart attacks.” Stewart suggests that additional research is needed to “shed light on the relationship between calcium supplements and heart health.” She says, “We need to determine whether the potential risks of the supplements outweigh the benefits calcium can give sufferers of conditions such as osteoporosis.”
Calcium Should Be Part of a Balanced Diet
According to Ian Reid and Mark Bolland, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “The evidence is also becoming steadily stronger that [taking calcium supplements] is not safe, nor is it particularly effective.” He continues, “We should return to seeing calcium as an important component of a balanced diet and not as a low cost panacea to the universal problem of postmenopausal bone loss.” A spokeswoman for the UK’s Department of Health said it would consider the study’s findings once the complete article had been published. “The majority of people do not need to take a calcium supplement,” she did remark. “A healthy balanced diet will provide all the nutrients, including calcium, that they need.”