Research suggests calcium supplements increase heart attack risk

USA Today reports, “Taking a calcium supplement to help prevent bones from thinning puts people at a greater risk for heart attacks, says a report out in the journal Heart.” The study involved about “24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 64.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the researchers found “that those who had a moderate amount of calcium in their diet (820 milligrams daily) had a 31% lower risk of having a heart attack than those in the bottom 25% of calcium consumption, but those with a daily intake of more than 1100 mg did not have a lower risk. There was no evidence that any level of calcium intake in the diet affected stroke risk.”

However, “when the team considered supplements, they found that those who took calcium supplements regularly were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those who used no supplements.”

The researchers reported that “for those who took only calcium supplements, and no others, the risk doubled.”

In a piece taken from Health Magazine, the CNN “The Chart” blog reports, “Only the use of calcium supplements, and not overall calcium intake, was associated with an increased risk of heart attack. In fact, people who consumed higher amounts of calcium from foods, such as milk and other dairy, tended to have a lower risk of heart attacks than people who consumed less.”

On its website, CBS News reports, “The reasons for the differing risks aren’t entirely clear, but researchers suggested the sudden burst of calcium into the system from supplements may be part of the problem.”

Many experts, however, expressed skepticism. For instance, on the MSNBC “Vitals” blog, Robert Bazell, NBC Chief Science and Health Correspondent writes that “this research … is just the type of experiment that often scares people unnecessarily and gives the science of epidemiology a bad name.”

According to Bazell, “the study was set up to look at cancer risk and these scientists are ‘mining’ the data to look for heart disease outcomes. What the researchers unearth is a confusing set of conclusions.”

HealthDay reports that Dr. Robert Recker, director of the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University and president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, said, “I am doubtful of these findings.”

According to Dr. Recker, “It’s hard to understand why calcium in the diet can reduce the risk of heart attack, but supplements increase the risk.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s Telegraph reports, “Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the Health Supplements Information Service, said it was “irresponsible” to advise women with osteoporosis not to take supplements ‘on the basis of one flawed study.'”

The study “lacked information on calcium doses and results could have been skewed by differences between participants underlying health, she claimed.”

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