Study Suggests Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk
May 26, 2012

Study Suggests Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk

A team of German and Swiss researchers are warning people to be cautious when taking calcium supplements, as new findings suggest that they could double an individual's risk of suffering a heart attack.

According to a Wednesday report by the Daily Mail's Jenny Hope, the supplements, which are often recommended for women at risk of osteoporosis, are more dangerous than consuming additional amounts of milk, cheese, and other calcium-rich food products.

Hope and Denis Campbell of The Guardian explain that the researchers examined the nutrition records of 23,980 German men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 over the course of 11 years starting in the mid-1990s.

Their diets were looked at, as well as the various vitamins and mineral supplements they had taken recently, and the scientists claim that they discovered that individuals who regularly used calcium supplements were 86% more likely to suffer a myocardial infarction (MI) than those who had never taken them.

Dr. Sabine Rohrmann, an assistant professor of chronic disease epidemiology at the University of Zurich, told Kathleen Doheny of WebMD Health News that she believed there was a "moderate" increase of cardiovascular problems due to calcium supplements. The study has been published in the journal Heart.

Furthermore, the scientists divided the study participants into three groups, Doheny said. Members of the third group, which had the second-highest calcium intake from the foods they consumed, were 31% more likely to suffer a heart attack than those getting the least amount of the mineral from their food. They discovered no link between total dietary calcium and either stroke or heart disease death, she added.

"Increasing calcium intake from diet might not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, while calcium supplements, which might raise MI risk, should be taken with caution," the study authors concluded, according to Campbell.

"Calcium supplements have been widely embraced by doctors and the public on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore safe way of preventing osteoporotic fractures. It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food," a pair of Auckland University professors added in an accompanying editorial.

Some experts were not totally convinced by the study's findings.

Dr Kevin Fox, the cardiology spokesman for the Royal College of Physicians, told the Guardian that the findings should be "treated cautiously“¦ We have good evidence that calcium is good for bones. Calcium is important for other organs, including the heart. The message is that if you have a medical need to take calcium supplements to protect your bones, you should do so and there is good evidence to support this. If you have no medical need, then just stick to a healthy mixed diet and don't take unnecessary supplements."

"This research indicates that there may be an increased risk of having a heart attack for people who take calcium supplements. However, this does not mean that these supplements cause heart attacks," added Natasha Stewart, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation (BHF).