Rethink urged on calcium supplements as study shows link with heart attacks
Published 31/07/2010 | 05:00
People taking calcium supplements have about a 30pc higher risk of heart attack, research released yesterday suggests.
A review of existing studies on some 12,000 people found an increased risk for those on supplements, which are often prescribed to older women for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.
People taking supplements equal to 500mg or more per day were analysed through 11 studies, which compared them with people not on supplements.
According to the Food Standards Agency, adults need 700mg of calcium a day, which should come from dietary sources such as milk, cheese and green, leafy vegetables.
The study, from experts at the University of Auckland and the University of Aberdeen, found that diets high in calcium do not increase the risk of heart attacks.
It is supplements, which increase the levels of calcium circulating in the blood, that heighten the risk.
Experts believe higher blood serum levels lead to hardening of the arteries, which can cause heart attacks.
The authors said: "Serum calcium levels have been positively associated with an increased incidence of (heart attack) in large observational studies.
"Ingestion of equivalent doses of calcium from dairy products has a much smaller effect than supplements."
The study excluded patients who were taking both calcium and vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. The authors said it was unclear whether the findings would apply to these patients.
Nevertheless, they called for a rethink on giving people calcium supplements for bone health. "Given the modest benefits of calcium supplements on bone density and fracture prevention, a reassessment of the role of supplements in the management of osteoporosis is warranted," they said.