By Natasha Persaud
When it comes to your heart health, popping calcium supplements may not be the best idea, suggests a study published in the journal Heart. Compared to people who don’t take supplements, calcium supplement users had an 86 percent higher risk of heart attack. By comparison, people who consumed calcium from foods did not have an increased risk. It is the first observational study to report such a serious finding, according to the study authors, but the results coincide with two reviews of other studies.
The Heart study involved data from nearly 24,000 European men and women aged 35 to 64 years old who completed food questionnaires that included calcium intake. Participants were then followed for 11 years on average.
However, the authors noted several important limitations of the study that may have affected the results. More research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.
In the meantime, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of taking calcium supplements. These supplements are commonly recommended to postmenopausal women for bone health.
In a statement responding to the study, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommended that “individuals meet their daily calcium needs through food sources first and take a calcium supplement only if they aren't getting enough calcium from their diet to reach the 1,000 mg or 1,200 mg total. Inadequate calcium intake has been proven to lead to increased risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.”
Calcium-rich foods include low- or non-fat dairy products (such as milk and yogurt), canned salmon and sardines (eat the soft bones!) and certain dark green leafy greens and nuts.
Li, K. et al. “Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg). Heart, published online first May 21, 2012.
News release, May 24, 2012, National Osteoporosis Foundation