By Janice Lloyd, USA Today
Taking a calcium supplement to help prevent bones from thinning puts people at a greater heart-attack risk, a recent report in the journal Heart says.
The study of approximately 24,000 people ages 35 to 64 found that those who regularly took calcium supplements were 86 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t. Those who took only calcium supplements were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who didn’t take any vitamin supplements.
Calcium supplements have been linked to kidney stones and bloating in other studies, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“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 osteoporatic fractures,” the authors wrote. “We should return to seeing calcium as an important component of a balanced diet.”
The study, aimed at seeing if calcium supplements affect cardiovascular risk, found no direct link between the supplements and heart attacks, nor did they identify brands of supplements. Participants answered questions about supplement use and diet in an 11-year health study.
The study did not look at what caused the heart attacks, but “supplements cause calcium levels to soar above the normal range, and it is this flooding effect which might ultimately be harmful,” the authors wrote.
“Doctors who work with the elderly and people who are postmenopausal routinely tell them to take a calcium supplement,” said Linda Russell, a rheumatologist and osteoporosis specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “It’s really time to re-examine that philosophy. Other studies about calcium have been suggesting this in recent years, but maybe this study really should get doctors to rethink this approach.”