We are bombarded daily with recommendations to take various supplements
to improve our health. We are also exposed to a good deal of information
about supplements that we thought were good for us but maybe now are
not. Calcium is the latest vitamin to come under scrutiny. Calcium has
been recommended for a healthy skeletal and cardiovascular system.
A recent study from Germany, published in the journal Heart, evaluated
if increased calcium intake did indeed have a positive effect on
cardiovascular health. The findings that calcium supplements might
increase cardiac events have caused quite a stir.
The authors of the study followed 24,000 healthy men and women ages 34 –
65 for 11 years. The individuals in the study were allowed to take their
calcium in any way they chose, through supplements or foods that
contained calcium. Over the 11 year period 354 people had an MI, 260 had
a stroke, and 267 people had cardiovascular deaths. These are not
large numbers given the total number of people in the study.
Let’s look deeper at the details. Not everyone that took supplements had
a bad outcome. Participants whose daily intake was at least 820 mgs
actually had a DECREASE in the number of heart attacks. This was
particularly true for the WOMEN in the study. Most events occurred
within the first 2 years of the study, there was NO increase in cardiac
events for long term users. There was NO increase in the number of
strokes. It is important to note that the actual dose of calcium
for 45% of those studied was unknown. For those who derived their
calcium from foods there was neither a positive or negative effect on
Should we give up on calcium? No. Calcium is important to the health and
maintenance of our skeletal, nervous and muscular systems. Getting any
nutrient from foods is often best. Calcium is best absorbed from foods.
The challenge is that the quantity of food needed to get the required
daily calcium can be difficult to eat on a regular basis. The guidelines
for the recommended daily dose of calcium have not changed on the basis
of this study. Women who are over 50 need 1200 mgs of calcium daily.
What should we take away from this study? In general it is always good
to review if our assumptions about supplements are correct. We should
not take more of a supplement than we need. But in this study the actual
number of bad outcomes was very small and there were some who did
This article is part of the Menopause and You library,
a Web-based program sponsored by Women’s Health Source.
It is intended as an information resource providing guidelines for
women. As always, check with your own healthcare practitioner with your
specific concerns and questions.
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