Swiss researchers are saying what I've been telling you for decades: high amounts of calcium supplements are not safe to take. They're linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.
In a study of 24,000 participants, calcium supplements – not calcium-rich foods – were the culprits. Those who took calcium supplements regularly were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn't use any supplements.
This news will surprise most doctors. Previous research has linked higher calcium intake with a lowered risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. All of these are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
But most of this benefit comes from dietary calcium intake, not from supplements. The researchers found that those whose diets included a moderate amount (820 mg daily) of calcium from all sources, including supplements, had a 31% lower risk of having a heart attack than those in the bottom 25% of calcium intake. Since you should get at least 300 mg of calcium from your diet, that leaves only about 500 mg needed from supplements.
When people take more than 1,100 mg daily, that's where the picture begins to change. At this level, it doesn't significantly lower risk your risk any more. And if the bulk of that dosage comes from supplements, this study showed that it increased their risk for a heart attack by 86% compared to those who didn't take any supplements.
In fact, those who got almost all of their calcium from supplements were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack! Supplements cause your calcium levels to soar above the normal range. According to the researchers, this flooding effect is what's causing the problem.
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Two of the researchers wrote an editorial to accompany this study. They wrote that the safety of calcium supplements "is now coming under increasing scrutiny." It's been under my scrutiny for decades, but no one was willing to listen. It's about time they paid attention to the science.
Unfortunately, the doctors aren't paying attention yet. Most of them are still recommending that women take 1,500 mg of calcium in supplement form. There's no doubt about it – this prescription can kill you!
You should get most of your calcium from your diet. Take no more than 500 mg a day in your supplements. Any supplements you take should be an easy-to-absorb form, such as calcium citrate or amino acid chelate. Don't use calcium carbonate, as it can lead to a buildup of calcium in your arteries.
To give your bones added protection, make sure you're taking ample magnesium (up to bowel tolerance, 1,000 mg at the most) and other nutrients that protect your bones. I recommend those in Ultimate Bone Support.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
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) doi 10.1136/heartjnl-2011-301345]
[Editorial: Calcium supplements: bad for the heart? doi 10.1136/heartjnl-2012-301904]