I received quite a few comments regarding the article below relating to calcium and heart attacks. So as part of my commitment to keep you up to date with the latest osteoporosis news… let me assure you that this is not exactly “news” at all. First let’s review the Reuters article then I’ll share my take with you.
Calcium Supplements May Raise Risk of Heart Attack
Calcium supplements, which many people consume hoping to ward off osteoporosis, may increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 30 percent, researchers reported Friday.
These tiny tablets which carry concentrated doses of calcium were also associated with higher incidences of stroke and death, but they were not statistically significant.
The researchers advised people consuming calcium supplements to seek advice from their doctors, take more calcium-rich foods and try other interventions like exercise, not smoking and keeping a healthy weight to prevent osteoporosis.
“People regard calcium supplements as natural but they are really not natural at all,” Ian Reid, professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said in a telephone interview.
Reid and colleagues in Britain and the United States conducted a meta-analysis encompassing 11 studies that tracked nearly 12,000 elderly people over four years.
Half of them were given calcium supplements and the other half placebo or dummy pills with no therapeutic content. The results were published in the British Medical Journal.
“What we found was a 30 percent increase in heart attacks in the people who were randomized to take calcium,” Reid said.
“If you have 1,000 people taking calcium for five years, we will expect to find 14 more heart attacks, 10 more strokes and 13 more deaths in the people given calcium than they would have had if they hadn’t been treated with calcium,” Reid said.
“That is 37 more adverse events and we expect 26 fractures being prevented. So calcium is associated with more bad things happening than with bad things prevented.”
While experts are not certain about the biological mechanism by which calcium supplements may damage the body, studies in the past have linked high levels of blood calcium to more heart attacks and damage to blood vessels, Reid said.
“When you take calcium supplements, your blood calcium level goes up over the following four to six hours and goes up to the top end of the normal range,” he said.
“That doesn’t happen when you have calcium to eat in your diet because the calcium from food is very slowly absorbed and so the blood calcium level hardly changes at all.”
Higher blood calcium may lead to the formation of plaques in blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, Reid explained.
“People have always focused on fat levels in the blood as driving that process (plaque formation) but there is increasing evidence now that calcium levels in the blood might drive that as well,” he added.
Studies on the ill-effects of calcium, and in particular as it relates to heart attacks, have been around for a while.
For example, back in January 2008, Ian Reid and team conducted a study on the cardiovascular effects of calcium supplements. Observing an astonishing increase in the occurrence of myocardial infarction, stroke, or sudden death – almost double in the calcium group vs. the placebo group – the researchers concluded that “calcium supplementation in healthy postmenopausal women is associated with upward trends in cardiovascular event rates.”1 The above article is in reference to his review of 11 studies that have confirmed the earlier findings.
Whom Should You Believe?
The benefit of taking calcium supplements is a topic that has stirred much debate. Take a look at this study, conducted in February 2007 and published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers evaluated the risk of coronary and cerebrovascular events in over 35,000 postmenopausal women aged 50-79 years old. Half took 500mg calcium carbonate with 200 IU vitamin D twice a day and the other half took a placebo. 2 The researchers concluded that “calcium and vitamin D supplementation did not increase the risk for myocardial infarction, CHD death, stroke, coronary revascularization, hospitalized angina, heart failure, or transient ischemic attack. Thus, women taking these supplements need not fear adverse cardiovascular consequences while protecting their bone health.”
So what is the public to make of this? There is an obvious flaw here, unfortunately widely prevalent in mainstream medicine today: if a study isolates one function of the body (which is what they typically do for these “studies”), you can’t expect accurate results. More on this later because first, I’d like to explain to you the difference between…
Inorganic and Organic Calcium
The most common calcium supplements are made of carbonate, citrate, dolomite, di-calcium phosphate, tri-calcium phosphate, coral, oyster shell or bone meal. While they may have different names, they all have one thing in common: they are inorganic.
So it is easy to understand why large quantities of these calcium supplements can have some very serious health consequences. The excess calcium not usable by the body is deposited in the soft tissues – the blood vessels, skin, eyes, joints, and internal organs. It can also lead to plaque and hardening of the arteries which can trigger a heart attack.
Organic calcium is found in foods, and it is the most efficiently used form calcium. Plants absorb and incorporate inorganic calcium and other minerals from the soil. They transform the inorganic minerals into organic minerals rendering them suitable for human consumption. For that reason it doesn’t cause the slew of health problems as inorganic calcium does. That’s why I recommend organic (plant derived) calcium supplements.
But there’s more to absorbing calcium than its quality. You see, minerals are synergistic. When mainstream medicine recommends only calcium and Vitamin D, they are leaving behind a wealth of other minerals that are necessary for calcium absorption and proper delivery. Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, boron, and the others I list in the Save Our Bones Program. Taking calcium without other necessary nutrients is like trying to drive a car without tires: the engine works but you will never reach your destination.
Skewed Science, Skewed Results
The near-sighted focus on calcium supplements to combat osteoporosis- at least until now- clearly shows that the medical establishment needs to open their eyes and see the greater picture. Just because bones are made up mostly of calcium, doesn’t mean that taking any calcium supplement will do the trick. In fact, it can do more harm than good!
Our biology is profoundly complex. While I commend curiosity and the desire to discover new and better health solutions, researchers should not lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. The time has come for mainstream medicine to start using common sense and to …
Get Back Go Basics
If you’re following the Save Our Bones Program, you already know that the best source of organic calcium is found in everyday foods. You’re already eating the Foundation Foods that contain bone-smart minerals and vitamins. Delicious foods like broccoli, collard greens, and almonds… all excellent sources of calcium. And of course, they carry no health risks whatsoever.
In fact, here’s a calcium rich recipe that I’m sure you’ll love.
Light ‘N Tasty Ginger Veggies
Bring the rainbow to your table with this colorful and appetizing recipe.
Yields 4 Servings
105 mg of calcium per serving
- 2 pounds broccoli, chopped
- ½ cup red and/or yellow bell peppers, chopped
- ½ tablespoon extra-light olive oil
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey, liquefied
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Steam broccoli and peppers lightly until tender-crisp and set aside.
- Bring oil to medium heat in a saucepan. Pour in orange juice, soy sauce, honey, and ginger. Let simmer for about a minute.
- Toss in broccoli and peppers and stir until well coated. Let simmer for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
1 Mark J Bolland, P Alan Barber, Robert N Doughty, Barbara Mason, Anne Horne, Ruth Ames, Gregory D Gamble, Andrew Grey, Ian R Reid. “Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomized controlled trial.” British Medical Journal. 2008:394405257, January 2008.
2 Judith Hsia, MD; Gerardo Heiss, MD, PhD; Hong Ren, MS; Matthew Allison, MD, MPH; Nancy C. Dolan, MD; Philip Greenland, MD; Susan R. Heckbert, MD, PhD; Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH; JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH; Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH; Maurizio Trevisan, PhD. “Calcium/Vitamin D Supplementation and Cardiovascular Events.” Circulation. 2007;115:846-854.
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