There is a lot of talk in the news lately about calcium supplements and whether or not people should any longer take calcium supplements.
In the February 4, 2013 issue of JAMA: Internal Medicine a study was published about the dangers of calcium supplements for men, reporting that men taking more than 1500 mg of calcium daily in the form of supplements were at increased risk for cardiovascular disease death. Compared with individuals who took no calcium, men who consumed 1000 mg or more of supplemental calcium per day had a significant 20% increased risk of cardiovascular death.
While this study did not demonstrate the same risks for women, the authors did state that they could not rule out the possibility that supplemental calcium intake may be associated with cardiovascular mortality in women.
Now, a new study published in the BMJ (online, February 13, 2013) suggests that women may indeed be vulnerable to complications from high doses of calcium in supplements. In this most recent review of data that has been collected, investigators analyzed data from 61,443 Swedish women who were followed for an average of 19 years. (They were born between 1914 and 1948.)
Over the nearly two decades they were tracked, about 12,000 women died (17%). One third of the deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease. Women who consumed more than 1,400 mg of calcium from their diets had approximately 50% higher risk of cardiovascular disease death than women who consumed 600 to 1000 mg of calcium from their food. The Swedish researchers did NOT find any increased risk of death when daily dietary calcium intake ranged between 600 mg and 1,400 mg. The results of this analysis demonstrated that women who added in calcium supplements (as pills) on top of dietary calcium (from food), the risk of death from cardiovascular disease jumped dramatically.
The best source of calcium is a diet that consists of the consumption of calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy, beans, and green leafy vegetables. That could well be the sweet spot. A glass of milk, a carton of low-fat (unsweetened) yogurt and lots of dark green leafy vegetables are likely to accomplish this goal.
So what should you do? Well, if you are currently taking a calcium supplement due to medical advice that you are at risk for osteoporosis, you should not stop taking the calcium supplement until you discuss that with your doctor or pharmacist. Each person’s risk must be evaluated individually.
Also, keep in mind, there are other supplements that are essential for bone health that should be considered as well. Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K2 is also essential for healthy bones, normal cell formation and maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system. It is essential to maintain healthy vitamin D levels throughout all stages of life, from fetal development to old age. Vitamin D helps protect a number of important systems in the body, including healthy bones, immunity, and cardiovascular function. Combining vitamins D and K may provide even better protection of these systems. One study in postmenopausal women found a combination of minerals with vitamins D and K maintained healthy artery elasticity, compared to two other groups of women who received either minerals with vitamin D but not K, or placebo.
Another supplement that may be considered for those concerned about osteoporosis is strontium. Strontium is a trace element found in seawater and soil. The main dietary source of strontium is seafood. Foods with lesser amounts of strontium include whole milk, wheat bran, meat, poultry, and root vegetables. A 2004 study from New England Journal of Medicine suggests strontium ranelate may be protective for women with osteoporosis. In the three-year study of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, strontium ranelate increased bone density in the hip and spine and reduced the risk of fracturing a vertebra by 41% compared to placebo. A longer-term study published by the same group in 2009 showed strontium ranelate, compared to placebo, reduced the risk of vertebral fractures by 33% over four years.
These products are available by OrthoMolecular Products and can be recommended by the pharmacist and purchased at Greentree Pharmacy.
Best In Health,
Paul Hueseman, PharmD
301 S. Kirkwood Rd.
Kirkwood, MO 63122