Calcium and Heart Disease; What’s the Real Story?

Sorry if I’m a little late on getting to this one, but I get to the studies as soon as I can.  When this study was released, there was quite a bit of hubub about calcium supplementation increasing the risk of heart disease.

In overview, this particular study found that, in men who took calcium supplements, there was a 20% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular causes. On the surface, this sounds a little scary and is vaguely reminiscent of the vitamin E and heart disease controversy, which I have reviewed in a previous blog post that can be read by clicking here.

It is likely that, as a result of this study, many doctors will tell their male (and possibly female) patients to stop taking calcium supplements. As is usually the case, this movement by physicians is likely to confuse patients and reinforce the mantra that what is “healthy” keeps changing. Here’s the problem…

We shouldn’t have been recommending calcium supplements anyway to our patients.

What?? According to the TUMS commercials, I need the extra calcium! And I need to wash down the calcium supplements with a tall glass of milk for healthy bones.

News flash: The research does NOT support the use of calcium supplements to lower your risk of fractures above and beyond what you will get from a good quality diet. This means that you probably should not have been taking calcium in the first place, making the results of this study moot. Just in case you think I’m crazy, here’s a few studies to back up this position. Note that some of these are older–this is not new information:

You get the point.

Ok. So calcium supplementation isn’t going to help your bones, but it’s not going to hurt, right? Wrong. An important transporter needed for healthy heart function requires both magnesium and calcium. With higher levels of calcium that are NOT backed up by comparable levels of magnesium (a very common mineral deficiency), heart rhythm problems may occur. Thus, the supplementation of lower quality forms of calcium that do not have good quality magnesium as well, could potentially lead to cardiac problems if the diet is magnesium deficient.

The bottom line?  Skip the calcium supplements.  Instead, opt for solid vitamin D supplementation and a good quality diet loaded with seeds and green leafies to make sure the calcium is there for your body to absorb.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.