Review says getting mineral from food is safer, but expertdisagrees. By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter WEDNESDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Many older Americans takecalcium supplements to prevent bone loss, but they may besignificantly increasing their risk for a heart attack, a new studysuggests. These supplements do not help prevent heart attacks or stroke assome previous research has suggested, the study authors say. Butdietary calcium might reduce the risk, they noted. "While a moderately high intake of calcium from diet may go alongwith a lower risk of heart attack, this is not true forsupplementary calcium intake," said lead researcher SabineRohrmann, from the division of cancer epidemiology and preventionat the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at theUniversity of Zurich in Switzerland. |
"Instead of taking calcium supplements, men and women who want toincrease their calcium intake should rely on foods, such as low-fatdairy products or mineral water, [that are] rich in calcium," shesaid. The report was published online May 23 in the journal Heart . For the study, Rohrmann's group collected data on nearly 24,000people from Heidelberg, Germany, who took part in the EuropeanProspective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. All of the participants were between the ages of 35 and 64 whenthey joined the study between 1994 and 1998.
Researchers asked them about their diet and whether they tookvitamin and/or mineral supplements. Over an average 11 years of follow-up, there were 354 heartattacks, 260 strokes and 267 deaths from cardiovascular causesamong all participants, the researchers noted. Participants whose calcium intake from all sources was moderate --820 milligrams (mg) a day -- had a lower risk of heart attack thanthose whose intake was less, the investigators found. However, those whose intake was more than 1,100 mg did not have asubstantially lower risk. In addition, there was no amount at whichcalcium was tied to a decreased risk of stroke.
When Rohrmann's team looked specifically at calcium supplements,they found an 86 percent increase in heart attacks among people whotook them regularly compared to those who didn't take anysupplements. However, Dr. Robert Recker, director of the Osteoporosis ResearchCenter at Creighton University and president of the NationalOsteoporosis Foundation, disagreed with the results. "I am doubtful of these findings," he said.
"It's hard tounderstand why calcium in the diet can reduce the risk of heartattack, but supplements increase the risk." Recker said he thinks the findings could reflect a bias where thosealready at risk for heart attacks took supplements in hopes ofreducing the risk, but some had heart attacks nonetheless. Because the mechanism can't be described, the findings may beflawed, he noted. Recker added that calcium supplements do prevent a significantnumber of fractures. "In the United States, the incidence offractures from osteoporosis is greater than the combined incidenceof heart disease, heart attack and stroke," he said.
He recommended taking a calcium supplement only if you aren'tgetting enough calcium from your diet. If you don't eat a lot ofdairy products, Recker advised taking two separate doses of 500 mgof calcium a day. But Dr. Ian Reid, a professor of medicine and endocrinology at theUniversity of Auckland in New Zealand and author of an accompanyingjournal editorial, said the findings are similar to his own study. "This study provides confirmatory evidence that calcium taken assupplements appears to increase the risk of heart attacks; whereashaving a diet that has some calcium-rich foods doesn't seem toconfer the same risk," he said.
Reid suggested that high doses of calcium might damage the walls ofblood vessels, which leads to heart attacks. "Most people should not be taking calcium supplements," he said."You should get the calcium you need from your diet rather thantaking supplements." In terms of reducing fractures, Reid said that based on his study,which appeared online in the journal BMJ in July 2010, calcium supplements may reduce fractures 10 percent,but can increase the risk of heart attacks 25 percent. He said his study showed that if 1,000 people are given calcium forfive years, there will be 26 fractures prevented but there willalso be 14 heart attacks, 10 strokes and 13 deaths. Commenting on the new study, Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor ofcardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that"it has been hypothesized that abrupt changes in concentrations ofcalcium in the blood with calcium supplementation might becontributing to adverse cardiovascular effects." So, he stated, "while further studies are needed, calciumsupplements should be used only in those where the potentialbenefits outweigh the potential risks." While the study found an association between calcium intake andheart attacks, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
More information For more about calcium supplements, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health . SOURCES: Sabine Rohrmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor, cancerepidemiology and prevention division, Institute of Social andPreventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland; Ian Reid,M.D., faculty of medical and health sciences, University ofAuckland, New Zealand; Robert R. Recker, M.D., professor, medicine,director, Osteoporosis Research Center, Creighton University,Omaha, Neb., and president, National Osteoporosis Foundation; GreggC. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California,Los Angeles; May 23, 2012, Heart , online Copyright © 2012 HealthDay.
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