Calcium supplements increase heart attack risk

Posted on: 30 July 2010 by Editor at Large

Unnecessary dietary supplements put lives at risk, warns new study.

Are you taking calcium supplements to strengthen your bones? They may be completely unnecessary. What’s more, you could be putting yourself at greater risk of a heart attack.

These are the findings of a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) carried out by Dr Alison Avenell, from the University of Aberdeen with colleagues in New Zealand and the US.

The study of 12,000 men and women over 40 taking calcium tablets of 500mg or more a day, shows that people who took the supplements were 30 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t.

What’s more, evidence from the trials also suggested that calcium supplements – taken by people who suffer from osteoporosis - were not very effective at preventing bone fractures.

Specialists in osteoporosis argue that people should be able to get all the calcium they need from their diet.

"If you get all of the calcium that you need from your diet and adequate vitamin D from exposure to sunshine, then a supplement will not be necessary."

Calcium in the diet is safe. The Food Standards Agency recommends adults have 700mg of calcium a day from milk, cheese and green vegetables. According to the research, those who had a calcium-rich diet were at no increased risk of heart attacks.

The reasons given for the increased heart attack risk are not clear, but there is speculation that excess calcium in the bloodstream could cause hardening of the arteries.

People taking supplements are advised to consult their GP.

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