Since 2003 over half of the population have been taking them and actually since 1988 it has jumped from 28% to 61% in women over 60. Now experts are cautioning people about taking the supplements at all, instead getting their calcium from dietary sources such as dairy, sardines, salmon and spinach.
There, of course, is much debate going on regarding this latest study. Questions have arisen such as what metabolic risk factors did this population that was studied have? Were there existing calcium deposits in the coronary arteries as well as levels of inflammatory mediators like c-reactive protein?
Dr. Phil Ragno, the director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Winthrop Hospital in Long Island, N.Y. believes that supplements should be treated like any other medication and to discuss with their doctors what they are taking and whether or not it has an effect on their body. He did acknowledge that people with calcium deficiencies or bone disorders should continue taking their supplements, but only under the supervision of a clinician. And because getting calcium from dietary sources has not been linked to increased cardiovascular risk, he recommends getting calcium from our diets.
Health and nutrition experts believe these reports are causing unnecessary concern. There have been volumes of current and historical sound scientific and medical data that supports supplemental calcium. In the Heart report, only 15 of studies were selected from the hundreds available. Were confounding risk factors that would affect results such as smoking, diabetes or hypertension taken into consideration?
Seven of the 15 studies had no data or incomplete data on cardiovascular outcomes and only 5 of the 15 studies showed an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes ~ (the authors suggested that the risk was in all 15 of the studies). The age of the participants were 70-79 years old which places them at a higher risk for chronic kidney disease, leading to calcification of the arteries and the subsequent increase in mortality.
The biggest factor was that the trials did not include calcium used in combination with vitamin D. The Women’s Health Initiative, which studied thousands of participants, found that calcium plus vitamin D had no effect on the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Also of concern is the risk that comes with bisphosphonates, widely prescribed to treat osteoporosis and prevent fractures. Apparently these have now been linked to a rare atypical thigh bone fracture. (See my past post regarding these drugs such as Fosamax and Boniva) With over 150 million prescriptions dispensed between 2006 and 2009, the Food and Drug Administration warned in the New England Journal of Medicine May 9 about these risks and that the duration of taking these drugs should be shortened.
With 10 million Americans afflicted with osteoporosis and another 34 million at risk for it, we definitely need to work on our strategies for preventing bone thinning. Eating a diet that is rich in calcium is certainly an option as well as including exercise into our daily routine. The health and nutrition experts believe that consumers should continue to take calcium supplements to help build and maintain strong bones. Of course choosing those that are scientifically-sound that provide a combination of calcium, vitamin D and other bone health nutrients known to support health is recommended.
I take a calcium supplement that has clinically proven absorption as I know for the body to even use calcium to build and maintain strong bones, calcium must first be absorbed. Ask me about it. Are you sure you are taking enough Vitamin D? Go to this site and check out the Vitamin D Quiz to learn more.