Archive for September 14th, 2010

Should you take calcium, vitamin D, or a combination of the two? Physicians often advise women to take supplements to manage or prevent osteoporosis. Additional calcium, however, only slightly decreases risks for fractures.

 Studies have suggested higher calcium intake from supplements protects against vascular disease. More recent research, however, indicates that vascular disease worsens and deaths increase, especially among those with kidney and heart disease. A study published in a 2010 British Medical Journal reported higher incidences of myocardial infarction (heart attacks) when participants took increased amounts of calcium without added vitamin D. Results with vitamin D remained unknown.  Five similar studies reported results when participants with a mean age of forty took 500 milligrams of calcium per day or a placebo. For those given calcium, cardiovascular problems increased by about thirty percent regardless of age, sex, or type of calcium supplement. These risks occurred in less than five years.

 Some clinicians recommended patients with osteoporosis avoid additional calcium unless managed with other therapies. But, they emphasized the need for more research to determine the effect of calcium when used with other treatments. Dr. John Schindler of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center maintained that risks from added calcium outweighed benefits, especially among older people.

Should you cease taking calcium? Like much research in the field of medicine and nutrition, the verdict seems to be pending. Researchers emphasized consulting your doctor to determine if you should continue taking calcium supplements. Schindler noted that consuming foods high in calcium might be sufficient to ward off risks of osteoporosis. Excellent food source of calcium include: milk, milk products, figs, apricots, sardines, and other foods.

Source:  Fran Lowry. From Heartwire, “Calcium Supplements Boost Heart-Attack Risk: Meta-Analysis.” http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle 726859

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