Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Calcium supplements or not? That is the question.

Did you catch on the news last week the reports of a new study that suggests taking calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attacks.  This one caught my eye because I have family members that take calcium supplements daily.

Gynecologists have suggested for as long as I can remember that post-menopausal women should take calcium supplements to build stronger bones and ward off osteoporosis.  My own mother and mother-in-law take calcium supplements daily and my doctor has even suggested I take them and I'm no where near post-menopausal yet. 

I haven't taken calcium supplements yet because I drink a LOT of milk.  And I love all dairy products.  I'm quite confident that I consume enough calcium in a day.  But I know I'm not the norm.

As I understand it, the recent study followed about 24,000 German men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 for 11 years.  The results showed that those of them who took calcium supplements regularly were 86 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

The study also suggested that taking the chewable, tasty, gummy-like supplements were no replacement for calcium-rich natural foods.

Calcium is a very important mineral to our bodies.  According to the National Institutes of Health,
"The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness.The body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part. In addition, calcium is used to help blood vessels move blood throughout the body and to help release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body."
The recommended amount of daily calcium for adults 19-50 is 1,000 milligrams while women over 50 should get 1,200 milligrams daily.

Milk, yogurt and cheese are the main sources of calcium for most people in the U.S. but there's several other natural calcium-rich foods like kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage.  Canned sardines and salmon are rich in calcium as well, and we get a significant amount of calcium from grains (bread, pastas and unfortified cereal) because we eat them in larger quantities. 

Our bodies obviously need an adequate dose of calcium daily, but this study raises some major concern for those taking calcium supplements.  The best description that I heard on TV news reports as to why calcium supplements can be bad for the heart was one on CBS.  The cardiologist explained that when a calcium pill is taken that calcium actually floods our arteries which can cause plaque build-up whereas when we eat calcium-rich foods like broccoli, that our body absorbs calcium much slower and plaque formation does not occur.

She suggested that "maybe we shouldn't be taking calcium supplements" that "maybe it should all come from the diet."  For me...that's my plan of attack.

Now, I'm not in any way suggesting that every woman should stop taking calcium supplements today.  Every person is different, has a different medical history, absorbs vitamins differently, but I do believe that every woman should discuss this the study in detail with her doctor. 

1 comment:

  1. Calcium supplements are intended to replace the lacking of calcium from our body. That being said, calcium supplements cannot replace dietary calcium. Taking calcium supplements once or twice a day is not natural. I would recommend talking with your doctor first to know how much calcium you should take daily.

    Yulanda Mccargo