If you've watched the news or read the headlines over the past few days, I’m sure you have heard of the recent study on the possible risks of calcium supplements, specifically relating to heart attack risk. Let’s first look at the basis of the study:
In the study, researchers combined data from 11 clinical trials in which patients were randomly assigned to receive calcium supplements or placebo pills. In all, the trials included nearly 12,000 people who were followed for an average of about four years. Most were women, and the average age was 72. About 2.7 percent of the participants taking calcium had heart attacks during the trials, compared with 2.2 percent of those taking a placebo. This translated into an increased risk of between 27 percent and 31 percent, depending on how the researchers analyzed the data. Older people who take at least 500 milligrams of calcium daily are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who take no calcium at all, the study estimates. But people taking calcium supplements should not stop without consulting their doctor, says John Baron, M.D., a professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and a co-author of the study. More research is needed to confirm and clarify the results, he says.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition has taken a stand on the situation. “Most people do not get enough calcium from diet alone, and this is where a calcium supplement can be important to consumers of all ages,” said Andrew Shao, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition. “The results from this meta-analysis do not undermine the value calcium supplements offer to those concerned with maintaining or increasing bone density, as years of research shows these products do.” He also points out the flaws of the study, “The authors characterize these findings as though all of the selected studies suggest increased risk. In fact, the opposite is true: most of the studies do not suggest increased risk,” says Dr. Shao.
I think it is important to also point out that this study was done on calcium supplementation alone, without vitamin D. It is well known that vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is essential to help your body absorb calcium. In fact, most of our Swanson calcium supplements contain vitamin D. While calcium and bone health go hand-in-hand, when taken together, calcium and vitamin D not only promote strong bones, they are actually shown to help support cardiovascular health as well.
All in all, natural health supplements are not a one-size-fits-all industry. It is important to discuss your personal needs with your health care provider. While negative press continues to challenge the natural health world, it can’t change the fact that vitamin and mineral supplements are backed with years of solid scientific research.