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Calcium side effects – new BMJ study links calcium supplements to heart attacks, or does it?
In a study published by BMJ on 29th July 2010, a team of researchers delivered their results on calcium ‘side effects’. The study found a link between calcium supplementation and heart attacks (and heart strokes).
In the US and across the globe, doctors prescribe millions of post-menopausal women calcium supplements as a protective measure against the common bone disease osteoporosis. However, the value of these pills have recently come under doubt, as several studies have pointed to the fact that such supplements provide little benefit. They clearly do increase bone density, but they do little to reduce the risk of bone fractures, which is the main concern of older women.
This new study goes even further, and suggests that not only are supplements of little benefit, but that they can even be detrimental to health, and can increase the risk of heart attacks (and heart strokes) by nearly 30%. The study involved 11 controlled trials of more than 12,000 patients.
It should be noted that these results refer to calcium supplements, and not to calcium which is naturally ingested in food.
The researchers noted that as calcium supplements are so popular, the increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease could have a significant impact on the population as a whole. They recommended that a review of the management of osteoporosis is conducted, but also noted that further research is required, as no one knows how and why calcium supplements are increasing the risk of heart attacks.
However, the cardiologist John Claland from York Medical School immediately countered these claims, saying that whilst the results give cause for concern, they are far from convincing.
He explained that heart attacks are very serious, so along with an increase in heart attacks, you would expect to see a general increase in mortality amongst supplement users.
A spokeswoman for the American Heart Association agreed with the UK cardiologist, saying that, if this association is real, it is difficult to fathom how calcium supplements could increase the heart attack risk, but not the stroke risk.
In any case, menopausal women or people with osteoporosis should be prescribed specific medications, and not supplements. In addition, women who eat a large amount of low-fat dairy products are already getting a lot of calcium in their diets, and supplementation in such cases is not required.
So the results of a new study are released, and immediately respected doctors have cast doubt on its value. In the meantime, anyone taking calcium supplements should stay on top of any new studies that are being done in the field, and not over do it with their calcium supplements.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
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