Overdosing on calcium supplements can increase risk of heart attacks

The popular assumption that calcium supplements are an effective means of building strong bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis, particularly in women, may have led to an overuse of the nutrient that could increase the risk of heart attack. According to the data from a recent study conducted by Swiss and German researchers, calcium can contribute to the risk of myocardial infarction (MI) and other heart problems.

Previous studies have suggested that dietary calcium has a positive effect in reducing the risk of medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension, but the new research suggests that increased calcium intake does not significantly improve cardiovascular health and may in fact be detrimental if taken in ‘unnatural’ amounts.

Approximately 24,000 Europeans between the ages of 35 and 64 were included in the study over a period of about 11 years; none had any cardiovascular problems when first recruited. During the course of evaluations, it was found that those taking vitamin and mineral supplements including calcium were at an 86% higher risk of heart attack than those taking no supplements. The risk increased by 139% for those taking calcium supplements only.

Based on their findings from four groups of participants with varying dietary intake of calcium, the researchers reported that those in the next to highest intake group were at a 30% reduced risk of heart attack than those with the lowest intake. However, the risk increased significantly in those taking supplements in addition to ‘normal’ dietary amounts of calcium.

The initial conclusions from this study basically suggest that supplementary calcium taken in daily doses is not necessary or desirable for those who are obtaining calcium from their regular diet, as long as that provides sufficient quantities. Calcium is a vital nutrient but it should be used with caution when taken as a supplement.