Calcium supplements don't raise women's heart risks, study says

May 30, 2014 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Calcium supplements don't raise women's heart risks, study says
But it's better to get this essential mineral from your diet, experts say.

(HealthDay)—In the wake of concerns that calcium supplements increase the risk for heart attack or stroke, a large, new U.S. study offers women and their doctors some reassurance.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found, in a study of more than 74,000 , that these supplements are safe in terms of heart health.

Millions of women take in an attempt to boost bone strength, especially after menopause when the risk of fractures increases. This is so even though experts generally recommend that calcium come from diet rather than supplements.

"One study found that more than 60 percent of women 60 and over were taking calcium supplements," said lead researcher Dr. Julie Paik of the hospital's Channing Division of Network Medicine.

Some recent research has linked with heart disease. Such studies suggested the daily supplements may increase calcification of the arteries and veins, which could raise the risk of heart attack.

This new study found no raised risk of heart attack or stroke among women taking calcium supplements during 24 years of follow-up. Calcium supplementation was actually associated with lower risk of , the researchers said.

However, the medical community is still uncertain of the effects of calcium supplements in women, Paik added.

"Our study adds to the existing body of evidence supporting that calcium supplements do not increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in women," she said.

Women in the study who took calcium supplements exercised more, smoked less and ate less trans fat than women who did not take supplements, the researchers noted.

Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, director of the cardiac health program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said the study doesn't prove that supplements prevent heart attacks or stroke, because those other positive behaviors might have affected the women's health.

What it does show is that in women who already engage in healthy behaviors, calcium supplements didn't harm them, she said.

The report was published online in the May issue of Osteoporosis International.

Noting that all women are different, Paik said patients should talk with their doctor about whether taking calcium supplements is right for them.

Also, more studies are needed to further understand the effects of calcium supplements on the heart and arteries, she said.

McLaughlin believes in eating calcium-rich foods, such as milk, cheese, tofu, rice milk, salmon, sardines, broccoli, kale and almonds before relying on supplements.

For the study, Paik and colleagues collected data on 74,245 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study. Calcium supplement use was assessed every four years.

During 24 years of follow-up, there were 2,709 heart attacks and 1,856 strokes.

After adjusting for heart-risk factors such as age, body mass index and , there was no significant difference in the rate of or stroke between women who took more than 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and those who took none. The results were similar when the researchers analyzed nonsmokers, women without high blood pressure and those who exercised regularly.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said it's important that women balance the calcium they get from their diet and supplements, she said. "Many women don't get enough calcium in their diet," she acknowledged.

Women need about 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. She recommends that all or most of that calcium come from food intake. "I think it's always better for us to get our nutrients from food, because that forces us to eat healthier," she said.

Foods rich in calcium include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, green, leafy vegetables, sardines and salmon, and calcium-enriched foods such as cereals and fruit juices.

Whether calcium supplements do improve bone density of postmenopausal women isn't agreed upon. Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts, said not enough evidence exists for the task force to recommend that take calcium supplements and vitamin D to prevent fractures.

Explore further: Calcium supplements not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women

More information: For more information on calcium supplements, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Related Stories

Calcium supplements not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women

May 9, 2014
Calcium supplements are widely taken by women for bone health. Previous studies have suggested that calcium supplements may increase risk of cardiovascular disease, but the data has been inconsistent. A new study by researchers ...

Calcium supplements linked to longer lifespans in women

May 22, 2013
Taking a calcium supplement of up to 1,000 mg per day can help women live longer, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Making sense of conflicting advice on calcium intake

October 17, 2013
In recent years, studies have reported inconsistent findings regarding whether calcium supplements used to prevent fractures increase the risk of heart attack.

Calcium and vitamin D improve cholesterol in postmenopausal women

March 5, 2014
Calcium and vitamin D supplements after menopause can improve women's cholesterol profiles. And much of that effect is tied to raising vitamin D levels, finds a new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) just published ...

Vitamin D alone does little to protect bone health in postmenopausal women

September 24, 2013
While calcium supplements noticeably improved bone health in postmenopausal women, vitamin D supplements did not reduce bone turnover, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal ...

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.