Could Your Calcium Supplements be Giving You Heart Disease?

12523383 - food sources of calciumAccording to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 43% of Americans consume calcium supplements daily without much thought as to whether there are side effects. Additionally, half of all women over age 60 take these supplements to prevent or treat osteoporosis. It seems to be a common mistake for Americans to believe that more is always better when it comes to health. However, this kind of thinking is ignorant at best and detrimental at worst, as the body relies on a fine balance of nutrients to keep it going.

Now, a new study, published on October 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, proves that  calcium supplements could be terrible for your heart health.

For the study, the team drew from data of over a decade of medical tests from a U.S. government-funded study on heart disease. Participants numbered over 2700 adults and the age range was 45-85 years old. The volunteers filled out questionnaires on their daily diet, including supplements. CT scans were done on each patient to measure the level of calcification in their arteries, as this calcification is known to be a high risk factor in heart disease.

The data showed that those who were in the top 20% of calcium intake from any source had up to a 27% percent lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who were in the lowest 20% of calcium intake. This seemed positive, until the team further divided out the results according to the type of calcium intake – whether it was from calcium supplements or from food sources.

What the researchers found was surprising. Those who took calcium supplements had a big increase in risk for heart disease and plaque buildup in their arteries, compared to those who got their calcium from food sources. This is significant as it points to the potential damage that calcium supplements can do when not monitored carefully.

On the flipside, it seems that foods that are naturally rich in calcium such as many vegetables, some fruit such as citrus fruit, and dairy products may help protect the heart from heart disease.

Study co-author John Anderson, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina said, There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier. It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body is unable to process,

So eat green vegetables to wild abandon and enjoy your dairy products, but before taking those over-the-counter calcium supplements, be sure to check with your doctor first.