Calcium and Bone: Are Calcium Supplements Risky?
Calcium supplements may not be all they are boned up to be.
We do it routinely. Wake up, take our calcium because it’s good for our bones, and think we are really doing ourselves a health favor. Women across the country are looking to be proactive about preventing osteoporosis, and so we dose ourselves daily.
According to most physicians, they recommend 1,200mg of calcium daily. As it turns out, this could be risky business.
In a recent study in New Zealand, researchers found that people who took calcium supplements that contained at least 500mg of calcium each day had a 30% percent increased risk for heart attack, no matter what type or form of calcium supplement they were taking.
This is staggering, considering the amount of women trying to build their bones who are now also increasing their risk of cardiovascular events. But How?
Some types of calcium appear to be good for your bones, but tough on your heart and blood vessels. The researchers proposed that the calcium supplements caused higher blood coagulability, which means thicker blood. Thicker blood is more difficult to pump through your veins and arteries, and puts more stress on your heart. A stressed heart means a higher cardiovascular risk.
The buck doesn’t stop there. Calcium supplements may also decrease the ability of blood vessels to expand and contract as they are supposed it. They become hardened, as the calcium builds up on the lining and wall of your veins and arteries. So you get harder bones, but also harder blood vessels.
So what can we do? Risk more fractures? Harden our arteries? Fortunately there is a way to reduce the risk of fractures while also avoiding the risk of stiff blood vessels.
The answer lies in choosing dietary calcium. This is in a mineral form that is naturally present in foods and dairy products. And luckily, it does not correlate with any type of increased cardiovascular risk.
Build your bones with foods like cheese, milk, yogurt, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish. If your goal is to get 1,000mg of calcium each day, all you have to do is take in 3 servings of dairy and soy, and you are almost there.
8 oz milk: 300mg calcium
1 cup lowfat yogurt: 450mg calcium
1 oz of cheddar cheese: 200mg calcium
1 cup spinach: 240mg calcium
The good news about getting your calcium from foods is that you also dramatically reduce the likelihood of getting a kidney stone, which can often be formed by taking calcium from supplements. This is good news because eating a little more lowfat cheese each day instead of popping a pill sounds good to most of us!
The calcium question goes even further. How much is too much.
How much is too much when it comes to calcium?
Research done in Sweden on Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation discovered that even when it comes to bone health, more is not better with regards to calcium intake. They looked at the relationship between calcium intake and risk for fractures as well as overall bone health.
Only women who had below 750mg daily of calcium had an increased occurrence of fractures. And if they started taking supplements, it did not help build their bones. Researchers also investigated what happens when the pendulum swings too far the other way in women who took more than the recommended amount.
Women who took above 1,100mg per day of calcium also had a slight increased risk for hip fracture. As with most everything, it appears that moderation is the key. Researchers felt that more is not better for calcium, and that the average woman already gets about 700mg daily of calcium, so they only lack about 500mg daily. This the upper limit of the amount of calcium you could add to your day from supplements.
Additionally, Vitamin D appeared to have no real influence on the risks of taking too little or too much calcium.
The problem with a blanket recommendation to supplement with 1,200mg of calcium each day is that it doesn’t count the calcium that you are already getting from foods. This can lead to a very high total daily intake. More is not better when it comes to calcium supplementation.
So instead of pouring a glass of water and reaching for the white pill each morning, pour yourself a glass of milk instead, or have some cheese, or make it a spinach salad today. Your bones, as well as your heart, will thank you for it.
Join the Health Discussion. Become a Fan on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or Watch Dr Cederquist on YouTube.