Should you be taking that calcium supplement?

We all hate it when medical studies give conflicting results.  Yet that is exactly the case when it comes to taking a calcium supplement.

Many patients take a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis in the hopes of avoiding future fractures.  But does the benefit of taking calcium outweigh the risk?

This question came up after a study from New Zealand found an increased risk of heart attacks when calcium supplements were taken.  The risk of having a heart attack was stated to be increased by about 30%.

But then last summer, a study published in Osteoporosis International, including 36,282 women, found NO increased risk of heart attacks, and found a 35% reduced risk of hip fractures!

Then ANOTHER study in the journal JAMA found that only MEN who take calcium have an increased risk of heart attack, but not women, but that the risk was only for men who smoke.

The theory was that when you take calcium as a pill, it enters the blood stream all at one time, and deposits calcium in the arteries, unlike taking calcium through food in our diet.

So what’s a patient to do?  The best advice at this time appears to be to be sure to get plenty of calcium in the diet, through sources such as milk, yogurt, kale, cheese, and almonds.  We also know that exercise such as walking and weight lifting can strengthen bones.

Women who high risk of osteoporosis or have broken bones should still consider taking calcium and should discuss their risk with their doctors.

In the meantime, we will wait for future studies to hopefully clear up the confusion around calcium.


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