Calcium pills double stroke risk

Calcium pills double stroke risk

Older people who regularly take calcium supplements to strengthen bones and prevent fractures may actually be increasing their risk of having a heart attack, a new study has claimed.

However, experts said it was “irresponsible” to advise people with osteoporosis not to take supplements “on the basis of one flawed study”.

Millions of people worldwide have been prescribed to take calcium pills daily as a safe way to help fight osteoporosis.

But researchers from the University of Zurich and German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg claimed their study adds to mounting evidence that the supplements are “not safe or particularly effective”.

For their study, the researchers followed 23,980 people for 11 years and found that those taking calcium pills roughly doubled the risk of having a heart attack.

There were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take any supplements at all. However, people taking calcium supplements were 86 per cent more likely to have had a heart attack during the study.

Detailing their findings in the journal Heart, the team said heart attack risk “might be substantially increased by taking calcium supplements”.

The pills “should be taken with caution”, they concluded, as they raise the annual risk of a heart attack from about one in 700 people to one in 350, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Instead, people should eat more calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and green, leafy vegetables, they suggested.

The new findings are at odds with Department of Health in UK which says “taking 1,500mg or less of calcium supplements is unlikely to cause any harm”. It only warns: “Taking high doses of calcium could lead to stomach pain and diarrhoea.” Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Health Supplements Information Service also said: “Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it’s irresponsible for scientists to advise that women cut out calcium supplements on the basis of one flawed survey, particularly when the link between calcium, vitamin D and bone health is endorsed by the European Food Safety Authority.”

She claimed that the study lacked information on calcium doses and its results could have been skewed by differences between participants underlying health.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and adults need about 700mg a day. Though it’s best to get it through food but some people find this difficult. Taking it in pill form has become very popular — either alone, in combination with magnesium or vitamin D, or as part of a multi-vitamin.

However, commenting on the study two leading researchers warned: “The safety of calcium supplements is now coming under considerable scrutiny.”

They said that there is strong evidence that taking pill calcium floods the blood with the mineral, leading to hardening of the arteries and raising heart attack risk.

Dr Mark Bolland and Prof Ian Reid of Auckland University in New Zealand said the study “reinforce the conclusions” of previous research.

A 2010 study covering 12,000 people had found supplements raised the risk by a third, while a 2011 study of 28,000 people found the pills raised heart attacks by over a quarter.

“The evidence is steadily mounting for a real cardiovascular adverse effect from the use of calcium supplements,” the researchers wrote.

Promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy, they added.

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