Will my calcium supplement give me a heart attack?
By Angela Hunt BSc. ND
Hamilton Naturopathic Doctor
Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that calcium supplementation could increase the chances of having a heart attack in post-menopausal women. This was alarming news for the millions of women who supplement with calcium in order to protect themselves from osteoporosis. Understanding the details of this research will help explain how you can get calcium’s bone strengthening benefits but avoid its heart hurting risks. Firstly, women appear only to be at this increased risk of a heart attack when they were taking more than 1000mg of calcium citrate a day and taking the supplement away from food. It is also important to note that when taking vitamin D with calcium no risk of heart attacks was observed, suggesting vitamin D was able to bring cardio-protective benefits. Interestingly, high amounts of dietary calcium did not appear to increases participants heart attack risk, probably because different absorption pathways and blood levels.
So what does all this mean? It means that you’re probably safe if you are taking around 800 mg/day of calcium with food and vitamin D. If you are already at high risk for heart disease then perhaps focusing on getting your calcium from your diet would be a better option. Remember that this does not necessarily mean increasing dairy products, since calcium is also found in high amounts in other foods like kale, broccoli, almonds and figs. When deciding the best way to get your calcium, talk to your health provider since your ideal calcium supplementation amount will depend on dietary intake, bone density and based on this research also your heart health status.
Bolland MJ, et al. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online July 29 2010.
Meier C, Kränzlin ME. Calcium supplementation, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Swiss Med Wkly. 2011 Aug 31