Calcium pills 'double heart attack risk'

Calcium supplements taken by millions people every day can double the risk of heart attacks,
according to a study, while researchers say they do little to protect bones against fractures.
By Stephen Adams

Despite the link to heart problems, calcium pills are important for those at risk of osteoporosis Recommended by government advisers as a safe way to help fight osteoporosis, they are taken by up to 5m people in Britain.

But researchers say a new study adds to mounting evidence that the supplements are"not safe or particularly effective".

The latest study, which followed 24,000 middle-aged and elderly Germans for 11 years, found taking calcium pills roughly doubled the risk of having a heart attack.

Writing today in the journal Heart, German and Swiss academics find that heart attack risk "might be substantially increased by taking calcium supplements".

They conclude the pills "should be taken with caution" because they raise the annual risk of a heart attack from about one in 700 people to one in 350.

The scientists' findings are at odds with Department of Health advice, published on the NHS Choices website, that "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."

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) also recommends them for women who need treatment for osteoporosis, unless they already get enough calcium from their diet.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and adults need about 700mg a day. Clinicians agree it is 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. Pills often contain 500mg calcium or more.

According to Mintel, the market research firm, 11 per cent of British adults - equivalent to 5m people - took calcium supplements in the last year.

However, commenting on the new research by the University of Zurich and the German Cancer Reserch Centre in Heidelberg, published in Heart, two leading researchers warn: "The safety of calcium supplements is now
coming under considerable scrutiny."

They say 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 Professor Ian Reid of Auckland University in New Zealand say today's study "reinforce the conclusions" of previous research.

A 2010 BMJ review covering 12,000 people found supplements raised the risk by a third, they say, while a 2011 study of 28,000 people found they increased heart attacks by more than a quarter.

A recent Australian study was even more "sobering", according to pair. That report, published earlier this year, found "elderly and frail" people who took 600mg daily pills were 76 per cent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease over three years than those not on them.

"The evidence is steadily mounting for a real cardiovascular adverse effect from the use of calcium supplements," they write.

Evidence also suggested that "the anti-fracture effects of calcium [supplements] are modest".

They conclude: "The consistent evidence is that calcium supplements do more harm than good and that other interventions are preferable for reducing the risk of osteoporosis fractures...

"It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily boluses [pills] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effcts as calcium in food.

"The evidence is also becoming steadily stronger that it is not safe, nor is it particularly effective."
Dr Claire Bowring of the National Osteoporosis Society said "care" was needed with calcium supplements.

"If you get all of the calcium that you need from your diet then a supplement will not be necessary," she said.

"Supplementation may be warranted if you are unable to get enough calcium in your diet,
but it needs to be done with consideration.

"If you have a heart condition or if you feel you may be at risk of a heart attack it is important to talk to your GP."

Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the Health Supplements Information Service, said it was "irresponsible" to advise women with osteoporosis not to take supplements "on the basis of one flawed study".

It lacked information on calcium doses and results could have been skewed by differences between participants underlying health, she claimed.

She said: "Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it is 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."

*MORE people now understand the need to get a few minutes' of direct sunlight exposure to help build strong bones, according to the National Osteoporosis Society.

It found a third now know the importance of getting a few minutes daily sun exposure without sunscreen,
to help the body manufacture enough vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones.

Three years ago only six per cent understood the importance of daily direct sunlight, according to spokesman Siobhan Hallmark.

The charity launches its annual Sunlight Campaign today. It advises people to get 10 minutes of direct sun exposure on bare skin, once or twice a day, between May and September.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We will consider the study carefully once the complete article has been published."The majority of people do not need to take a calcium supplement.

A healthy balanced diet will provide all the nutrients, including calcium, that they need.

Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy foods, fortified dairy food alternatives, e.g. soya drink and green leafy vegetables."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.