Friday, July 30, 2010

Calcium Supplement Busters

Just when you think you're doing something good for your health, along comes a new study that demands some thought and some changes.

A recently published study in the British Medical Journal found that taking calcium supplements increases the risk of heart attack by about 30%. The researchers also found that the supplements weren't all that great at preventing bone loss either. (Articles about the study are at BBC, CTV, and ABC.)
I was floored by this study - I've been taking calcium supplements for several years, since I developed quite a sensitivity to dairy products and was diagnosed with osteopenia (a couple of years ago). Dammit, I need my calcium!

Turns out, though, that perhaps the study is more positive than I first thought. I'm fairly savvy, or like to think I am!, about nutrition; it's been an interest for years. But I fell into the trap of thinking that no dairy automatically means calcium supplements.


I've been digging out the books on nutrition and looking up calcium retention and absorption and tables on how much calcium is present in various foods. With some adjustments, meeting my calcium requirements will be relatively easy. It will take more planning, though.

In retrospect, I wonder if I just didn't let register all the information I've read before. It really is much simpler to pop a pill two or three times a day than it is to plan for amounts and combinations of food necessary to achieve the optimum amount - true of all nutrition, really.
Most likely, getting enough calcium - and everything else - through the diet is the healthiest, if possible.

My immediately available resources are two good books: Becoming Vegetarian, by Melina, Davis, and Harrison (has a wealth of information about vitamins and minerals, and other dietary requirements; and Strong Women, Strong Bones (a veritable bible on bone health), by Miriam Nelson.

It will be an adjustment, no question, but well worth the trouble.


cooper said...

I'm not convinced by that study at all.

ChrisJ said...


Sometimes it's hard to tell. It certainly raises many questions, but at least one can get required calcium without supplements.

Ciss B said...

Studies have often reversed themselves in the past so I take it with a grain of salt and watch as the other research information grinds out over the next 5 years.

ChrisJ said...


Yes, remember the various studies on butter and eggs - perhaps there will be even more.

The study did make me realize, though, that I can get my calcium from food and save the supplements for the odd day when I can't.

Sole Sister Salma said...

I don't know about all of these studies, it's a headache just trying to keep up...couldn't that lead to stress, thus lead to premature death because of all the stress?

I agree, take t all with a grain of salt. Chris I agree, we can get calcium without supplements so that's a good thing.

I like having options...

ChrisJ said...


That's a really good point - stress over trying to keep up with studies!

lifeshighway said...

Dang it, I just want to take the pill and then forget about it.

I am choosing to ignore the study until there is further proof.

ChrisJ said...


A wise decision. I've been trying for a couple of days to get Ca just from diet - without dairy, it's not that easy. Taking a pill is sounding better and better.

Pearl said...

Might it be a matter of how much dif in health it makes between optimal nutrition and nutrition and dangerous malnutrition? Food combinations affect absorbency but, seriously, so do stress hormones. If the body's at flight or fight, some things aren't absorbed in the name of expediency.

Pearl said...

glad you're reading and researching new options.

ChrisJ said...


Apparently calcium is one of the most difficult nutrients for experts to figure out, re: how much we need - so many factors.