Should you take Calcium Supplements? Ask the Swedes!

How much Calcium is good for you?

You might want to know about a recently published Swedish study by Karl Michaëlsson, MD, PhD, professor in medical epidemiology and senior consultant in orthopedic surgery at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Dr. Michaëlsson and his colleagues report in an article published online February 13 in the BMJ, that “high rates of calcium intake were associated with higher all-cause and cardiovascular death rates but not with deaths from stroke”.

This is the latest in a series of controversial studies connecting calcium intake and cardiovascular events.

A National Institutes of Health–sponsored study, published early February 2013, reported that a high intake of supplemental calcium resulted in an increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in men, but not women.

This Swedish study suggests that in Swedish women, calcium intake of >1400 mg/day was associated with increased risk for death as compared with intakes of 600 to 1000 mg/day.

Dr. Michaëlsson also noted that some previous studies have shown a similar relationship between calcium supplements and a higher risk for CVD but were not designed to look at mortality and did not include the amount of dietary intake of calcium.

Dr. Michaëlsson advised that one should not make recommendations on the basis of a single study, but recent evidence supports caution regarding high calcium intake. He also made a point that a meta-analysis of randomized trials has shown that calcium supplementation actually contributed to an increased rate of hip fracture. “My present recommendation is to avoid calcium supplement use if you have a normal varied diet,” he said.

Medscape medical news received a comment from John Cleland, MD PhD, professor of cardiology at Hull York Medical School in Kingston-upon-Hull, United Kingdom. He stated that the study results were “extremely complex…with rather weak findings.” ”
And his recommendation? “Having a healthy balanced diet and avoiding water filters that reduce calcium in drinking water is probably best.”

Before making any decisions, consult your health care provider and find out what the best choice is for you.