Calcium Supplements Questionably Linked to Heart Disease

  • Rumors keep resurfacing about a questionable link between calcium supplementation and heart disease. Just the other day an older woman asked me if it was still O.K. for her to take calcium because she had heard that calcium was "bad for women". Hearing about such a rumor nearly caused my eyes to pop out of my head. I could only answer, "I have not heard that one before and will have to do some research about this rumor."


    I found that our own Pam Flores reported about the potential dangers of calcium nearly one year ago. At that time, there had been a study out of New Zealand that reported that the incidence of heart disease seemed to be greatest in older women taking calcium supplementation. That was quite a pebble of information that sent a ripple across the medical community that has long been touting the necessity of calcium supplements.  Since that time, there have been some key studies published calling into question this link between calcium supplementation and heart disease.

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    Before proceeding further, we should first examine why calcium would have anything to do with heart disease. The whole argument centers on the calcium deposits found in the blood vessels that supply the heart. Now, most people have heard of the term "hardening of the arteries" as opposed to the medical term "atherosclerosis". Arteries, including the heart arteries, harden and sclerosis as inflammation goes unchecked and calcium deposits against the walls of the blood vessel. This calcification of arteries can eventually form plaques that can act like little dams, preventing the blood from reaching the target organ, in this case, the heart. A loss of blood flow to the heart causes the quintessential "heart attack".  Since no one wants to risk a heart attack, people who have heard about this potential link between heart disease and calcium supplements are throwing out the calcium pills.


    Some fears are unsubstantiated. Shortly after Pam Flores reported about this study from New Zealand linking calcium to heart disease, Harvard published its results from the Women's Health Initiative which examined the incidence of heart disease in women taking calcium and Vitamin D.  These researchers concluded: "Treatment with moderate doses of calcium plus vitamin D3 did not seem to alter coronary artery calcified plaque burden among postmenopausal women".  Since most women take moderated doses of calcium and Vitamin D, then most women should rest assured that these dietary supplements do not increase the risk of heart disease.


    Even though this conclusion seems pretty reasonable, some rumors refuse to die. In an attempt to discredit the report from Harvard, the same group in New Zealand recently released a report claiming that calcium supplements still pose a risk to the hearts of women. They go on to say that the diets of women should be more than adequate to provide enough calcium without risking the potential harmful effects from calcium supplementation. Have these folks in New Zealand seen what most Americans eat? Not many eat green sources of calcium in the typical diet of American women these days. Sounds like the researchers in New Zealand are looking through green-colored glasses at some utopia of people eating a perfectly plant- based diet. For most Americans, the current recommended calcium intake  should remain intact and not something to question or fear. This rumor about calcium supplements being linked to heart disease seems to be a bit farfetched.  


Published On: April 28, 2011