A new study on calcium supplementation may support the older claims that advocates against dairy have been claiming for years – perhaps we don’t need as much calcium as we think.
Determination of calcium intake depends upon many factors, such as the intake of potassium, sodium, magnesium, protein, phosphorus, Vitamin D and Vitamin K. Other factors, such as medications and physical activity, can also play into it.
Results released last week indicate that men with higher calcium supplement intakes may be at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Approximately 388,000 men and women ages 50 to 71 were questioned on their dietary calcium intake through food and supplements. The study allowed for demographics, other disease, body size and lifestyle.
Over the 12 year follow-up, 3,874 women died of CVD, while 7,904 men died from cardiovascular events. Researchers concluded that calcium supplements in women were not necessarily associated with CVD death, but that in men doses “of 1000 mg/day or more was associated with significant increases in the risks for overall CVD death…. and heart disease death.” Smokers were at a particularly high risk.
Many vegetarians in other countries consume only 400 grams of calcium or less a day, while consuming four glasses of milk per day will have you consume 1,200 grams per day.
The biggest concern in the latest studies is that:
The other concern is that when compared to a placebo:
“calcium supplements did not protect against fractures of the hip or other bones. Moreover, there was some suggestion that calcium supplements taken without Vitamin D might even increase the risk of hip fractures.”
More long-term studies are needed. Last June the University of Zurich released information from its 10-year study. Researchers concluded that supplemental calcium may lead to increased risk of heart attack. Interestingly enough, however, dairy consumption was associated with lowered risk of heart attack in this particular study.
Calcium is important – everyone knows you need it for your bones, but it’s also important in regulating your blood pressure. Calcium is needed for your muscles to contract, for blood to clot and nerves to send impulses.
The issue in these studies, and in many studies involving other vitamins and minerals, is obtaining the mineral through supplement form versus consuming it within a regular, well-maintained diet. It takes a bit of conscience effort today to consume nutrients through diet alone, which is the optimal way.
Dark green vegetables (kale is best), sesame seeds, and even some herbs, can contribute to calcium intake. If you are so inclined, then canned salmon with the bones is a great source of calcium.
Studies in Japan, India and Peru are often cited in contrast to Western studies. Osteoporosis and fracture rates in these countries are low. Physical activity and time outside (increased Vitamin D) may be contributing factors to the differences. Not so fast though, as rates in Asia are growing epidemically also, possibly related to their adoption of Western civilization. It’s entirely possible that our need for extra calcium in industrialized countries goes hand-in-hand with our high sodium diets and our self-created stress. Our lack of physical activity, especially in childhood, deprives Western civilizations of the physical bone strength and Vitamin D.
A September 2006 Osteoporos International review determined and pointed to the increased incidence in developing countries. And while researchers were quick to point out that undeveloped healthcare systems may lead to underreporting of the disease and morbidity, they were also quite certain of the increased fracture rate in the developed countries.
While more long-term studies need to be done, there may be something to this. The United States, for example, is top ranked when it comes to incidence of CVD. Not only that, but our osteoporosis rates are off the charts.\
As for taking your calcium supplements, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider and ask about current studies if you have concerns.