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Risks from Calcium Supplements?

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Wisdom of taking high dose calcium supplements? A new study casts further doubts.

After years of being urged to take calcium supplements to help strengthen our bones and prevent osteoporosis, we've recently learned those pills may adversely affect our heart and blood vessels.

A new study, published this month in the British Medical Journal, found that those who took high dose calcium supplements had an increased risk of suffering a heart attack.

The report concludes that "high intakes of calcium in women are associated with higher death rates from all causes and cardiovascular disease, but not from stroke".

These latest research findings support earlier reports that high dose calcium supplements are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, and that these may outweigh the modest benefits of calcium supplements on bone density and fracture prevention.

The study did not find a simple dose-related relationship, but it was clear that taking over 1400mg per day (compared with intakes of between 600 and 1000 mg/day) was associated with higher death rates from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and ischaemic heart disease.

Most dieticians would advise women to ensure that they maintain healthy intakes of calcium by means of a balanced diet — i.e. one that includes calcium-rich foods like those shown in the photograph. Exposure to sunlight is also important, as this helps the body synthesise Vitamin D, which plays an important part in the way our bodies are able to absorb and utilise calcium.

Those individuals who are currently taking supplements that provide more than 1000mg per day might wish to consider reducing this level of calcium intake.

Those readers with a strong scientific interest might wish to access the full research report here.

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