The calcium controversy continues

As I predicted, the calcium controversy continues to brew. And I’m sure it’s leaving a whole lot of people confused about what to do with their supplements. So let’s take a look at the latest developments.

Two new studies each revealed that there is no cardiovascular risk associated with supplementary or dietary calcium in either women or men.

And that last part is important. This happens to be one of very few studies to evaluate calcium supplementation in male subjects.

Scientists seem to forget that men get osteopenia and osteoporosis, too. Men at especially high risk would be those who are taking steroid medications, those who have an underlying chronic illness such as diabetes or thyroid disease, or those who are struggling with low testosterone.

Needless to say, a lot of men fall into one (or more) of these categories. So it’s excellent news that, according to this new study at least, doctors needn’t be afraid to supplement their male patients with calcium.

But in case you didn’t hear the bad news that came out recently, let me fill you in. Previous studies showed that calcium supplementation can raise risk of heart attack by roughly a quarter. (More specifically, by 27 percent according to one study, and by 24 percent according to another.)

And a recent Swedish study revealed even greater risks with large doses. (Risk management, 4/8/13). This trial found 40 percent and 50 percent increases in all-cause and heart-related deaths respectively among women with calcium intakes over 1,400 mg per day.

Results showed that intakes below this threshold were perfectly safe. But at the end of the day, numbers like that would make anyone wonder whether taking a calcium supplement is worth it.

Hopefully, the latest results will ease some fears and help to turn calcium’s questionable reputation around.

In the new study featuring men, average calcium intake came in at 1,150 mg daily. (Give or take around 590 mg–which is a pretty large window.) More than half of the subjects reported supplementing with calcium as well.

Interestingly, follow-up over 10 years revealed that men with the lowest calcium intakes from supplements had the highest risk of heart-related death. (Among this group, subjects were getting less than 600 mg per day.)

Most importantly, there was no link between calcium supplementation and risk of death–either from cardiovascular events or any cause.

The second study looked at women who took around 1,200 mg of calcium daily. And again, researchers found no increase in total mortality or heart-related death.

This is quite a relief. Honestly, with all of the different outcomes of these studies, it was getting tough for anyone to know how to advise patients where calcium supplementation was concerned.

But I guess I should have known to just stick to my guns. Because the fact is, the mainstream scientific community is always looking for reasons to tell you to stop taking your vitamins.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to put this particular debate to rest. But I don’t expect we’ve heard the last of it. So as always, you can count on me to keep you updated.

In the meantime, when it comes to preventing osteoporosis and preserving bone density, you won’t find a more effective therapy than a combo of calcium, D3, and K2.

American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2013 Annual Meeting. Abstracts 1001 and 1002, presented October 4, 2013.
New Data Dispute Calcium Cardiovascular Risk in Both Sexes. Medscape. Oct 08, 2013.