Can Calcium Supplements cause Heart Disease?
I found this question posed at ConsumerLab.com and thought it was an important discussion for patients. I have often seen well meaning physicians routinely prescribe 1500mg of calcium for those at risk of osteoporosis. However, taking minerals is a tricky business and should be done with the recommendations of a healthcare provider that is educated in the use of supplementation.
I’ve read about dangers from taking calcium supplements — such as the risk of developing arterial calcifications. I can’t seem to find a multivitamin without calcium. Can you help me?
It’s true that getting too much calcium from supplements can increase the risk of arterial calcifications, and this should be avoided. A study of 1567 men and women in the US without coronary calcification (i.e. atherosclerosis) found that, after 10 years, those who had reported higher calcium intakes from diet had a lower risk of developing calcifications. HOWEVER, the use of calcium supplements was associated with a 22% increase in the risk of calcification. The lowest risk of calcification was among the non-users of calcium supplements with the highest total daily intake of calcium from their diet (Anderson, J American Heart Association 2016)
As to finding a multivitamin without calcium, first be aware that most multivitamins provide less than 20% of the 1,000 – 1,200 mg adult daily requirement of calcium. There is less safety concern with this amount of calcium from a supplement if you’re not getting quite enough from your diet. However, if you’re sure that you get sufficient calcium from your diet, and want to avoid getting more from a multivitamin, there are multivitamins that contain only tiny amounts (under 20 mg) of calcium — usually as an incidental part of another ingredient in the supplement
Dr Hoffman’s comments: I shortened the answer from the original published article to make it easier reading. However, it illustrates my concern that the public should not just take supplements without the proper counseling. In my office, we use whole food nutrition wherever possible to avoid the toxicity of general multivitamins and the judicious use of supplements from the highest quality source and at the dosages that are right for you.