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Calcium supplements, not so good.
May 26, 2012 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Calcium supplements linked to significantly increased heart attack risk.
posted by storybored (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
T- tu tu tums.
posted by cloeburner at 12:10 PM on May 26, 2012


What isn't bad for you now will be discovered to be bad for you in the future.
posted by tommasz at 12:17 PM on May 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Not too long ago they said the same thing of multi-vitamins.

I guess the lesson here is that we're all going to die anyway.
posted by Malice at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everything, Everywhere, Ever now proven to sometime in the future give you a terrible disease that will maim or kill you and your loved ones! Stay tuned for more at 10 on Fox News!

Gotta love scaremongering.
posted by PipRuss at 12:32 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It appears to be better to get your vitamins and minerals from food, rather than supplements, although further research is needed. I don't see that this is a "lesson," however, nor do I believe that the purpose of scientific experiments is to provide you with a neat little lesson.
posted by raysmj at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food," they say.

Then maybe the doses should be broken down into micro-doses that you can take every time you eat. What if I took my calcium pills and broke them into five doses each? Would that not give the proper metobolic effect?
posted by Malice at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2012


I don't see that this is a "lesson," however, nor do I believe that the purpose of scientific experiments is to provide you with a neat little lesson.

It was sarcasm. You should be used to that on the blue by now.
posted by Malice at 12:35 PM on May 26, 2012


The difference between medicine and poison is the size of the dose.
posted by bukvich at 12:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Supplements aren't "medicine," they're just dietary supplements.
posted by raysmj at 12:41 PM on May 26, 2012


Down with Big Calcium!
posted by srboisvert at 12:41 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not only that, but during the last wave of news about the risks of multivitamins, there was the following quote:

"The researchers tracked nearly 39,000 women for an average of 19 years. They found a small increase in the risk of death among older women who took dietary supplements compared with those who didn't, according to the study, released Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"An exception was calcium supplements, which are widely recommended to protect against bone fractures. They were associated with a slightly decreased risk of premature death."
posted by blucevalo at 12:42 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am on two medications that cause osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. I already have a condition that increases my risk of osteoporosis. This study is actually important to me because of that and I take calcium pills daily to counter the effects of the medication, and have already felt a difference. So I can't exactly stop taking them, but I'm not sure why, given what they learned, they didn't suggest micro-doses. I wouldn't mind that.
posted by Malice at 12:44 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps what we should take away from this is if you are healthy, and don't necessarily need calcium supplements every day, then don't take them every day. Daily use is much more important and necessary to those at risk.
posted by PipRuss at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a report of one result of an 11-year epidemiological cohort study of 24,000 people, so the hurf-durf-researchers-can't-make-up-their-minds reaction is a bit depressing. Let's try to focus on the science.

As always, a good place for a reasoned analysis of stories like this is the NHS Behind the Headlines site and sure enough they have a piece on it.

It seems there is a link and this is not the first study to suggest one, but causation is still not clear (could be a third factor, although they tried to control for these). However, the benefits of such supplements for patients at risk of osteoporosis are strong and such patients should continue to take the supplements.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought this was a pretty well-written article, in contrast to most science journalism. They provide a good bit of the hard numbers from the article, and point out that moderate levels of calcium consumption were linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, and only the group with the highest consumption (due to supplement use) was at increased risk. They even open the article with the statement that "Calcium supplements might increase the risk of having a heart attack" (emphasis mine). As usual, when reading something like this one should be careful to put too much faith in the results until they have been replicated by others, and remember that despite the efforts of the authors to correct for confounding factors, all that has been shown thus far is (possible) correlation.

But more important in the overall scheme of things is that this study is not the first to show possible harm from dietary supplements. Too many people believe that pills are an adequate substitute for a healthy die at (and in a larger sense a substitute for a healthy lifestyle), a misguided notion that is heavily promoted by the supplement and pharmaceutical industries.
posted by TedW at 12:49 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


"die at" should be "diet"

Stupid auto-correct
posted by TedW at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2012


What isn't bad for you now will be discovered to be bad for you in the future.

Waiting for the shoe to drop on vitamin D - a very popular supplement these days. At which point we'll be almost done with every single vitamin (A collapsed early on, E after a long struggle, D is still hanging on though barely etc.). There are already hints that aside from correcting frank deficiency, elevating your circulating vit. D levels is suboptimal - the early excitement is dying down and we're getting ready for another hero to fall (though it will take time for this to percolate to the public at large).

Every supplement has its 15 minutes (or years) of fame, and then it's out with the old, in with the new. We've run out of vitamins to promote, and we're doing good work with minerals (such as calcium).

Rear-guard action will be fought, with dose adjustments, timing, manner of taking, other supplement interactions, claims about exact forms of the supplement, purity etc., etc., etc.,. Old partisans will keep fighting, but the war will be lost. And then a new battle with a new leader.

That said, the dream of health in a pill will never die.

I am a fool, a sucker and participant in this battle too. C'mon, it's such fun! My poison is vit. K2, because I have a persistently slightly elevated lipids (TC: 214, LDL: 133, HDL: 68, TGC: 65), an elevation that seems immune to correction with diet and exercise and other lifestyle adjustments. So I'm taking K2 based on the Rotterdam Study - fatalistically anticipating that it will probably not help my CV health, but might give me some hideous side effect, like cancer. And in this case I won't even have the satisfaction of finding out just how horrible K2 is, because not enough people take it as a supplement for any studies to be conducted. I'm flying blind into a mountain. But it's such fun!

Incidentally, there's a lot of work done (especially in Japan) showing certain forms of K2 to help with osteoporosis, fwiw. Maybe an alternative to calcium for some? Come join my poison train :)
posted by VikingSword at 12:59 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that we know that strength training increases bone density, yet almost nobody is telling women or aging men to lift weights -- it's all about supplements, none of which have been shown to have this kind of effect on bone density. Too bad, because it seems as if "use it or lose it" is the law...
posted by vorfeed at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a heart patient this has to be discussed with my cardiologist as she has me on D with Calcium supplements (600mg) that seems to be below the "trouble" range but my heart doesn't need any encouragement to not work right.
posted by pdxpogo at 3:21 PM on May 26, 2012


The actual article is available open access, at least for the moment, if they yank it before the thread ends please feel free to MeMail me with an email address I can send the PDF to.

[FULL TEXT]

[PDF]
posted by Blasdelb at 3:37 PM on May 26, 2012


I'm taking this research with a grain of salt (if that is still allowed).
posted by srboisvert at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that we know that strength training increases bone density, yet almost nobody is telling women or aging men to lift weights -- it's all about supplements, none of which have been shown to have this kind of effect on bone density. Too bad, because it seems as if "use it or lose it" is the law...

A lot of women who are at risk or have bone problems really can't do much strength training is probably part of the problem there. I can barely lift anything without my chest wall or shoulder acting up.
posted by Malice at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2012


What are the actual numbers like? My girlfriend recently was prescribed Yaz and she was really worried, because there's been a big stink about blood clots (complete with headlines like "Yaz increases blood clot risk by 75%") but when I finally tracked down the statistics, it was an increase from roughly 6 in 100,000 to about 10 in 100,000.

In other words, curious about the numbers and methodology, though not necessarily skeptical.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:38 PM on May 26, 2012


A lot of women who are at risk or have bone problems really can't do much strength training is probably part of the problem there. I can barely lift anything without my chest wall or shoulder acting up.

It's a chicken-and-egg thing for some people, certainly. I think we should be encouraging women to start lifting as early as possible, before bone loss begins. That said, a lot of at-risk women have really benefited from strength-training programs geared toward their cohort -- it just depends on the individual, I guess.
posted by vorfeed at 5:51 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Supplements aren't "medicine," they're just dietary supplements.

Incorrect, raysmj.

medicine: any substance or substances used in treating disease or illness. Like scurvy, rickets, goiter...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:31 PM on May 26, 2012


"It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food," they say.

Then maybe the doses should be broken down into micro-doses that you can take every time you eat. What if I took my calcium pills and broke them into five doses each? Would that not give the proper metobolic effect?


To be fair, Malice, they're probably overstating their knowledge of the cause behind the effect. That is, it's not clear that what is needed is a "smoother" intake of nutrients, as one gets from a varied & healthy diet; perhaps it is the specific combinations of chemicals commonly ingested with calcium in foodstuffs that makes it healthier.

Calcium ions are highly reactive - not as much as oxygen, but still pretty energetic. They tend to form molecules easily, and that means they can react in many ways that aren't optimal for your health. Maybe the binding of calcium inside foodstuffs (cell walls of plant material, for instance) keeps the calcium molecules bound up long enough in the digestive tract to avoid some mildly toxic reactions. In that case, there's no "slow enough" rate to take supplements; kale leaves will still be preferable to a "slow drip" of calcium.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:37 PM on May 26, 2012


Gotta love scaremongering.

PipRuss, I call it "information". The avoidance of it is called "ignorance".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:39 PM on May 26, 2012


kale leaves will still be preferable to a "slow drip" of calcium.

How much kale leaves would one need to eat to get a high dose of calcium, per day, do you think?
posted by Malice at 11:34 PM on May 26, 2012


A quick google suggests 32 oz, Malice - or 16oz of turnip greens, which are even better. But that's assuming you have no other sources in your diet... which is unlikely.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:32 AM on May 27, 2012


How much kale leaves would one need to eat to get a high dose of calcium, per day, do you think?

I think most of the figures for calcium content are based on the amount of calcium in the substance they measuring. Thing is, it's all about absorption. If the calcium in kale is absorbed more effectively than the calcium in a supplement, then the kale might have the higher dose.

There was a study by Otago University that showed that vitamin C in kiwifruit is absorbed 5x more effectively than the vitamin C in a supplement.

Why there is such difference in absorption from a natural dietary source vs a purified source is not well understood, but probably has something to do with the many other compounds in whole foods playing a role in the absorption a specific nutrient.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 3:04 AM on May 27, 2012


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