New guideline says calcium supplements are safe for the heart within limits

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Some research in recent years has suggested that taking calcium supplements causes calcium to build up in your arteries. But a new guideline based on a review of studies says taking calcium is safe within limits.

Many of us don't get enough calcium from food, so we turn to supplements. They can be especially important for people with osteoporosis or brittle bone disease, but there's concern the supplements can raise the risk of heart disease. One study published just last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggested a 22 percent higher risk of heart disease in those taking calcium pills.

Now the National Osteoporosis Foundation and American Society for Preventive Cardiology are weighing in. They looked at 31 studies including four that followed people as they were actually on the supplements and compared them to people who weren't.

"Based on the current evidence, it looks like taking up to 2,000 or 2,500 milligrams of calcium should be safe," said Dr. Adam Maghrabi, an endocrinologist with Kansas City Internal Medicine.

Dr. Maghrabi thinks that's reassuring considering most people don't get that much calcium even with supplements. The current recommendation is 1,000 milligrams for younger adults, and 1,200 for women over 50 and men over 70.

But Christy Motley figures she is at the upper limit.

"I take 2,000 milligrams a day, so I'm wondering if It's going over based upon my diet and what' I'm already consuming in my food," she said.

She intends to talk with her doctor.

The new guideline emphasizes that obtaining calcium from food is preferred.

"The evidence we have suggests that getting calcium from diet has actually a protective effect versus taking it from pills," said Dr. Maghrabi, adding that it's a protective effect on the heart.

But the guideline says if you can't get enough calcium from food, supplements can be used.

Dr. Maghrabi says this is likely far from the last word on the subject. The guideline is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.



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