Recent reports reveal disturbing calcium supplements side effects.
Could your health pill increase your heart attack risk?
Photo courtesy of Sue Clark
If you are anything like the millions of fitness conscious Britons who regularly takes a calcium supplement, you could be forgiven for feeling anxious right now.
Why? A disturbing report reveals the popular calcium pill available in your corner health food store, could increase your risk of heart attacks.
So what are the dangers?
Scientists have found these pill-poppers are 30 percent more at risk of heart attack if they take calcium pills frequently. Moreover, authors of the research are so concerned, that they have called for the pills' widespread use in preventing serious conditions like osteoporosis to be reconsidered.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the scientists advise: "A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is warranted." Before adding, "Calcium levels have been positively associated with an increased incidence of heart attack."
So should you throw away your calcium pills?
Previous studies have produced conflicting results on whether calcium supplements can protect against heart problems, or can make them worse.
This latest study - conducted by teams from the Universities of Auckland and Aberdeen - aims to answer this by analyzing 15 studies that looked at rates of heart attacks, strokes, and death in people taking the calcium pills.
Their findings showed:
12,000 patients taking a calcium supplement of at least 500mg a day were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who did not.
These figures equate to 166 patients on calcium supplements having a heart attack, compared to 130 who were not.
But don't discard your health pills just yet. While these calcium supplement side effects figures make frightening reading, they can be easily avoided when following your 3-step guide.
1. Beat elevated calcium levels with vitamin D.
Since Vitamin D supplements are necessary for the absorption of calcium, it is vital you are getting enough of this important vitamin (the latest study excluded those patients who were taking this vitamin).
However, there is good news: since Vitamin D is commonly made by the action of sunlight (UV rays on the skin) it is likely you are already getting enough, and do not require a supplement.
And for those who do require a Vitamin D supplement? 25 mcg (1,000 IU) is an optimal supplement level.
2. Normal calcium levels for health.
Knowing your optimal calcium supplements levels is crucial when looking to safeguard your health.
What figures should you aim for? The Food Standards Agency suggest adults need 700mg of calcium a day - an amount which should come from foods like milk, and cheese, and vegetables.
And what about those who wish to protect themselves from the risk of osteoporosis? Doctors recommend between 800mg and 1200mg of the supplement daily to reduce the risk of thinning bones.
3. Get your calcium from your food.
Calcium is an essential mineral for the health of the bones and nervous system. Because of this, ensuring an adequate intake is vital.
However, your calcium pill should only ever be viewed as a supplement to an already healthy diet. Science shows vitamins are more easily assimilated when found in natural, wholefoods, so do your body a favor and choose a healthy diet rich in this vitamin.
Some excellent food sources include: dairy, green vegetables, oily fish, and tofu.
Is your calcium tablet causing you harm? Could your health pill increase your risk of heart attack?
Calcium supplements side effects can be safely avoided by eating a calcium-rich diet and supplementing wisely.