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Calcium supplements linked to increased heart attack risk

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Taking calcium supplement pills may be increasing your risk of having a heart attack, according to a recent study conducted by scientists at Auckland and Aberdeen universities.

Researchers reviewed 11 studies covering over 12,000 people who were taking daily calcium supplements of 500mg or more. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that these individuals were 30% more likely to have a heart attack.

Writers of the study, which excluded those taking calcium in combination with the absorbent Vitamin D supplement, concluded: “randomised studies suggest that calcium supplements without coadministered vitamin D are associated with an increased incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack).”

Furthermore, the team reported evidence that the supplement, which is often prescribed to help ward off osteoporosis, is only marginally effective in preventing bone fracture and suggested that its role in this capacity is in need of “reassessment”.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), however, has urged the public not to panic and to continue taking calcium supplements if they were prescribed to them by a health professional.

“We need to be cautious about the results of this analysis because none of the studies involved were designed to look specifically at the relationship between calcium supplements and the risk of heart attack”, said Senior Cardiac Nurse Judy O’Sullivan in a statement released by the BHF, adding that patients should consult their doctor if they are worried or unsure.

The National Osteoporosis Society added its view by pointing out that supplements should only be sought if the patient is unable to obtain the recommended daily amount of calcium by eating the right food.

“We’ve always recommended that people should aim to get the calcium they need from their diet to help build stronger bones,“ Dr Claire Bowring stated. “If you get all of the calcium that you need from your diet and adequate vitamin D from exposure to sunshine, then a supplement will not be necessary.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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