Are Calcium Supplements Safe?


“Are Calcium Supplements Safe?” In 12 short years, government panels
have gone from suggesting widespread calcium supplementation may be
necessary to protect our bones to “Do Not Supplement.”
What happened? It all started with a 2008
study in New Zealand. Short-term studies had showed that
calcium supplementation may drop blood pressures by about a point,
though the effect appears transient, disappearing after a few months,
but it’s better than nothing. And excess calcium in the gut
can cause fat malabsorption, by forming soap fat, reducing
saturated fat absorption and increasing fecal
saturated fat content. And indeed if you take eat a couple Tums
along with your half bucket of KFC, up to twice as much fat
could end up in your stool. And with less saturated fat absorbed in
your system your cholesterol might drop. So the New Zealand researchers were
expecting to lower heart attack rates by giving women calcium supplements. To their surprise there appeared
to be more heart attacks in the calcium supplement
group. Was this just a fluke? All eyes turned to the Women’s
Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomized controlled trial
of calcium supplementation. The name might sound familiar.
That’s the study that uncovered how dangerous hormone
replacement therapy was. Would it do the same for
calcium supplements? The Women’s Health Initiative
reported no adverse effects. However, the majority
of the participants were already taking calcium
supplements before the study started, so effectively the study was
just comparing higher versus lower dose calcium supplementation, not calcium supplements versus
no calcium supplements. But what if you go back and just
see what happened to the women who started out not taking supplements
and then were randomized to the supplement group? Those who started calcium
supplements suffered significantly more heart attacks or strokes. Thus, high dose or low dose, any
calcium supplementation seems to increase cardiovascular
disease risk. So researchers went back digging
through other trial data for heart attack and stroke rates in women
randomized to calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D added,
and confirmed the danger. And most of the population
studies agreed: users of calcium supplements
tended to have increased rates of heart disease, stroke, and death. The supplement industry
was not happy, accusing the researchers
of relying in part on self-reported data — like they just
ask if people had a heart attack or not rather than verifying it. And indeed long-term
calcium supplementation causes all sorts of
gastrointestinal distress including twice the risk of being
hospitalized with acute symptoms that may have been confused
with a heart attack. But no, the increased risk
was seen consistently across the trials whether the
heart attacks were verified or not. OK, but why do calcium supplements
increase heart attack risk, but not calcium you get in your diet? Perhaps because when
you take calcium pills, you get a spike of calcium
in your bloodstream that you don’t get just
eating calcium rich foods. Within hours of taking supplemental
calcium, the calcium levels in the blood shoot up and can
stay up as long as eight hours. This evidently produces what’s called a
hypercoaguable state — your blood clots more easily — which could increase
the risk of clots in the heart and brain. And indeed higher
calcium blood levels are tied to higher heart
attack and stroke rates. So the mechanism may
be calcium supplements leading to unnaturally large, rapid, and
sustained calcium levels in the blood, which can have a variety
of potentially problematic effects. Calcium supplements have been
widely embraced on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore a safe
way of preventing osteoporotic fractures. But it’s now becoming clear that taking
calcium in one or two daily doses is not natural, in that it does not
reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food —
the way nature intended. And furthermore the evidence is
also becoming steadily stronger that calcium supplementation
may not be safe. That’s why most organizations
providing advice regarding bone health now recommend that individuals
should obtain their calcium requirement from diet in preference to supplements. But if we can’t reach it through diet alone,
would the benefits to the bones outweigh the risks to the heart?
We’ll find out, next.

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Reader Comments

  1. David Dawn

    I think that Calcium and Magnesium should always be taken together, bacause a high calcium intake via a supplement inhibits magnesium absorption. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15291819
    And a low Magnesium levels increase cardiovascular problems.

  2. Bush Ninja

    I run 6 miles every other day and do jiu jitsu two times a week. My blood pressure is around 105/68 so I'm not too worried about this stuff. What I am worried about is all the sweat and physical damage to my body. When I'm not living in a homeless shelter I'll consider switching to spinach and vitamin d supplements, but for now this is the way its gotta go.

  3. looney vee

    this video comes at a perfect time, i'm writing a short booklet about dairy and calcium (and the lies "they" want you to believe in) for my dad to read (he doesn't speak english, so im mainly translating john mcdougall's newsletters/articles about the topic and changing the datas on national requirements, regulations and all that stuff according to our own country) and while i was reading through a pro-dairy italian leaflet about osteoporosis i came across this http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10759135 i'm keeping it to myself for obvious reasons but not being able to read the actual study leaves me confused! the research was most likely funded by the dairy industry but i really wanna know how they got to those findings, anyone help?

  4. Mega _

    Plz make video about fair amount of oxalates in calcium rich food. Is it dangerous or how to low the danger of oxalates ?
    Thx a lot.
    (sorry for bad english)

  5. Jeong-hun Sin

    Talking calcium from food is natural but unpredictable (most people have to guess how much calcium in their foods) and time-consuming (all the cooking, eating…) and financially costly (proper and safe food sources are quite expensive). Can't the manufacturers get smarter and invent a new methodmto release calcium slowly into the body, like coating the supplement.

  6. I-Love-Music

    I take daily Sango Coral Powder (2-3g), the highest Quality Magnesium/Calcium source, and i feel like GOD"
    But must say i also eat very healthy…, much fuit/Vegetables…
    So, should i stop taking it now ???

    Thanks

  7. Dolly Woofwoofer

    these cliffhangers are killing me!! i need to find out if i should continue taking these supplements!!!!!! eaueheaoeuaheohaoha!!!!!!!!!! quickly, i think im dying of a heart attack right now!!!!!! should i put this calcium supplement in my mouth or not!?!?!??!!??!?!?!??!??!?

  8. TheStewieGriffinShow

    Calcium carbonate is one of the more common sources of calcium supplementation. Calcium carbonate is limestone. It causes kidney stones, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, heart disease, arthritis, and more. What do you expect? Limestone is rock. Why wouldn't it cause kidney stones, arthritis, and more? Oh, BTW, limestone is what is added to sand to make cement harden. It is also added to corn to soften the corn to make corn flour in order to make tortillas. How can people not know this stuff? LOL.

  9. Andréas Remis

    There are so many plant-based sources of calcium. In the large majority of people, supplements are not necessary if nutrition is on point.

  10. sooooooooDark

    if the spiking in clacium is the problem wouldnt that mean that people who "need" calcium supplements could just take in their calcium over the whole day instead of swallowing it in 1 big pill?

  11. Jx Wx

    Obversely Western medicine has a very narrow view of almost all causes that lead to any illness. Bone problem, calcium must be the culprit, just like cholesterol was blamed because it is always found at the scene of the crime, heart attack. Our brain is full of fat and cholesterol. Patient suffering from Epilepsy fail to recover with epilepsy medicine but recovered by eating a diet full of saturated fat and cholesterol.

    I am making a guess, our blood is the fluid that magically give us life by bringing what is needed throughout our body. But it function best when at the right PH level. Our body has all kinds of automated system to balance our body condition once it detected it is off. When our blood become acidic, somehow the body know to bring the alkalinity of the blood back to the right PH, by pulling chemical from other parts of the body to neutralise the blood back to the right alkalinity. I am not biology trained but was informed calcium is easily taken out from bone to bring the blood PH back to the right level. Therefore vegan diet really help in this area. Else a alkaline water machine may be as beneficial, as it hydrate and balance blood PH at the same time. However this alone doesn't resolve bone related problems.

    The body has another automated mechanism to correct any bone issue. I don't really knew all the detail, but vitamin D3 and K (some say K2 some say MK7), just take both let the body decide. When your body in the present of D3 and K, K kick into action by moving calcium from the blood or anywhere where calcium are found deposited in the body, back to the bone where it suppose to be. Most heart failure were actually blood clot caused by calcium deposit in the artery near to the heart, thus the attack usually fatal. So D3 and K supplement might be the two cheapest means to reduce and eventually eliminate heart attack. Both are in abundance and cheap to obtain, and no known toxicity found. So we can take extreme dose of D3 and only to discover we recover from any illness quickly due to improved immune system promoted by high dose of D3. Btw don't blame our almighty sun for our skin cancer. Sunshine is the best vitamin D3 and is free. As long as you don't over cook yourself under the sun, which don't cause skin cancer but sunburn. Once you avoid the Sun, you avoided D3, thus immune system might decline as we age, thus anything may hit us as long as it able to defeat our weaken immune system. I stay at the equator, I used to swim and tan, now less but skin cancer hardly occur among Singaporean or most asian.

    However, K may not have toxicity but the fact that it clear the blood of calcium, the fear that your blood become thin out which may (or may not) reduce clotting thus causing uncontrollable bleeding if any caused by accidental cut or surgery. Just stick with the dosage recommended on the bottle or by your physician.

    Calcium is of concern, but lacking of it is not observed, instead the missing element that needed to transport calcium to the right place. Welcome any feedback to add or correct the above info. I just pull from memory what I read or researched last time.

  12. DesiMakeupGrl

    I just bought Calcium supplements today on recommendation from my Dr. Now I'm confused and worried. Do you have any videos on vitamin d? And how much of that we should take?

  13. Ronnie & Minh

    I have no medical or nutritional education or training, but somehow for 10 years I, and a few others, have been saying that supplements are a wast of money and not good things to put into your body. Some day the Doctors will catch up with those who "just know".

  14. ElizabethB71

    What if you eat 99% plant foods, but find that supplemental calcium is helpful in easing facial nerve tingling including hypersensitive teeth etc (i.e. mild neuralgia symptoms)? Without the calcium pills, I experience a fair amount of discomfort. 😕

  15. Qwazier3

    Tried like 7 different brands of calcium supplements Back in my 30's and every one of them gave me chest pains. Didn't matter if I took it before or after eating. Finally gave up. Sounds like from this video it was a good thing I did.

  16. White Kita

    funny,…. I always warned people of this and the general calcification of the body problem with taking calcium supplements  and nobody ever took me serious…

  17. TheStewieGriffinShow

    There is one aspect of calcium absorption that Dr. Greger has not touched on yet. If your purpose of consuming calcium is to increase or maintain bone density, exercise is critical.

    Calcium needs exercise for proper bone absorption. That is why so many elderly people lose their bone density as they age. They are not exercising, can be very inactive, may be sitting around a lot, and lying in bed too much.

    You can consume all the calcium you want, but it won't build bone density without any physical activity. It's the main reason that astronauts in space have to exercise so much.

    A classic study is the study that was done with professional baseball pitchers. The bone density of their pitching arm was 3x that of their non-pitching arm. This study not only proved how important exercise is for increasing bone density, but also proved that the bone density increases in the specific area of the body that is exercised.

  18. Amanda Austin

    i eat at least 2 servings of beans every day and normally at least one serving of cruciferous veg, typically kale or broccoli. i love nuts and seeds and almost always have 1 or 2 servings of those each day. salad around 3 times a week. plenty of other vegetables daily. yet when i calculate my intake, i still sometimes can't reach the RDA for calcium based on my sex/age/weight.

    i realize the RDA is not always accurate. i don't generally worry too much about it. but i have osteoporosis in my family. there are multiple sources on nutrition that seem credible enough, yet so firm in their disagreement with each other. it can be really confusing to someone who isn't willing to clamp down on one (always biased) philosophy and call it a day. guys, give some credit to people who have actual concerns about their health and are looking for answers. don't dismiss them with an attitude and another pat "eat your vegetables". most of us here are doing that already.

  19. dwx16

    I just bought 2 month supply of calcium (500 mg + 200 UI D3) in a form of powder just before seeing this video…
    My question is – would I avoid that blood calcium spike if I'd dissolve the supplement in my daily bottle of water and sip it throughout the day? Or is it wise to simply throw it away?

  20. Jeff Lebowski

    Yes but did these calcium supplements include vitamin D and magnesium? Recent studies are showing that including magnesium with calcium increases absorption and proper placement in the bones, magnesium helps keep calcium from sticking to blood vessels(calcification).

  21. Ben Joseph

    is the synthetic calcium product part of the problem? What if you taked coral cal in numerous mini doses, if you cant always get calcium rich foods?

  22. Malin Nilsen

    "How are calcium supplements different from calcium fortified Soy/Almond milks? I checked a few popular brands and they use the same form of calcium (Calcium Carbonate)If I drink 1 cup of Silk brand Soy milk, I get 475mg of Calcium in the form of Calcium Carbonate. If I take a supplement, I get 500mg (the smallest amount I could find per pill) again in the form of calcium carbonate. Based on this comparison, shouldn’t we just avoid fortified plant based milks as well?" – User aragaw http://www.nutritionfacts.org

  23. Eat Food Not Animals

    could this be another reason carnists suffer from heart attacks? doesn't the animal breast secretions they drink have high levels of calcium? I know a lot of them really like that stuff.

  24. Blake

    I've been taking 400mg of calcium each day for more than a year and in the past week I've been experiencing nausea symptoms..do you think it has something to do with the calcium supplement that I take every day ?? the supplement has 400mg calcium, 200mg magnezium and 10uq vitamin d3…should I stop taking this supplement ??

  25. UnCommonSense

    There are very few supplements that should be taken. They are almost all adulterated and extracted and we are learning daily that the body NEEDS nutrients in their natural state and often in foods as they are synergistic. Calcium for instance needs Vitamin D and Magnesium. If you are going to supplement use whole food supplements that have not been adulterated. We are also learning that the mouth plays a huge role in alerting the body of what is coming and to prepare.

  26. Ashley Marie

    Does this mean that taking tums a lot can cause gastrointestinal issues?…and is bad for the heart?
    I have GERD and have not been able to get it to go away for 2yrs. …also is there anything that helps strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter? ????

  27. Wendy Gretzinger

    Eat an orange with some almonds. My osteopenia reversed when I got off dairy. This kind of blows the theory that you need dairy products to keep up calcium levels…

  28. Sum Dood

    how about the calcium in milk? My dad drinks alot of it and ive been telling him not to for the hormones, but now i might have another reason. Also, where is part 2?

  29. Stephen Manchester

    Take no more than the recommended dose with food and you should be fine, not required unless you have low blood calcium. This is just fear mongering. Where are the facts? how much calcium did they take? over how long? any prior health problems? I call bullshit.

  30. Zubin Grant

    Calcium supplementation should always be done in a gradual dosed manner. Instead of a single 1000mg pill, take 5 200mg ones. That way, you're not putting too much stress on your system and still meeting nutritional guidelines.

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