Calcium supplements 'raise heart attack risk'

Taking calcium supplements increases a person's risk of MI, research suggests.

Calcium pills have been shown to raise risk of stroke (Photograph: SPL)
Calcium pills have been shown to raise risk of stroke (Photograph: SPL)

A study published in the BMJ showed calcium supplements increased the risk of MI by 31% compared with those who did not take them.

Authors from the University of Auckland said the findings ‘suggest that a reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is warranted’.

The research team performed meta-analysis of 11 randomised controlled trials of calcium supplements.

Although there was no additional risk of stroke or mortality, researchers said that treatment of 1,000 people with calcium for five years would cause an additional 14 MIs.

There would also be an additional 10 strokes and 13 deaths, but calcium treatment would prevent 26 fractures.

Findings were consistent across trials and were independent of age, sex, and type of supplement.

The authors concluded: ‘Although the magnitude of the increase in risk is modest, the widespread use of calcium supplements means that even a small increase in incidence of cardiovascular disease could translate into a large burden of disease in the population.’

In an accompanying editorial, Professor John Cleland and colleagues from the University of Hull said calcium supplements seem to be unnecessary in adults with an adequate diet.

‘Given the uncertain benefits of calcium supplements, any level of risk is unwarranted,’ they wrote.

‘In the meantime, on the basis of the limited evidence available, patients with osteoporosis should generally not be treated with calcium supplements, either alone or combined with vitamin D, unless they are also receiving an effective treatment for osteoporosis for a recognised indication.’

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