Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
When doctors counsel against the taking dietary supplements, their stopped clock is correct once when it comes to iron, and a second time when it comes to calcium.
The case against iron supplementation is pretty straight-forward. Research shows excess iron increases cancer, infection and heart disease risks. So — you should never take iron as a supplement unless you’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.
The case against calcium supplementation is a little more complex.
Remember, there is a big difference between getting calcium from the foods you eat versus taking calcium supplements. Studies show a calcium-rich diet — filled with foods like seafood, meat and dairy — does benefit the heart. Indeed, your muscles need calcium, and the heart is the most important muscle in the body.
But calcium supplementation is another story entirely. In fact, according to new research out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, taking calcium supplements can hurt your heart.
Past studies show that the body accumulates calcium supplements in the soft tissues, rather than absorbing it into the bones or simply eliminating the excess in the urine. Of course, the bones need calcium. But absorbing calcium into normally soft tissues makes them hard or calcified, which is associated with any number of diseases.
Indeed, taking calcium supplements leads to high blood levels of calcium, which appears to increase the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This “hardening of the arteries” causes high blood pressure, heart damage, and cardiovascular diseases.
Alarmingly, experts estimate that 43 percent of adult men and women take a calcium supplement or a supplement that includes calcium. And more than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements in the belief that it will help reduce their risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium supplements increase risk of heart damage
For the new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, JHU researchers followed more than 5,000 participants over 10 years. They gave the participants CT scans of their coronary arteries that supply the heart at the study’s outset and again after 10 years.
The researchers found that those who took calcium supplements had a 27 percent higher risk of increased calcification of the coronary arteries. By contrast, study participants with high dietary intake of calcium, even at the highest levels, had no increased risk of heart damage.
Researchers believe the body handles calcium in supplement differently than calcium present in natural, organic forms in the diet. In contrast, calcium supplements often contain inorganic calcium salts, which the body can’t effectively metabolize. (Taking these inorganic calcium salts is like trying to get your minerals from eating dirt.)
The body may also have trouble processing large amounts of calcium when introduced all at once in supplement form. And the quality of most calcium supplements remains highly suspect.
Of course, a cardiology professor at the other academic medical center in Baltimore quickly chimed in. He said, “…supplements in general are not the best way to fight disease.”
What a tragic over-generalization.
First of all, the new JHU study did not look at “supplements in general.” Second, thousands of other studies show the benefits of specific supplements like B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and others for brain, emotional, and heart health.
Plus, we know the population in general suffers from widespread deficiencies in these nutrients. In fact, evidence shows MOST Americans are deficient in B vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D. (Perhaps partially due to the faulty, now discredited government dietary guidelines to avoid dietary cholesterol, saturated fats, eggs, and meat.)
And you wonder why Americans suffer from high rates of nutritionally related medical conditions, not to mention bad medical advice.
Remember to get your calcium from a balanced diet including dairy products, leafy green vegetables, meats and seafood.
I tell you about what to do and don’t when it comes to calcium in the December issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
Calcium supplements may not be good for your heart, researchers say,” JHU Hub (hub.jhu.edu) 10/13/2016