An important post for post menopausal women. I have been passing this information onto most of my clients, especially the women I see that are over the age of 50 and taking calcium pills. A recent meta- analysis (meaning a review of all current literature published on the specific topic) released in April of this year in the British Medical Journal has uncovered a concerning piece of information surrounding the use of calcium supplements in post menopausal women.
In the analysis it was found that:
Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D modestly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, especially myocardial infarction, a finding obscured in the WHI CaD Study by the widespread use of personal calcium supplements. A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in osteoporosis management is
Overall the increase in risk was about 24% compared to those not taking calcium supplement. The suspicion is that such high doses of calcium may disrupt the natural contractions of muscles (such as those in the heart) because calcium is involved in the contraction process of all muscles. A sudden burst of excessive calcium such as that found in supplements may throw this natural process out of whack.
More studies are needed, but for now, many women are remaining on their vitamin D supplement while trying to get their calcium through food or taking a very low dose supplement. Food contains calcium in low enough doses that it shouldn't pose a risk, but still benefit bone health. Some great sources include:
milk, cottage cheese, yogurt
salmon (with bones)
fortified orange juice
There are many others, but these are a good start. If you are on calcium supplements due to conditions such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, be sure to speak with your doctor prior to discontinuing your supplement.