Calcium and Cardiovascular Disease Risk
May 29th, 2014

While recent reports have suggested calcium supplementation may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, a paper published in the May 2014 issue of Osteoporosis International provides a contrasting view. J.M. Paik and colleagues report in a prospective cohort study of 74, 245 women in the Nurses’ Health Study that no independent associations between cardiovascular disease and supplemental calcium were identified in over 24 years of follow up. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00198-014-2732-3

This is significant in that the stated objective of this study was to examine the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and calcium supplement use. Contrast this with less rigorous observational studies that have suggested a link between calcium and CVD.

It’s been said that correlation is not the same as causation. Exactly one year ago today (May 29, 2013) we made a similar argument here: http://www.biotronlabs.com/news/2013/05/29/calcium-essent…or-good-health/.

This is the challenge of retrospective and observational studies as well meta-analyses. That’s not to say such studies are not of value – they certainly have a role to play in forming meaningful hypotheses that deserve investigation, providing a framework for risk management and offering suggestions that may lead to improved outcomes. However, well designed prospective studies necessarily carry more weight.

It’s likely that the debate over calcium supplementation and the risk of CVD will remain unresolved for some time. The findings of Paik and co-workers, however, are encouraging and the fact that such a large sample set did not substantiate the suggested link between calcium supplements and CVD is an important step forward. What remains true is that calcium is an essential nutrient that is instrumental in supporting a myriad of biological functions: from bone health to neurotransmission to intracellular second-message signaling to lactation. It’s also true that in today’s world, calcium intakes are chronically low for many groups. Supplementation (in addition to a healthy diet) has a valuable role to play in addressing this issue.


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