Sunday, August 1, 2010

Calcium and Heart Disease

On July 30, 2010, the British Medical Journal published an article demonstrating an association between the use of calcium supplements and the risk of  heart attacks. Those taking calcium supplements had a 27% increaserate of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).  While previous studies have hinted at this, this combined study is the most persuasive evidence to date.
This study was actually a compilation of smaller studies. This type of study (known as a Meta-Analysis) combined 11 randomized trials in which participants took calcium supplements (500 milligrams or more per day) without vitamin D.  I believe the fact that no vitamin D, K or magnesium was used with the calcium is an important reason for the negative effect.   Calcium intake from food sources is not associated with an increased risk.

How Could  Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Disease? 

1.      Calcium taken as a supplement appears to behave differently than calcium ingested from diet.  This may be related to supplements lacking the natural calcium balancers which are present in food.  The size of the calcium clusters in supplements is larger than that in food and may be harder to use. 
2.     Low vitamin D
Calcium ingested without adequate Vitamin D results in arterial calcifications. Vascular calcifications can accelerate atherosclerosis and result in heart attacks.   The better your vitamin D status, the less calcium you have in your arteries.    Most are very low in vitamin D.   

3.  Low Vitamin K 
Low Vitamin K speeds  up arterial   calcification. Higher Levels of Vitamin K has been shown to:
·         Reduce  mortality from all causes by 26%
·         Decrease Coronary Artery Disease by 57%

4.      Low Magnesium
Magnesium competes with the calcium binding sites on our cells. Magnesium is a critical mineral to balance calcium and according to the NIH, 62% of Americans are low on magnesium.

Should  you stop calcium  supplements?  Since this study just looked at adding calcium alone, we really do not know what the results would have been if Vitamin D,  Magnesium & Vitamin K had been used.  We definitely need more studies and for now I would recommend:

Get Your Calcium Naturally from Food, Water, Whole Food Supplements
Optimize Vitamins D, K and Magnesium
Natural Sources of Calcium
The dairy industry wants you to think of dairy when you think of calcium.  Dairy is associated with too many negative effects to recommend dairy as your source of calcium.  Instead, I would recommend one focus on healthier sources of calcium like dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens and as well as calcium rich water such as spring water or ionized water (see below )
     Non-Dairy Foods rich in Calcium include:      
·         Spinach
·         Kale
·         Collard greens
·         Turnip greens
·         Broccoli
·         Peas
·         Brussel sprouts
·         Sesame seeds
·         Bok choy
·         Almonds
·         Soybeans
·         Tofu
·         Rhubarb
·         Okra
·         White beans
·         Baked beans

Drink Calcium Rich Water
Spring water and Ionized water  contain natural minerals in a proper balance. You can purchase a water ionizer  - The Ionizer Plus from  For more information, please read my February 2010 blog post at

Always optimize the vitaminD and K as well as Magnesium:

Optimal blood test levels of Vitamin D are between 60-100.  Physicians Preference carries quality vitamin D3 – levels of the 25-OH-Vitamin D should be monitored to ensure  proper levels are achieved and not exceeded.       

Use supplements made from whole foods, especially green vegetables, when needed (Vitamin K and magnesium are naturally in vegetable capsules)

Magnesium Citrate 200 mg 1-2 twice a day helps optimize Magnesium

Note that green vegetables, beans and nuts are rich in both vitamin K and magnesium: 

Sources of magnesium include: 

·         green, leafy vegetables (kale, turnip greens and spinach)
·         beans, peas and soybeans
·         nuts
·         whole grain cereals

  Sources of vitamin K include:
§  Vegetables like asparagus, spinach and broccoli
§  Beans including Soybeans
§  Strawberries
§  Meat
§  Eggs 

If you have osteoporosis, you may want to add Strontium (2 – 340 mg daily) and Vitamin K2 (MK-7 fraction, 100 mcg a day) along with Whole food Supplements.  Together these can help optimize bone health and more.
- For more information about Strontium please read the October 2009 post at for more information. 
- You can get a quality source of Strontium (as well as Magnesium Citrate) from Physicians Preference.
- For clinical studies and a source of whole food supplements click HERE

Selected References
Bolland MJ, Avenell A, Baron JA, Grey A, MacLennan GS, Gamble GD, et al. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c3691