Get Calcium From Foods, Not Pills

You’ll do your bones – and perhaps your heart – a service by reaching for yoghurt or a tall glass of milk rather than popping a calcium supplement, according to a new report in the 17 October issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Concerned by several recent studies that linked calcium supplementation to heart attacks, Douglas Bauer, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, US, reviewed the research on calcium supplements and concluded that to be on the safe side, it’s better to get your daily value of the bone-fortifying nutrient from foods instead of pills.

Multiple studies have shown no relationship between calcium supplementation and cardiovascular problems. However, there are enough studies suggesting an association between the two to give Bauer, and others, pause.

Among them is 2013 JAMA International Medicine study that examined 11,778 deaths related to cardiovascular incidents and found an increased risk with calcium supplementation. The authors of that study concluded “high intake of supplemental calcium is associated with an excess risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) death in men but not in women.”

Calcium supplements are often recommended to adults, particularly older women, because poor bone density puts them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

The Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily value for post-menopausal women over the age of 50 and men over 70 is 1200mg per day. The daily value for adults 17 and up is 1000mg.

To increase your intake, Bauer recommends consuming dairy as well as kale, broccoli and other foods with calcium. But he adds that “if it is not possible to consume enough calcium from the diet, the use of calcium supplements is most likely safe and not associated with cardiovascular outcomes.”

Runner’s World fuel expert Pamela Nisevich Bede writes that “while osteoporosis is usually diagnosed in older adults, getting enough calcium and vitamin D throughout the life cycle makes a big difference – the stronger the bones are at 30, the greater the likelihood that bone loss will be delayed as you age.”

You’ll find a list of calcium-rich foods, which include soy beverages and sardines.

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