For the past 15 years, research studies have been done attempting to prove the benefits of calcium supplements. Two unexpected findings have emerged consistently. The first is that calcium supplements do not work. Taken alone, there is no evidence that they reduce osteoporosis or fractures in women. The second finding is more unsettling and equally consistent. Taking calcium supplements increases the risk of serious heart disease in women. A recently published article reported in the medical journal HEART shows an increased rate of heart attacks of 83%, almost double, in women who took calcium and other supplements versus those who took no supplements at all. Worst of all, those participants who took calcium as their only supplement had an astonishing 270% increase in heart attacks when compared to those who took no supplements at all!

Understandably, many medical specialists in the treatment of osteoporosis quickly responded that this cannot be true. After all, for years they had followed the government recommendations to encourage women to take a daily calcium supplement. Interesting, their response has been limited to commentary only. No evidence has been presented to refute the clear evidence of tremendous risk this latest journal article presents.

How can such a dangerous recommendation be allowed to remain part of mainstream medical practice for so long? It is an interesting example of a bigger pattern. The truth is that the risks of excess calcium intake in supplements or diet has been a subject of research interest in nutritional medicine and anti-aging for a decade. Many medical doctors studying Natural Medicine seriously such as myself have reduced our patients use of calcium supplements for years. The low rewards/high risk of taking a calcium supplement has been obvious from the results of studies published. The larger picture is that when important research in nutrition appears in journals, the article quickly loses its legs, so to speak. It provokes little discussion and therefore does not get disseminated. Once the next month’s journals come out, it is largely forgotten. Hopefully, this new article will have a different fate since it was so carefully done and the risks turn out to be even higher than previously reported.

Where did the idea of taking a calcium supplement originate? It seems to have sprung from a dairy industry marketing plan begun around 1960. The industry discovered that they could expand the sales of their products to fully grown adults with unproven claims. Medical research does show that calcium and milk alone are possibly beneficial for growing children. Also, Vitamin D-3 supplements alone (if one is deficient) are beneficial for children and adults. But neither milk nor calcium has ever been been proven to be beneficial to fully grown adults. No matter about the facts or truth, the marketing was a success. It was a small step for calcium supplement makers to embrace the marketing umbrella provided by the dairy industry. Why did the medical profession not counter the marketing? Some MDs specializing in Natural Medicine tried to alert the greater medical community, but to no avail.

We may say, even if the calcium pill does not help, how can it cause such harm? Calcium is a simple, natural bio identical mineral, isn’t it? Again, turning to nutritional research, we find the answer in linking up 3 key, proven facts. Understanding these associated facts easily solves the puzzle of “How can it be so dangerous”:

  1. It is not the calcium pill directly. The risk comes from what calcium can do to another mineral. Nutritionists have pointed out for years that calcium taken in larger quantities has the ability to block the absorption of magnesium, and
  2. Magnesium deficiency is a proven major public health problem in “first world” countries, and
  3. Magnesium deficiency is already proven by research to be associated with an increased incidence of heart disease, particularly heart attacks, high blood pressure and arrhythmias.

What can we do now?

  1. Stop calcium supplements. Please! Dairy products, for now, are not considered a problem.
  2. Read books such as The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, MD to become better acquainted with these issues. Offer a copy to your doctor if so inclined.
  3. Ask your doctor not to measure the serum magnesium levels commonly used. Kindly remind him or her of something already known, but often forgotten by doctors (we are very human!): almost all of the magnesium in our body is inside the cell, not in the serum. The serum level is easy to run, popular, but is of no use. The test does more harm than good in the end as it gives doctors and patients alike a false sense of security when the results inevitably are in the normal range.

Hope this helps. The best news is that with this information we no longer risk being part of a future negative study about calcium!