In a new study from the National Institutes of Health, startling results showed that men who took calcium supplements were more apt to die of heart disease than those who didn't get extra calcium in supplement form.
Between 1995 and 1996, 388, 229 middle-aged Americans ages 50 to 71 were asked to answer questions about their lifestyle, general health and diet, including use of supplements. Over the next 12 years, scientists tracked how many of them died, and from what causes.
About half of men and more than two-thirds of women said they took calcium supplements or multivitamins containing calcium at the beginning of the study.
During the study period, almost 12,000 people—or about 3 percent—died of cardiovascular disease.
Lead researcher Qian Xiao, from the National Cancer Institute, and her colleagues found men who took 1,000 milligrams or more of calcium per day were 20 percent more likely to die of heart-related causes than those who did not supplement with calcium.
"It's possible that calcium build-up in the arteries and veins may affect cardiovascular risks in some people," said Xiao.
These findings confirm what Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, magnesium expert and Medical Advisory Board member of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association, has been saying for years: "Magnesium is the key to the body's proper assimilation and use of calcium, as well as vitamin D. If we consume too much calcium without sufficient magnesium, the excess calcium is not utilized correctly and may actually become toxic, causing calcification of the arteries, leading to heart attack and cardiovascular disease."
Studies on women and calcium supplementation have found similar results. In a 2009 study entitled “Use of Calcium Supplements and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in 52–62-Year-Old Women,” Finnish scientists found "Calcium or calcium+D supplementation appears to increase the risk of coronary heart disease among women before old age."
Michael F. Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer for Cleveland Clinic and New York Times best-selling author adds, "It has been known for some time that heart attacks are less common in areas where the water supplies are rich in magnesium. Magnesium is also known to lower blood pressure, dilate the arteries, and, when given after a heart attack, restore normal heart rhythms. Magnesium is especially important in the regulation of calcium. Because we do know that taking calcium helps reduce RealAge (physiologic age), it is also vital to get enough magnesium to allow for the proper absorption of calcium."
Dr. Dean points out, "There is a growing amount of scientific evidence pointing to high calcium–low magnesium intake leading to calcification, or hardening, of arteries (atherosclerosis—the number one cause of death in the US).
"Many people, especially those consuming dairy products, have high-calcium diets. This can lead to a greater amount of unabsorbed calcium."