In response to a study, “Dietary and Supplemental Calcium Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality,” published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement:
Statement by Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., senior director, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN:
“Individuals who do not achieve adequate intake levels of calcium through their diets can rest assured that supplemental calcium is safe and effective for ensuring optimal bone health. The science behind the safety and benefit of calcium supplementation is well-established; and this study proves inconsistent with a recent wave of new research that concludes that calcium supplementation is beneficial to bone health, and also poses no risk to cardiovascular health.
- A recent analysis, “Health Risks and Benefits from Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation: Women’s Health Initiative Trial and Cohort Study” published in Osteoporosis International, found that long-term supplementation with calcium and vitamin D by postmenopausal women may be beneficial in significantly reducing risk of hip fracture by about 38 percent. It also found no increased risk in cardiovascular disease (CVD) within this same population taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.
- “A Review of Calcium Supplements and Cardiovascular Disease Risk” published in Advances in Nutrition by an expert panel composed of academic and industry experts in the fields of nutrition, cardiology, epidemiology, bone health, and integrative medicine, concluded that individuals who do not obtain recommended intake levels of calcium through dietary sources can safely utilize calcium supplements to achieve optimal bone health. It also concluded that the available science does not suggest an increased risk for CVD related to calcium supplement use.
- The most recent “Calcium Intake is not Associated with Increased Coronary Artery Calcification: the Framingham Study” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, gives more convincing evidence as compared to the JAMA study that calcium supplementation does not adversely affect the cardiovascular system since this cohort was designed to look specifically at CVD-related outcomes and frequent follow up was obtained throughout the study, not just at baseline.
Overall, there is a lack of evidence that calcium intake—from food or dietary supplements—contributes to any positive or negative effects on the vascular system.
This study has the same unfortunate design defects as previous studies yielding mixed results. The National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet & Health Study was originally designed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute to look specifically at epidemiologic investigations of diet and cancer, not to measure cardiovascular or cerebrovascular outcomes. It is also important to consider that dietary supplement usage has increased dramatically in the last two decades. This includes calcium supplement usage which has increased among men in the past two decades as dairy consumption has decreased and the incidence of osteoporosis among this population has become increasingly evident. The results of this study are most likely confounded by the lack of data collected during the 11-year follow up because the number of baseline nonusers who became users of calcium supplements was likely to have increased substantially.
The amount of calcium needed from a supplement depends on age and dietary intake of calcium. Consumers should talk with their doctors or other healthcare practitioners to determine what is right for them. According to the Institute of Medicine, women over 50 and men 71 and older should obtain 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily through foods and supplements for optimal bone health. Calcium is popular among U.S. consumers, and according to CRN’s most recent survey of U.S. adults, 17 percent indicate they take a calcium supplement.”