Tag Archives: calcium supplements

Reinagel Ponders Whether Calcium Supplements Are Safe


Death in a bottle?

Death in a bottle?

Monica Reinagel is a smart and media-savvy nutritionist who brought me on board as a blogger at NutritionData many years ago. Click the link below for her surprising conclusion on calcium supplementation.

Monica writes:

“The National Osteoporosis Foundation published a new report this week, insisting that calcium supplements are safe for your heart. Two weeks ago, Johns Hopkins cardiologist Erin Michos published a paper saying the opposite.

She claims that the NOF review (which was funded by a pharmaceutical company that makes calcium supplements) omitted certain studies (such as the ones she included in her own review) that might have changed the conclusion.

These are just the latest two volleys in a five-year-long tennis match between experts on whether you should or shouldn’t take calcium supplements.  And you thought politics was divisive.”

Source: Calcium Supplements: Safe or Not?

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Filed under Heart Disease

Do Calcium Supplements Cause Heart Attacks?

A new European study suggests that calcium supplements almost double the risk of having a heart attack, at least in Germans.  You can read the full report in the current issue of Heart.

The medical literature on this issue is a confusing mess.  In other words, lots of conflicting results.

Huge numbers of women in the U.S. are taking calcium supplements either to treat or prevent osteoporosis and the associated broken bones (e.g., hips, wrists, spine).

What I’d like to know, and what nobody knows, is what is the effect of calcium supplementation on average longevity and quality of life.  Maybe I’d accept a higher risk of heart attack if calcium supplementation prolonged lifespan by two years.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll just say that the best way to get your calcium is probably through food rather than supplements.

Shereen Jegtvig has an article at About.com listing foods rich in calcium.

Exercise can also help keep your bones strong and break-resistant.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If your doctor has you on a calcium supplement, you’d best get his blessing before you stop it.


Filed under Heart Disease, Supplements

Do Vitamin D and Calcium Supplements Cut Risk of Diabetes?

Cliffs of Dover: Pure White Calcium Carbonate

Cliffs of Dover: Pure White Calcium Carbonate

Several studies have associated vitamin D and calcium intake with lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  After reading that the Institute of Medicine in 2010 will probably increase the recommended amounts of vitamin D for every one, I decided to review the literature pertinent to diabetes.

Over the last 10 years, studies have associated low blood levels of vitamin D with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, death, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, infections, autoimmune diseases, frequent falls in the elderly, and dementia.

The Institute of Medicine (in the U.S.) currently recommends 200 IU (international units) per day for people under 50, 400 IU for people 50-70, with an upper intake level of 2,000 IU per day.  I assume those amounts refer to a combination of food (or supplements) and the vitamin D your skin makes (but how do we know that?). 

The new recommendation is expected to be around 1,000-2,000 IU per day.  It’s quite difficult to get close to that just with food.  With adequate sun exposure, we can make some vitamin D.  But the dermatologists have scared us out of the sun with horror stories of skin cancer.  I’ve seen some tragic cases in my own patients.  Skin covered with sunscreen doesn’t make vitamin D.  It can be difficult to get enough sun exposure, especially at higher latitudes in winter

I reviewed scientific articles pertinent to tyepe 2 diabetes via PubMed and list the best ones for you below.   The evidence in favor of using vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent diabetes is weak, but may be correct. 

I found nothing to suggest that high vitamin D and calcium intake (whether food or supplements) helps control established cases of diabetes. 

Take-Home Points 

If you want to prevent type 2 diabetes with supplements, 1000 IU of vitamin D and 800-1000 mg of elemental calcium daily might help.  The evidence is not strong.  It might help; it might not.  But it’s unlikely to hurt.  Check with your personal physician first.  More studies are needed.  Calcium supplements are routinely recommended by expert nutrition panels for people over 60 to prevent osteoporosis.  The vitamin D supplement may be healthy in other ways.

Who, in particular, might want to prevent type 2 diabetes?  People with . . .

I’m sufficiently convinced about the nondiabetic vitamin D benefits that I’m going to start taking 1,000 IU per day.

Steve Parker, M.D.,


Pittas, Anastassios, et al.  The effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementatinon on blood glucose and markers of inflammatin in nondiabetic adults.  Diabetes Care, 30 (2007): 980-9896.

Chowdhurry, T.A., et al.  Vitamin D and type 2 diabetes: Is there a link?  Primary Care Diabetes, April 21, 2009 (Epub ahead of print).

Pittas, Anastassios, et al.  Vitamin D and calcium intake in relation to type 2 diabetes in women.  Diabetes Care, 29 (2006): 650-656.

Knept, P., et al.  Serum vitamin D and subsequent occurrence of type 2 diabetes.  Epidemiology, 19 (2008): 666-671.

de Boer, I.H., et al.  Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and hte risk of incident diabetes in the Womens’ health Initiative.  Diabetes Care, 31 (2008): 701-707. (Epub January 30, 2008).


Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes