November 10/Zurich/World News Resource -- A newly published study in the medical journal Heart has found that taking calcium supplements significantly increases the risk of a heart attack by 86%.  These findings come after many years of study, and there is both good news and bad news.

This is not good news for millions of women who take calcium supplements daily as recommended by their doctors to help prevent the bone disease, osteoporosis.  Calcium supplements have also been recommended by doctors to improve cholesterol levels and to control hypertension.

The study did show, however, that by eating calcium-rich foods instead of taking dietary supplements, there was a significantly reduced risk of heart attack.

Professor Sabine Rohrmann at the University of Zürich conducted the 11-year study. There were almost 24,000 men and women between the ages of 35-64 participating in the study.  The study was aimed at researching and evaluating the effects of dietary calcium and calcium supplements on cardiovascular disease.  Previous reports had indicated that higher levels of calcium might improve the risk of cardiovascular disease.  The recent findings by Rohrmann showed no decreased risk in cardiovascular disease or stroke, however; the recent evidence warns that taking calcium supplements actually increases the risk of heart attack.

Participants were broken into two main groups, those taking dietary calcium, and those taking calcium supplements. The participants who took dietary calcium including dairy products, had a significantly reduced heart attack risk.  One subgroup took 820mgs of dietary calcium daily while another subgroup took 1,130mgs of dietary calcium daily.  The findings showed that taking 820mgs of dietary calcium daily decreased the risk of heart attack significantly.  The study also showed that by taking a higher dosage of 1,130mgs of dietary calcium daily, there is no further reduction in heart attack risk.

Calcium supplements should be taken with caution.  Users of calcium supplements should check with their medical professionals about this recent information.

More research needs to be done in this area to achieve a better understanding of calcium intake. It is believed that calcium supplements have an acute increase of serum calcium after ingestion which may contribute to the increased risk of heart attack. Participants who were consuming calcium through their diets, however, showed no acute increase of serum calcium after eating calcium-rich foods.

This is not the first study to support these findings. Professor Ian Reid, M.D., at the University of Auckland Medical School in New Zealand, has also done several studies on this subject with similar results.  He believes that calcium supplements cause a spike in blood levels that damages the arteries.

Currently, the American National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), recommends women under 50 years of age take 1,000mgs of calcium daily, and women over 50 take 1,200mgs daily.  Men are encouraged to take 1,000mgs daily under the age of 71, and 1,200mgs daily over the age of 71.  The NOF does encourage everyone to eat calcium-rich foods as supplements don’t provide any extra benefits.

With the latest findings, Professor Rohrmann recommends 600-800mgs of dietary calcium daily. Also, calcium is difficult to absorb in the body and vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium and gain the benefits.