According to new research, people who take calcium supplements could be increasing their risk of having a heart attack.
Writing in the journal Heart, researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre followed 23,980 people for more than a decade. They compared the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements with those who did not.
Over the ten year period, there were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take any supplements at all. But people taking calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have had a heart attack during the study.
Calcium has several important functions, including helping build strong bones, regulating muscle contractions and ensuring that blood clots normally. Calcium is often taken by older people to strengthen bones and prevent fractures.
But experts have disputed the research. Dr Carrie Ruxton, from The Health Supplements Information Service, said: "Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it is irresponsible for scientists to advise that women cut out calcium supplements on the basis of one flawed survey".
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said patients prescribed the supplements should keep taking their medication but speak to their doctor if they are concerned. Natasha Stewart, a senior cardiac nurse with the BHF, said:
"This research indicates that there may be an increased risk of having a heart attack for people who take calcium supplements. "
"However, this does not mean that these supplements cause heart attacks."
Now, further research is needed to establish the relationship between calcium supplements and heart health. A spokeswoman for the UK's Department of Health said it would consider the study carefully once the complete article had been published.
Experts advise that calcium should be part of a balanced diet. Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy foods, fortified dairy food alternatives and green leafy vegetables.
NHS patients and those with health insurance should speak to their GP if they want to discuss the results of the study.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012