Plain language summary: calcium supplements and heart attacks

The research:

Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis

The summary:

This trial took information from 36,282 women who had been through the menopause, and looked at them to see whether taking calcium supplements made them more likely to have a heart attack.  Half of the women were given calcium and vitamin D supplements, while half were given a placebo (sugar-pill).  The trial found that taking calcium and vitamin D increased the risk of heart problems slightly, including heart attacks.  Some women took their own personal calcium supplements as well as those provided by the study, and these women had no increased risk of heart attack.

Re-analysis of some older trials found that calcium and vitamin D increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  The way that calcium supplements are used should be examined, to see if change is needed.

The caveats:

This paper appears to find that women who take the highest amount of calcium (their own tablets plus the ones provided by the study) have no increase in risk compared to women who don’t take any calcium at all.  If this was a true effect, we would expect women who take the most calcium to have the highest risk. Other authors have published papers that find no evidence of risk with calium and vitamin D supplements.

This paper is discussed in more detail in this blog post.

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Posted on December 7, 2012, in Evidence, Plain language summaries, Science communication and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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