CALCIUM & HEART HEALTH - FLAWED STUDY ALARMS WOMEN
By Byron J. Richards, CCN
January 29, 2008
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal has insinuated that calcium intake in elderly women may increase the risk for a heart attack. The study involved 1471 postmenopausal women (mean age 74). The story has been spread by major news media and has confused and needlessly worried many women who are taking calcium for their bone health. The study contains numerous flaws and therefore its conclusion is not reliable.
Calcium is well known to raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), lower LDL cholesterol, assist weight management, and support healthy blood pressure. All of these factors would obviously contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Various other studies have reported cardiovascular benefit for women, such as the Iowa women’s health study which found a 33% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular events in women whose calcium intakes (diet or supplements) were in the highest fourth compared with those in the lowest fourth. In 2006 a study of significantly more women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (36,282 – ages 50-79) found that there was no increase in heart attacks or strokes while taking a combination of calcium and vitamin D.
The current study was conducted at New Zealand’s largest university, University of Auckland. The university is well connected to Big Pharma funding and numerous commercial research ventures involving drugs, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. To its students it offers barnburner courses like “Dietary Supplements: creating expensive urine?” Let’s be blunt – New Zealand is backwards on health freedom and has a dominant anti-supplement government which recently attempted (and failed) to take dietary supplements off the market and is currently threatening all sorts of harassment for dietary supplements. This university nor the country it resides within are a Mecca of nutrition science.
In the current study the calcium-taking group had more smokers, higher starting cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, and more patients with previous stroke and other heart-related disease. Not a single adverse starting variable could be found in the non calcium taking group. What a joke! They picked a starting group of elderly frail people who are more likely to die from their own poor health and then tried to blame it on calcium.
They did not control their study for people taking Coumadin (warfarin), which is known to force calcium into arteries by blocking the ability of vitamin K to attach calcium into the bone matrix. They also didn’t control for steroids or hormone replacement therapy, which would also slant or confound the results.
To be sure they wouldn’t fail in their biased study they did not define a primary endpoint at the beginning of the study. This means they created a definition of what they were studying based on results coming in that they liked. The report of increased risk for heart attacks is only statistically significant with hand-picked patient self-reporting. As soon as the actual deaths are included, based on death certificates, the study no longer maintains statistical significance. This means that even though they tried their very best to make calcium look bad, there was no valid scientific finding in the study regarding increased risk of heart attack! The study is a sham.
On top of this, they used 1000 mg of calcium citrate per day with no vitamin D. Anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that vitamin D is required to get calcium to the bone so it can be used to build bone.
As an expert in clinical nutrition I never tell anyone to take 1000 mg of calcium per day in the form of calcium citrate. While calcium citrate is more absorbable than the pathetic gym chalk in many calcium supplements (cheap forms of calcium carbonate), once it gets into the body it poses a metabolic problem. This is because for every 1000 mg of calcium there are 4000 mg of citric acid. You would have to eat 1 ¼ pounds of tomatoes per day to get that much citric acid. Citric acid in small amounts doesn’t bother too many people; however, in larger amounts it can cause fatigue, headaches, and canker sores – especially in elderly people who are already more often fatigued.
This is because the first step in energy production within mitochondria of cells is to make citric acid from two other compounds. Small amounts of citric acid may spark energy production – which some people feel from eating a lemon, lime, or tomato. However, too much citric acid is like flooding the engine of your car with gas – it causes it to conk out. If you don’t believe me just eat a bunch of lemons, limes, or tomatoes and watch how long it takes you to feel tired or get a headache.
Thus, this is a nutritionally dumb study from the start. High quality forms of calcium are not used. No vitamin D is used. No important bone building cofactors such as magnesium or DHA are used – which incidentally are heart friendly. In essence, the researchers are raising the blood level of calcium with no place for it to go – a reckless experiment.
This is a real technical problem because people in frail health are already losing calcium from their bones. They already have too much inflammation in their circulatory system that is initiating the process by which calcium may form plaque and help harden arteries – and then the researchers place large amounts of calcium in the circulation with no vitamin D to help it get to bones. On top of that the individual gets a huge dose of fatigue-producing citric acid – which adds to the inflammatory burden.
The only thing this study proves is how biased and stupid the researchers are. All postmenopausal women should strive for 1500 – 2000 mg a day of calcium from a combination of diet and dietary supplements. Magnesium and numerous other cofactor nutrients are important for both bones and heart health, and the foundation for these are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Consistent and refreshing exercise is vital for bone and heart health. Numerous dietary supplement ingredients support both bone and heart health and work synergistically with calcium to promote optimal function of this mineral within your body. These are the facts and they won’t ever change.
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Byron J. Richards, Founder/Director of Wellness Resources, is a Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist and nationally-renowned health expert, radio personality, and educator. He is the author of Mastering Leptin, The Leptin Diet, and Fight for Your Health: Exposing the FDA's Betrayal of America.
Richards encourages individuals to take charge of their health, stand up for their health rights, and not blindly succumb to propaganda from the vested-interests who profit from keeping Americans sick. As founder of Wellness Resources, Inc. of Minneapolis, MN, an independently-owned fine-quality dietary supplement company since 1985, he has personally developed 75 unique nutraceutical-grade nutritional formulas. www.wellnessresources.com
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Calcium is well known to raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), lower LDL cholesterol, assist weight management, and support healthy blood pressure.