Heart Attack Risk from Calcium Supplements Avoided by Adding Vitamin D
May 10, 2011, Athens, Greece. Press Dispensary.
Abstract OC34 - presented at the 3rd Joint Meeting of the European Calcified Tissue Society and the International Bone and Mineral Society, Athens, Greece, May 10, 2011
An extensive new study shows that adding vitamin D to calcium supplements taken by older people avoids the reported cardiovascular risks associated with calcium-only supplements. The announcement – made today at a major international medical conference in Athens – will come as a relief to the many post-menopausal women who take extra calcium to help reduce the likelihood of hip fractures and other effects of the bone disease, osteoporosis. Previous research has suggested that they may be at an increased risk of heart attack by doing so. However, the conference heard, adding vitamin D does away with this risk.
our findings are reassuring for the million of patients worldwide who are daily using supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D in order to prevent fractures: our results showed no harmful effects
Prof. Lars Rejnmark
Calcium supplements are commonly recommended to post-menopausal women because their bodies become less effective at processing their normal intake of calcium – the basic ingredient of bones. But in recent times, they and their doctors have had to juggle between the benefits to their bones and the possible risks for their hearts.
However, in Athens today, researchers and clinicians at the 3rd Joint Meeting of the European Calcified Tissue Society and the International Bone and Mineral Society heard how Ass. Professor Lars Rejnmark and his colleagues at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, set out to see whether the addition of vitamin D might make a difference. In what has become known as the Randers City Study, more than 9500 men and women above the age of 66 were observed over several years of treatment not only for heart attacks but for other cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and angina.
Prof. Rejnmark said: “For 3˝ years, we gave about half the study group a daily supplement of calcium and vitamin D3 while the rest had no treatment at all, and we watched how they got on. There were some predictable results along the way: among people who already had some kind of heart condition, men showed themselves to be at much greater risk than women of a myocardial infarction (a heart attack), and for both sexes the risk of heart-based incidents rose the older people got.
“But the key result was that across the ages and sexes, and irrespective of whether people started the study with a heart condition, the people on calcium with vitamin D fared the same as people who were taking nothing. In other words, over the course of 3˝ years, adding the vitamin D to the calcium supplements meant that those people no longer needed to fear the cardiovascular side effects associated with pure calcium supplements. Older people – and particularly older women being treated for osteoporosis – can take great comfort from these findings.”
it looks as if combined calcium and vitamin D supplements may in fact bring beneficial effects
Prof. Lars Rejnmark
Prof. Rejnmark and his colleagues also made a discovery that was perhaps less expected. “There was one other interesting outcome,” he continues. “Most of the results were calculated separately for fatal and non-fatal risks. However, when we combined the results for the risk of death with the risk of suffering (but not dying from) a heart disease, the overall risk proved to be significantly lower for users of the combined calcium and vitamin D supplements than if they’d taken nothing.”
Prof. Rejnmark concludes: “Overall, our findings are reassuring for the million of patients worldwide who are daily using supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D in order to prevent fractures: our results showed no harmful effects. Rather, it looks as if combined calcium and vitamin D supplements may in fact bring beneficial effects, but we have yet to see what that may mean.”
End abstract OC34
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Notes for editors
The European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS) is the major organisation in Europe for researchers and clinicians working in the field of calcified tissues and related fields. ECTS acts as a forum for the dissemination of high quality research through its annual meeting, the European Symposium on Calcified Tissues, and through training courses and workshops. In 2011, ECTS worked with the International Bone and Mineral Society to create their third joint meeting together, held in Athens on May 7-11, 2011. Some 2,500 delegates attended.
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