We all know how important it is to eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods, but in this fast-paced world many of us find it hard to do. That’s where supplements come into play. Canadians are huge buyers of supplements, spending an estimated $374 million a year. Supplements, in moderation, can certainly play an important role in your health – this is particularly true during pregnancy, in instances of micro nutrient deficiencies, or when an individual’s diet is not providing adequate nutrients. However, recent research suggests that certain supplements may actually be harmful to your health, particularly calcium. A recent study released by the Journal of the American Heart Association backs up what many medical experts have been saying about calcium supplements for years. That too much calcium from supplements – rather than from food – may lead to plaque buildup in arteries which could affect your heart.
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Yet it’s not clear why. According to a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina that worked on the study, “there is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes supplements riskier.”
The study team looked at 2,700 people taking part in a larger survey. The subjects completed questionnaires and received CT scans, and then the same subjects completed the questionnaires and received CT scans 10 years later. The CT scans were used to assess and visualize whether calcium heavydeposits were building up in the arteries.
“I have long been an advocate forgetting your vitamins and minerals fromfood rather than relying on vitamin andmineral supplements. This is especiallytrue for calcium. A 3-ounce serving ofsalmon contains 200 mg of calcium, onecup of milk contains 300 mg — the daily requirement, for menopausal women, according to Osteoporosis Canada is 1,200 mg per day .” – Dr. Vivien Brown, VP Medical Affairs, Medisys Executive Health
The study found that those who ate more than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day from food sources were 27 percent less likely to experience buildup than the others. But those who took calcium supplements were more likely to develop blockages. The study found that those who took calcium supplements were about 22% more likely to develop dangerous buildups of plaque in their arteries.
Individuals who consumed a lot of calcium through food sources alone seemed to be protected from arterial plaques, whereas those who took calcium supplements were at greater risk, according to the team at Johns Hopkins University.
It should be noted that the study is not without limitations. It was observational in nature and, as such, does not definitively prove that calcium supplements cause arterial plaque buildup. It could be possible that individuals who more eat calcium-rich foods (versus those who rely on calcium supplements) are more likely to live a heart-healthy lifestyle – consuming more vegetables, nuts, fish and other foods that deliver cardiovascular benefits and protect against plaque buildup.
The daily recommended intake of calcium is 1,000 - 1,300 milligrams a day depending on age, gender, and current bone health. “What I do,” says Dr. Brown, “is total up the amount of calcium that I have in a day, whether it’s from a latte, yogurt, or cheese, and then top it up with a low dose calcium supplement, only when needed to reach my daily requirement. That way I am assured I am not over supplementing and potentially creating a problem where none should exist.” Disclaimer: The material contained in this newsletter is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content. However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here should not be used by an individual/reader of this newsletter on their own without consulting competent persons such as your doctor or health care provider.
Want to prevent osteoporosis? Start strength training!
“In addition to getting enough calcium & vitamin D in your diet, weight bearing exercise and resistance training are crucial to bone health. Not only will weight training increase bone density, it will also improve muscle mass, balance, and connective tissue strength, all of which decrease risk of injury and fractures.”
– Chris Kornacki, Director of Personal Training, Medisys Toronto