Taking calcium supplements could elevate the risk of heart diseases, reports a study conducted by a team of researchers from leading universities including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 43 percent of people in the United States take calcium supplements, although it is not certain yet whether calcium supplements promote bone health. To be able to get an idea on the issue, the researchers analyzed the medical reports of about 2,700 people over a period of 10 years.

The investigators included participants aged between 45 and 84 years old for the Multi-Ethnic Study where 51 percent of them were women. The study participants completed dietary questionnaires and underwent two CT scanning 10 years apart.

About 20 percent of the study population was observed to be taking more than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day. It was found that the said 20 percent of people were 27 percent less likely to develop heart diseases than 20 percent of participants who took less than 400 milligrams of calcium every day.

However, when the participants were analyzed based on the form of calcium take in, people who took high amounts of dietary supplements had coronary artery calcium scores than those who took calcium rich diet.

Dr. Erin Michos from Johns Hopkins said that Americans use a variety of nutritional supplements for calcium, vitamin and minerals, and people also believe that it is good to take more calcium than required for better bone health. On the contrary, just as reported in earlier studies, it was observed that taking in excess of calcium in the form of dietary supplements could be harmful to heart and vascular system.

Previous studies have shown that the calcium ingested in the form of supplements does not reach the skeletal system as expected, particularly in elderly people. Calcium that is also not completely expelled in urine, eventually gets accumulated in the soft tissues of the body.

John Anderson, a nutritionist and co-author of the study, noted that there is a huge difference in the way the body process calcium in the diet and calcium obtained from dietary supplements. It could be either because it is delivered in the form of calcium salts or excessive amount of calcium is taken at once.

"Based on this evidence, we can tell our patients that there doesn't seem to be any harm in eating a heart-healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, and it may even be beneficial for the heart," said Michos. "But patients should really discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Oct. 11, was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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