Orthopaedic doctors and general physicians are quick to prescribe calcium supplements as being good for our bones. They are already 10 years behind. A 2008 study in New Zealand found that excess calcium (caused by calcium supplements) in the gut could lead to mal-absorption of fat, reducing saturated fat absorption. With less saturated fat absorbed, your cholesterol might fall. The researchers in New Zealand were expecting to lower heart attack rates by giving women calcium supplements because it showed a lower blood pressure, initially. There appeared to be more heart attacks in the calcium-supplemented group.
Separately, Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomised, controlled trial of calcium supplementation, reported no adverse effects. However, the participants were already on calcium supplements before the study started. So, the study was just comparing higher versus lower doses of calcium supplementation rather than supplementation versus no supplementation. The researchers then went back and checked about the women who started out not taking supplements and then were randomised to the supplement group. These women suffered more heart attacks or strokes. Thus, calcium supplements seemed to increase cardiovascular disease risk.
What happens when we take calcium tablets? Apparently, we get a spike of calcium in our bloodstream (this does not happen when we take calcium-rich foods) and can stay up for as long as eight hours. This leads to a situation when your blood clots more easily, leading to a risk of clots in the heart or brain. Is this why, in the months after a hip fracture, risk of dying shoots up, with about one in five women passing away within a year. Hip fractures can shorten the lifespan of men by an average of four to five years.
So, don’t pop the calcium pills; get calcium from foods and sunshine. In a 2012 study, one group of women received sunlight exposure and the other took calcium pills. The group taking pills had significantly increased mortality, living shorter lives than those in the sunshine group. Calcium is best taken as part of the diet with the knowledge that our body itself has a way of adjusting to calcium levels. If our calcium intake goes down, our body starts absorbing more and vice-versa. The top calcium foods are raw milk, kale, sardines, yogurt and broccoli.