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Are Calcium Supplements Safe?

Elizabeth (Lisa) J. Samelson, Ph.D.'s picture
are calcium supplements safe?
are calcium supplements safe?

While calcium supplements are considered effective for bone health, there have been reports linking potential adverse effects between calcium supplements and the risk of heart disease. This information has led many seniors to question the safety of calcium supplements and whether they should take them. As lead author of a recent study completed by a team of researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, I can offer reassuring insight into these concerns. 

Overall, our study showed no evidence of a link between calcium intake and coronary artery calcification, reassuring adults who take calcium supplements for bone health that the supplements do not appear to result in the development of calcification of blood vessels.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that participants who had the highest calcium intake, from diet or supplements or both, had the same coronary artery calcification score as those who had the lowest calcium intake. The coronary artery calcification score represents the severity of calcified plaque clogging the arteries in the heart and is an independent predictor of heart attack.

In addition to our research, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has also concluded that evidence from clinical trials does not support an adverse effect of calcium intake on risk of heart disease. Taking calcium supplements is considered safe and effective for bone health by IOM with a recommendation of 1,200 mg per day of calcium for women over 50 and men over 70 and 1,000 mg per day for men between 50 and 70. The guidelines say supplementation can be used if the minimum requirements are not being met through diet.

While our study has provided reassuring information when it comes to the safety of taking calcium supplements, I urge patients to contact their primary care physicians with any questions or concerns.

Click here for more information on the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife.

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Associate Scientist

Elizabeth (Lisa) Samelson is an Associate Scientist at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.  Her major areas of research include excessive curvature of the thoracic spine (hyperkyphosis), osteoporosis and related fractures, and the links between bone and vascular calcification.  Dr. Samelson co-directs the Advanced Research Training Seminar in the HSL - Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Program.  Dr. Samelson received a PhD in Epidemiology from Columbia University and completed a...

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