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Media Is Misleading the Public Again with Flawed “Study” about Calcium

Italy cactus and full lake

First of all, this “new report” is not new at all. It’s a revisiting of
an article published in the British Medical Journal in July of 2010.
Secondly, it was not a “study”, but a meta-analysis.

So what is a meta-analysis? It is a conclusion drawn as a result of reviewing a group of previous studies. And the conclusion is not drawn by original authorsof the studies, but by another group of people altogether. Oh yes, it’s also important to note that four of the contributing authors of this analysis were involved in pharmaceutical drug development trials and include Wyeth, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Nycomed and Mission Pharmacal. At my most cynical, I wonder how many more medications for osteoporosis will be sold as a result of scaring people into not taking any calcium supplements?

The meta-analysis report results: after reviewing 11 selected previous
studies, the authors concluded there is a 27% increase in relative risk
for heart attacks in those that took calcium supplementation.

What is wrong with this conclusion? They handpicked the studies they
wanted to include. They ignored the results of studies that were not
consistent with this conclusion. Specifically, they ignored at least
three important studies, the Boston Nurses Health Study, The United
Kingdom Study of Ischemic Heart Disease
, and the Iowa Women’s Health
Study
. All of these studies, and more, concluded either no change in
risk or a reduced mortality as a result of cardiovascular events.

Also ignored in the analysis were the other supplements participants
were taking. For example, careful review of the 11 studies they chose to
use indicates that on average, participants had very low blood levels of
vitamin D
. Yet even though the authors of the meta-analysis acknowledged
that vitamin D supplementation reduces cardiovascular risk and
mortality, they chose to exclude studies that supplemented with Vitamin
D. Or even eliminate those where participants had low vitamin D blood
levels, which is KNOWN TO INCREASE RISK of a cardiovascular event.

Also ignored were studies in which participants also supplementing with
vitamin K, magnesium and vitamin D, in addition to calcium. Lack of
Vitamin K directs calcium to the wall of the arteries instead of to
bone. Vitamin K is critical for protecting the lining of the arterial
wall and for bone health.

So what does all this mean? I have never recommended calcium alone for
prevention of bone loss and decreasing risk of osteoporosis. Bone health
includes supplementation with calcium balanced with magnesium. Other
minerals like zinc, boron and silicon are also important. Supplementing
with vitamin D, with your dose determined by your own blood level. And
vitamin K supplementation is also critical (unless you are taking a
pharmaceutical blood thinner).

In addition, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and a consistent exercise
and weight training program
are critically important for protecting bone
and heart health.