Unanticipated consequences of taking calcium for bone health

 When healthy postmenopausal women take calcium supplements to improve bone health, there appears to be an increase in cardiovascular problems.First, the details.

  • 1471 postmenopausal women (average age 74) were randomly assigned to take a calcium supplement or placebo.
  • The dose was 1 gram of elemental calcium daily (Citracal; Mission Pharmacal, San Antonio, TX).
  • They took 2 tablets (each containing 200 mg elemental calcium) before breakfast and 3 each evening.
  • Compliance was assessed by tablet counts every 6 months.
  • The women were monitored for 5 years.

And, the results.

  • Heart attacks occurred significantly more often in the calcium group than with placebo.
  • The combined occurrence of heart attack, stroke, or sudden death occurred significantly more often in the calcium group than with placebo.

The bottom line?
This is the first study of calcium in postmenopausal women that was specifically designed to look at cardiovascular effects. This, and the confirmed bioavailability of the calcium product used in this study, plus the positive effect of calcium citrate support the validity of the results.

Even in a population this large, the findings need to be confirmed in larger groups. For now, the results add one more consideration in the decision to use calcium supplements in postmenopausal women.

Citracal is widely advertised on the radio. It will be interesting to see if the ads change based on the results of this study.

1/19/08 14:42 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.