Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have written a succinct review.

Let’s cut to the chase.

Risk of heart attack

  • A meta-analysis suggests that calcium supplementation without coadministration of vitamin D is associated with an increased incidence of heart attack.
  • More studies evaluating the cardiovascular effects of calcium supplementation, with and without vitamin D, are needed.

Benefits for bone loss.

  • A meta-analysis revealed that the benefit of calcium on fractures is minimal — about a 10% risk reduction in all fractures.
  • Patients with significant fracture risk should take medications with proven efficacy.
    • But it’s too soon to abolish calcium supplementation.

Benefits for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women

  • Patients are still encouraged to consume adequate calcium.
  • Calcium supplements should be recommended only to patients who consume insufficient calcium from dietary sources.

The bottom line?

Here what to remember about calcium treatment.

  • Prior to initiating calcium supplementation, a healthcare team should estimate daily calcium intake.
  • Calcium supplements do not apply to calcium-rich foods.
  • There are no reported cases of calcium intoxication from dietary calcium sources.
  • Because the calcium in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of calcium, it’s preferred to supplements.
  • Lactose-intolerant patients and those on a strict vegetarian diet should be encouraged to obtain calcium from nondairy or calcium-fortified products.

3/14/11 20:24 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.