As long as we’ve known about heart disease we’ve known that cardiovascular plaque is calcified. Over the years I’ve heard many speculate that if calcification hurts their heart, should they not take calcium? Now it appears these concerns may have some merit.
In a meta-analysis of eleven clinical trials totalling about 12,000 patients, calcium supplementation to raise heart attack risk by 20% to 30% according to Ian Reid, MD, of New Zealand’s University of Aukland.
In the studies, the participants took at least 500 mg of calcium without vitamin D. It has been speculated that the food based calcium absorbs more slowly. The rapid rise of blood calcium with calcium supplements can be the trigger for vascular damage. Editorials with the article also brought forth data showing that the bone protecting benefits with calcium appears minimal in recent studies.
What should be done? Dietary calcium really does revolve around dairy foods. Other foods have some but much less. Calcium fortified foods would also assimilate more slowly and may be a good option for those who are dairy intolerant. These include orange juice, soy and rice milk. Water soluble calcium such as calcium citrate may be less of a culprit. You may know your cholesterol or blood pressure, but what is your vitamin D score? It is probably more important. Get tested and take enough to be in the optimal range of 55-80.
These issues are also thought to be more related to insoluble calcium such as calcium carbonate or oyster shell calcium.
More info: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_101638.html
The B-vitamin folate is important for preventing neural tube defects in infants and has been fortified in grains since 1990. Over this time frame such birth defects have reduced by 19%.
Yet for non-pregnant women and men, this may not be a good thing. The form of folic acid added to grains is folic acid, the synthetic form of folate. Since the 1950’s it was known in the test tube, folic acid fueled the growth of many cancers cells especially colon cancer cells. In fact, most chemotherapy drugs work by blocking folic acid.
Since fortification with folic acid began, it appears colon cancer has risen by 15000 cases per year even after factoring in improvements in screening. Other studies have suggested links between folic acid and lung and prostate cancers.
What to do?
Folic acid is added to processed grains, which means primarily white flour, instant oatmeal and white rice. This is just one more reason to avoid processed grains and eat exclusively whole grains.
Paradoxically, folate from foods is important and likely lowers the risk of many of the same cancers for which folic acid raises the risk. Good sources include leafy greens, lentils, beans and citrus fruits.
When our livers process natural folate, they convert it into a compound called 5 methyltetrahydrafolate. (MTHF). Many professional supplement manufacturors are switching to MTHF in their B-vitamin and multivitamin supplements since this form would not raise risks.
More info: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/cancer/articles/2009/11/17/folic-acid-fortification-might-boost-cancer-risk.html
Although the data is evolving on these risks, the earliest red flags were from nearly a decade ago. Since that time Integrative Health has only used water soluble calcium with vitamin D and has used exclusively converted or low dose folate in our multivitamins.
My stance is that even if the risk is small or hypothetical, it is best to be prudent when it comes to health.