One of the most common supplements taken in America is calcium, but there’s a good reason to believe that not only do calcium supplements contribute almost no calcium to your overall intake, but are greatly increasing your risk for a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, kidney stones, and prostate cancer.
For those over 50 years of age, supplementing with calcium has long been advised as a way to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures, which are a leading cause of death and disability in the elderly.
That evidence has been taken strongly by Americans, and one study based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey respondents found that 50% of those surveyed between 2003 and 2006 reported taking a calcium supplement.
But the evidence was never strong at the outset, and it’s continued to become less convincing. For example in a study of 170,000 post-menopausal women, 2,954 of whom suffered hip fractures during the study period, there was no connection between overall calcium intake and hip fracture risk.
A 2017 meta-analysis of 30 randomized controlled trials involving more than 50,000 participants found the use of supplements that included calcium, vitamin D, or both was not associated with a significant difference in the risk of hip fractures compared with placebo or no treatment.
So how did calcium become so popular when it’s effectiveness is impossible to demonstrate? Partly this has to do with the fact that many people don’t eat enough calcium. Increases in the burden of osteoporosis or osteopenia led scientists and doctors to assume that, if Americans aren’t eating enough calcium, a supplement could help cover for their dietary deficiencies.
As Chris Kresser MD, a functional medicine practitioner and science communicator recently went on YouTube to explain, calcium consumed in large doses is deposited in the soft tissues like muscle and organs, rather than being deposited in our bones and teeth like when it’s consumed in small amounts through the diet.
This, as it turns out, is highly dangerous.