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Classed as an essential mineral, calcium has various tasks in your body, ranging from helping to build bones to ensuring normal blood clotting. While you should be able to get enough of this mineral from your diet, many people, especially the elderly, are reaching for its supplement form instead. However, taking calcium supplements could be taxing for your health, warns a study, published in the journal Heart.
The research found that taking the popular supplements was linked to a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality.
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The researchers wanted to examine the link between supplemental calcium, mortality and progression of aortic stenosis.
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In case you're not aware, aortic stenosis happens when your heart's aortic valve narrows.
This leaves the valve unable to open fully, reducing or blocking blood flow from your heart into the main artery and to the rest of your body, the Mayo Clinic explains.
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Looking at 2,657 patients for about 69 months, the research team separated the participants into groups based on their supplement habits.
Around 1033 of the participants took calcium and vitamin D while 332 took vitamin D on its own. The rest didn't take any supplements at all.
The calcium group was found to have a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality.
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However, any supplementation wasn't linked with longitudinal change in aortic stenosis parameters.
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The study concluded that taking calcium supplements posed a greater risk of dying.
However, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS) stressed to take the study with a pinch of salt.
Dr Ruxton said: "This latest study reported in Heart was not designed to examine the impact of calcium supplements on heart health which means it can't be used to draw any conclusions for the general population.
"Firstly, the research used historical medical data collected for reasons other than studying calcium supplements.
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"Secondly, the supplements and diets were not standardised so we don't know how much calcium was consumed or what other foods were eaten over the six years.
"Thirdly, observational studies cannot tell us anything about cause and effect, so it's impossible to blame differences in mortality on one single factor."
The expert also noted that other studies looking at calcium supplements produced different results.
A review, published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, reported that their data don't strongly support a significant effect of greater dietary calcium intake on the risk of coronary artery disease or stroke.
However, the NHS also warns that it's important to be cautious and don't take too many calcium supplements as this could be "harmful".
It recommends taking 1,500mg or less daily as this is unlikely to "cause any harm".
The health service adds that you should be able to get all of the mineral you need from your diet.
Dr Ruxton said: "In an ideal world, we would get all the nutrients we need from food but that isn't the case for many people, which is why there remains a role for dietary supplements.
"As confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority, calcium supplements are safe as long as overall calcium intakes are below 2500 mg per day."
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