1 Aug 2010

Calcium supplements OK for sale - Medsafe

10:51 am on 1 August 2010

Medsafe has no plans to limit the availablilty of calcium supplements, even though new research says they increase the risk of heart attacks.

Researchers from New Zealand, Britain and the United States have looked into trends across 11 studies that involved nearly 12,000 elderly people for four years.

One of the researchers, Professor Ian Reid of Auckland University, says that the risk of heart attack rose by 30% for those who took 500mg of calcium each day, and that health officials need to review whether such supplements should remain available to the public.

Medsafe group manager Stewart Jessamine says, however, that the studies surveyed were not designed to measure a link between calcium and heart disease and that more proof would be necessary before restrictions could be placed on the supplements' availability.

Dangers 'far outweigh benefits'

The researchers found that diets high in calcium do not increase the risk of heart attacks - but calcium supplements do.

Professor Reid says that people who take the supplements have 10% fewer bone fractures but that the dangers far outweigh the benefits.

Calcium supplements are often prescribed for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.

Not relevant to NZ, says retail group

Natural Products New Zealand, a retail group representing the supplement industry, says the review is not relevant to most users in New Zealand.

It says the study focused on those aged over 70 - a group more at risk of heart attacks - while the major users of calcium in New Zealand are women under the age of 50, who are pregnant, breastfeeding or wanting to increase bone density.

The study's results have been published in the British Medical Journal.