Monday, October 10, 2011

Calcium supplements: Helpful in moderation, harmful in excess

If you take calcium supplements, it’s important that you don’t exceed the recommended daily dose. Like other vital nutrients, experts warn that optimal amounts of calcium promote health but excesses come with serious adverse side effects such as heart attack and bone fracture.

Calcium is important for strong bones, but taking too much with high-dose supplements can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, bone loss, heart problems and even kidney failure.

Calcium and vitamin D are the most important nutrients for building bones and in ensuring that they remain strong. The bones serve as a storage site for the body’s calcium. They are continuously giving up calcium to the bloodstream and then replacing it as the body’s need for calcium changes from day to day. When calcium intake is low or calcium is poorly absorbed, bone breakdown occurs because the body must use the calcium stored in bones to maintain normal biological functions such as nerve and muscle function. Bone loss also occurs as a part of the ageing process.

Individuals that lack calcium are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition where bones are so weak that they break easily. Osteoporosis, which causes thin, porous, easily broken bones, may occur in women after menopause, but may sometimes occur in elderly men also. Osteoporosis in women past menopause is thought to be caused by a reduced amount of oestrogen, the female hormone.

Although prescription of calcium supplements should be safe when taken at recommended doses, experts warn that an abuse of calcium supplements or too much of calcium in the body could be detrimental to health.

Milk and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables as well as fish with edible bones are sources of calcium. But many older people, particularly women past the menopause, do not get enough of these nutrients and resort to taking calcium supplements. This is partly because their bodies don’t absorb calcium as efficiently as they used to.

Calcium overdose has become more common in recent years, and some take much more than the recommended dose, not realizing that ingesting too much calcium can lead to a potentially serious conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney damage, heart attack and even kidney failure.

In a study by researchers on women that had passed menopause to assess the health risks of excess intake of calcium supplements, which two recent studies published in the British Medical Journal and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers pointed out that calcium supplements can cause more trouble as compared to the bad things prevented by them.

The study found out that excess calcium intake can increase a person’s risk of developing a heart attack rate as much as 30 per cent. It is therefore, important to take to advice on how alternatives can be sought to prevent osteoporosis.

Although the study concluded that calcium supplementation in healthy postmenopausal women is associated with upward trends in cardiovascular event rates, the study was not certain about the mechanism by which calcium damages the body. But it is assumed that increase in the numbers of heart attacks are caused by the damage of blood vessels of the body.

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