For people who want more calcium, they can easily purchase individual calcium supplement pills. The reason that many people want to add more calcium to their body is because calcium helps make bones stronger. This is an especially important benefit to the elderly, whose bones become more brittle and are more susceptible to breaking. This is a big reason why 50 to 70% of the elderly are known to use calcium supplements.
While there can be benefits to bone strength by increasing calcium, this does not necessarily mean that the added calcium is beneficial for others parts of the body, specifically, the heart. That is, evidence has come to light that use of calcium supplements is associated with heart attacks, death from heart disease, and stroke. A stroke is a burst artery (a type of blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart) or a blockage of an artery in the brain.
In an upcoming study in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers presented results from a very large study involving 388,229 older adults (ages 50 to 71) in 10 states. The study examined the association between the use of individual calcium supplements and calcium in multivitamins with cardiovascular disease/death. The subjects were followed-up over a period of 12 years.
In men, the study found that high intake of supplemental calcium was associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease (particular from heart disease but not stroke). No negative cardiovascular effect of supplemental calcium intake was found in women and no negative cardiovascular effect of dietary calcium intake was found for men or women. Overall, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about the results of this study if you are a man older than 50 who uses a high level of supplemental calcium.
Suggested reading: The Complete Book of Bone Health
Related blog entry: Pale Skin and Vitamin D
Reference: Xiao Q, Murphy RA, Houston DK, Harris TB, Chow WH, Park Y. (2013, in press). Dietary and Supplemental Calcium Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. JAMA Intern Med.