Friday, 30 July 2010

Do we need to supplement calcium tablets regularly?

Beware of Calcium tabs or capsules! These supplements are popped by millions of women and senior citizens for strong bones, it apparently has a potentially dangerous side effect. The pills could increase chances of suffering a cardiac arrest, claims a new study.

An international panel of researchers -- many of them from New Zealand's Aberdeen and Auckland University -- claim those who take calcium supplements to improve bone density face a 30% higher risk of heart attacks. It could also increase the risk of minor episodes of stroke and mortality - that means angina [ chest pain] and death.

The researchers, who published their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Friday, came to the conclusion after reviewing 11 random controlled trials of calcium supplements, which involved 12,000 patients. [This is naturally a clear study involving these many patients ]

The findings were consistent across trials, and were independent of age, gender and types of supplement. [very wide ranging study ]

The researchers maintained calcium supplements could rapidly increase calcium levels in blood, leading to arterial disease. [ means narrowing down of lumen [ space inside the blood vessels]

Interestingly, the study has been rubbished by Indian doctors, arguing such episodes of heart attacks could occurr in the West since calcium intake in diet is anyway optimum, thanks to the food habit. Don' we have the rich class who take all kinds of foods and all imported items thinking it is their affluence.

Most Indians, the doctors said, are calcium deficient. The docs mean poor class and BPL families.

Dr Ambrish Mittal, president of Endocrine Society of India, said, "This study applies to the Westerners, who are calcium rich."  How this Doctor make such a sweeping statement, thereby misleading the common man , saying they can take Calcium as before?

"Except Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh, the intake of dairy products -- a rich source of calcium -- are abysmally low across the country" he reasoned to bolster his claim. Did he do any study with wide data or simply talking as if an authority?

"While, a healthy adult may require 900 mg of calcium a day, a staple Indian diet provides just about 400 mg, that also if the individual has two glasses of milk along with paneer, cheese and curd with every meal. Hence, it is premature to say popping a 500-mg of calcium pill a day will cause heart attacks," Dr Mittal explained. Does he not feel responsible at least towards common man?

Dr Sushil Sharma, president of the Arthritis Foundation of India, said the normal level of calcium in human body should be between 8.8 mg/dl-10.8 mg/dl per 100 ml of blood. If it goes above 10.8 mg/dl, it could cause hypocalcaemia and cause heart attacks. But, that only happens when a diet provides optimum calcium requirement and on top of that an individual is taking a 500-mg pill. If anything goes down in the body, that creates problems, right, but how many go to hospitals to test and find out whether they are hypo or hypercalcaemia.

Ian Reid of the University of Auckland -- one of the lead researchers -- disagreed with the Indian doctors' assertions.

He claimed that calcium supplements are not necessarily the ideal way to protect bones since that could reduce chances of fractures by only around 10%.

President of Heart Care Foundation of India and cardiologist Dr K K Agarwal, who is also attached to Moolchand Hospital, said, "Around 1,500 mg of calcium intake a day is recommended for women and senior citizens in India. But, Indians largely suffer from acute deficiency of Vitamin D required for absorption of calcium. That's why the 40+ population needs to take calcium pills daily for good bone health." He is right , Vitamin D is what is required for the absorption of Calcium which we normally ingest through our normal intake of food like milk, cheese,curd etc.,
Anyway this is written to make an awareness to those above 40+.