Harvard Health Letter

Best way to get your calcium

Do food sources trump supplements?

Calcium is recommended as a way to help prevent osteoporosis, but calcium supplements have come under attack recently due to a possible heart attack risk. A study in the June issue of Heart found a significantly increased risk of heart attack among women taking calcium supplements. Two other studies, in 2010 and 2011, had similar results. Since so many people take the supplements, these studies have received a lot of attention.

But Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, questions the link and notes that such risks haven't been found with calcium-rich foods. "Although I think the jury is still out on the supplement issue, it would be wise to try to get most of your calcium from food sources if possible," she says.

Calcium in arteries
Calcium in arteries

Image on the left shows a coronary artery without calcium; calcium shows up as white patches in the image on the right.

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