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Mineral supplements may be linked to artery-clogging plaque

Some degree of plaque formation can be expected over the course of a lifetime, but poor dietary trends appear to be fuelling the prevalence of artery diseases. Whether supplements contribute to artery-clogging, however, has long remained in question. Some health bodies believe there is a plausible connection between one common supplement and deadly arterial plaque.

Calcium supplements are used widely in the prevention of bone diseases but there is ample evidence that they may also pose a risk to the heart.

“Some prior studies have shown that taking calcium supplements are linked to cardiovascular disease, others haven’t,” states Harvard Health.

“The connection between calcium and cardiovascular disease is plausible. Calcium deposits are part of artery-clogging plaque.

“They also contribute to the stiffening of the arteries and interfere with the action of heart calcium.”

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Whether there is an immediate connection between high levels of calcium in the bloodstream and cardiovascular problems remains to be seen, however.

The results of a 10-year study of nearly 3,000 people, published in 2016, highlighted disparities between the effects of dietary calcium and those of supplementation.

The findings, shown in the journal Atherosclerosis, suggested supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries, causing heart damage.

Diets high in calcium, on the other hand, appeared to be protective.


Nutritionist John Anderson PhD, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, and lead author of the study suggested that supplementation contributed to a build-up of calcium in the body’s tissue.

He said: “Ingested calcium supplements – particularly in older people – don’t make it to the skeleton or get completely excreted in the urine, so they must be assimilating in the body’s soft tissues.

“There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier.

“It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body cannot process.”

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Calcium, which is widely associated with bones and teeth, plays a critical role in blood clotting regulation and heart muscle contractions.

It also happens to be the most abundant mineral in the body as it helps keep tissue rigid, strong and flexible.

Despite arterial calcium developing naturally with age, many ageing populations rely on additional supplementation for bone health.

Taking calcium supplements, however, does little to help individuals who already have bone loss.

Furthermore, there are other natural means of preserving the health of bones, such as weight-bearing exercises, like walking, running and tennis.

People are equally advised to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D – from the sun or supplements – for bone and overall health.

Vitamin K, which occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables like spinach, Swiss chard, and kale, is an equally important component of a balanced diet.

It is evident that more research is needed before doctors know how calcium supplements affect your overall cardiovascular risk.

What is known for certain, however, is that dietary sources of calcium, like dairy products and green vegetables, are not a concern.

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