Calcium pills may be the cause of  increased heart attacks.

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The study of approximately 24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 64 found participants who took regular calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t take supplements. Those who took only calcium supplements were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who didn’t take any vitamin supplements. Calcium supplements have been linked to kidney stones and bloating in other studies, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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“Calcium supplements have been widely embraced by doctors and the public, on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore safe way of preventing osteoporatic fractures,” the authors write. “We should return to seeing calcium as an important component of a balanced diet.”

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The study, primarily undertaken to determine if calcium supplements modify cardiovascular risk factors, found no direct link between the supplements and heart attacks, nor did they identify brands of supplements. Participants answered questions about their use of supplements and their diet during an 11-year study of their health.

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The study did not look at what caused the heart attacks, but the authors write: “Supplements cause calcium levels to soar above the normal range, and it is this flooding effect which might ultimately be harmful.”

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“Doctors who work with the elderly and people who are postmenopausal routinely tell them to take a calcium supplement,” says Linda Russell, a rheumatologist and osteoporosis specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “It’s really time to re-examine that philosophy. Other studies about calcium have been suggesting this in recent years, but maybe this study really should get doctors to rethink this approach.”

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