Calcium Supplements Pros and Cons

We have received several questions related to calcium supplements and what are their contraindications, side effects and if there is an established relationship with breast cancer.

In order to answer all these questions, it is necessary to clarify what calcium mineral is and what its sources are.

Calcium: A Necessary Mineral

As the most abundant mineral in the body, calcium plays a key role in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.

Calcium allows muscles to contract. It is also essential for normal blood clotting, proper nerve impulse transmission and proper connective tissue support.

What are its main sources?

Calcium can be obtained from foods such as dairy products (such as yogurt, cheese, among others) and leafy green vegetables (turnip greens, broccoli, kale and others). Salmon, sardines, prawns and tofu are also rich in calcium.

Many foods are fortified with calcium, which makes it easier to guarantee an adequate amount of the mineral in the diet.

Calcium-fortified foods include cranberry juice, cereals and waffles, orange juice and flour. Researchers recommend calcium-fortified foods in virtually all low-mineral segments of the population to increase their daily intake.

Despite the calcium contained in foods and the continued emergence of new fortified foods, most people continue to consume a diet deficient in this essential mineral.

For people who don’t get enough calcium from food, calcium supplements are an acceptable alternative, but to what extent do they benefit our health?

Calcium Supplements: More Against Than Pros

The chemical presentation of calcium supplements is of five types: carbonate, citrate, phosphate, chelate and malate citrate. Supplements are available as tablets, syrup, or suspension.

When calcium supplements are added to the diet, it is recommended that they not be taken within an hour or two of eating whole grains or bread. Avoid high amounts of alcohol or caffeine in drinks and tobacco.

Large amounts of calcium, phosphates, magnesium, and vitamin D are not necessary along with dietary supplements unless directly prescribed by a physician. People with diarrhea, upset stomach, parathyroid disease, sarcoidosis, or kidney stones should consult their physician before taking calcium.

It is important not to over consume calcium supplements as they can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth, increased need to urinate and weakness. Although these side effects are rare, even more rare are life-threatening symptoms, such as an exaggerated decrease in heart rate.

If these dangerous symptoms appear while you are taking calcium, stop taking the mineral and seek emergency treatment. An overdose of calcium supplement can lead to confusion, irregular heartbeat, depression, bone pain, and even coma.

It is important that all over-the-counter and prescription medications be reviewed by a physician before a calcium supplement is given. According to different studies, the following are some drugs that may interact if taken with calcium supplements:

– Nalidixic acid.
– Paraminosalicylic acid.
– Alendronate.
– Anticoagulants.
– Calcitonin.
– Chlorpromazine.
– Oral contraceptives.
– Corticosteroids.
– Diuretics.
– Estrogens.
– Etidronate.
– Phenylbutazone.
– Phenytoin.
– Phenobarbital.
– Meperidine.
– Mexiletine.
– Nicardipine.
– Nimodipine.
– Oxyphenbutazone.
– Penicillins.
– Digital preparations.
– Pseudoephedrine.
– Salicylates.
– Iron supplements.
– Thiazides.

What is the relationship between calcium supplements and some serious illnesses?
There has been an unconfirmed relationship between calcium supplements and breast cancer. In this sense, we recommend avoiding its use if there is a history of this type of cancer among close relatives (mother, sisters, etc.). Likewise, if the person suffers from heart disease.

In these cases, the consumption of a food source should be preferred instead of the supplement.