Researchers evaluated data from the 2001 Women's Health Initiative Study, a seven year trial watching over 36,282 post menopausal women. The researchers used the data from this study as well as other studies, to assess whether or not personal use of calcium and Vitamin D supplements lead to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke in women. The researchers concluded from this data that women who took calcium supplements increased their risk of heart attack by 25% to 30% and stroke risk by 15% to 20%, as compared to the women who did not take calcium supplements. When the study looked at calcium intake obtained through the diet alone (without supplements), there was no indication of any increased risk to the women.
Calcium supplements, unlike calcium-rich foods, increased blood calcium levels for a few hours after they're taken, says the lead author. This increase may raise risk of heart disease possibly because the calcium is deposited in the walls of the arteries, making them less pliable.
Many experts now argue that eating a well balanced diet makes supplements unnecessary. Other experts are questioning the strength of the study and advising women to continue with their current supplement program until further information is made available. You can read more about the study here.
Here is a list of some of the best food sources of calcium:
- yogurt, plain, low fat 8oz. 415mg. calcium
- yogurt, fruit flavored, low fat 8oz. 345mg.
- milk, skim 1 cup 291mg.
- milk, chocolate, low fat 1 cup 288mg.
- spinach, frozen, boiled 1 cup 291mg.
- oatmeal, instant, fortified 1 packet 99mg.
- cottage cheese, 1% milkfat 1 cup 138mg.
- baked beans, canned 1 cup 154mg.
- oranges 1 cup 72mg.
- almonds 1/4 cup 70mg.
- black eye peas, boiled 1 cup 211mg.
- white beans, canned 1/2 cup 94mg.
- cereal, fortified 1 oz. 236mg.