I got an e-mail from a patient yesterday asking if they should stop taking their bone mineral formula because of an article he just read in USA Today.
This kind of “study” and this kind of reporting is useless at best and potentially harmful because it can give folks the wrong impression about supplements and the potential benefits or dangers from taking them.
From the title of the article, one might conclude that taking his calcium supplement will cause him to have a heart attack. This particular study is rife with inconsistencies and data that you can’t draw useful conclusions from for the following reasons…
- This “study” relies on people to report what they do… without any real safeguards as to if they are being accurate and honest in that reporting. Also, the frequency of that reporting is variable… it may be years between contact with those study participants.
- There is no standardization as to the quality of the supplements taken… What form of calcium? Calcium just by itself? (which is a mistake, by the way)
- There are no controls as to the participants, which can vastly skew the results. For example, might we find it likely that people who are already at risk would be more likely to take supplements in the first place? This would automatically make the people who decide to take supplements at higher risk to begin with.
And here is the kicker with the reporting of “studies” like this… here is a statement copied directly from the article…
“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.”
It galls me to see that statement in the middle of an article entitled “Calcium Supplements May Raise Heart Attack Risk”… it just doesn’t make any sense to me… and I don’t understand how USA Today can use that headline in good conscious!