By Dr. Mehmet Oz (heart surgeon) and Dr. Michael Roizen (anti-aging specialist) August 29, 2010 Appearing several U.S. nationwide Sunday newspapers SCARED OFF CALCIUM? DON’T BE. Shake, rattle, and . . . stall. If you’ve suddenly found yourself staring at your bottle of calcium pills—not sure whether to shake one our or skip it—you’re not alone in feeling rattled. A widely reported study claims that calcium tablets raise your heart-attack risk and are a dud at safeguarding your skeleton. What gives? Is calcium really dangerous? Useless? Both? Here’s why we think the supplement is safe and essential, when you take it with the right stuff. (Clue: Make sure yours comes with Vitamin D-3 and magnesium.) Let’s start with the facts. First, the researchers didn’t give people calcium and check their hearts. Instead, they analyzed 11 older calcium studies, none focusing on heart attacks. You can infer interesting things this way; they’re just not always conclusive. Yup, 30 percent more heart attacks occurred in people over age 40 who took calcium pills. But while that sounds pretty big, in an analysis like this, it’s not. Even the researchers called it only a “modest” difference. Secondly, the findings plain don’t jibe with most other research. Plenty of other studies have found that calcium doesn’t up heart-health risk factors. Third, there weren’t any extra heart attack-related deaths. If there are extra heart attacks, you’d expect a few extra deaths. Maybe, as a “British Medical Journal” editorial about the study suggested, the extra heart attacks were misdiagnoses—say, people who were logged into emergency rooms with “heart-attack symptoms” but turned out to have severe digestive distress. Fourth, about those missing bone benefits: The analysis included only studies where calcium supplements were taken alone. It excluded people who also took Vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. Without D (especially D-3, the best form), there’s almost no way your body can absorb enough calcium to protect your skeleton. That’s why we say: There’s strong evidence that calcium is vital for bones and little proof of heart-attack risk. Besides, calcium-rich foods (such as low-fat diary products) help your heart by keeping a lid on high blood pressure. For now, just do calcium right. TAKE CALCIUM WITH THE RIGHT STUFF: Vitamin D-3 and magnesium. You need 1,000 IU of D-3 (1,200 IU after age 60) for maximum calcium absorption. You also need 400 to 500 mg. of magnesium. Why? Because it keeps calcium from making you constipated, and because if there actually are any cardio risks from calcium (including internal spasms), magnesium relaxes the blood vessels and probably counters ‘em. AIM FOR 1,200 OF CALCIUM A DAY And get as much as you can from food. Sip a glass of skim milk (300 mg.), spoon up a cup of plain, low-fat, no-sugar added yogurt (415 mg) or sprinkle your salad with low-fat cheese (200 mg. for a quarter cup). Not into milk products? Have a cup of calcium fortified soy milk, or orange juice (300 mg. each), or a cup of cooked spinach (290 mg), a tin of sardines (370 mg in 3.5 ounces) or canned salmon (181 mg. in 3 ounces). Some mineral waters have up to 108 mg. per cup. Broccoli, kale, even Chinese cabbage contribute, too. USE CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS TO FILL THE GAPS. While it’s pretty easy to get a few hundred milligrams a day from food, it’s hard to get all 1,200. So most people need to take calcium plus you-know-what-else. Go for calcium citrate, by the way; it’s well absorbed, whether or not you have it with a meal. SPREAD IT OUT: Your body can’t absorb more than 500 to 600 mg. of calcium at a time whether it’s in flood or supplements, so space it throughout the day. Once you’ve worked this vitamin-mineral trio (D, magnesium and calcium) into your routine, your bones will be singing a happy tune, and, we suspect, so will your heart.