Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wasted Wednesday: Calcium Supplements?

I think I am going to stop taking calcium supplements, or at least switch to plain Tums.

Since I have been breastfeeding or pregnant continuously for nearly five years now, I felt that calcium supplements were a must. However, yesterday I started Googling the topic because I bought a bottle of Life Fitness brand calcium pills at CVS as a filler for $1 on Clearance. The bottle was expired, I noticed after I got home, but I doubted whether a mineral supplement could really go bad. More on that later.

My Google search came up with articles like this:

Study Finds Calcium Supplements Don't Prevent Broken Bones, NYT, 1996 It seems that some doctors interpreted this one to say that there WERE fewer broken bones due to osteoporosis, while others interpreted it to say there weren't. So it was controversial. However, the study showed that taking calcium pills can actually hurt you -- because more calcium supplements led to more cases of kidney stones. Ouch.

The Johns Hopkins Web site recommends calcium only for women who already have bone density loss.

And this study says that older women taking calcium supplements have a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Yikes!

But the main reason I'm thinking about stopping calcium supplements is this: All the supplements I have are made from oyster shells, which apparently contain lead. Taking a pill that probably won't help me, but which could contribute to my infant's lead level? That's not the kind of thing I want to spend money on.

Of course, if I stop taking calcium, I will have to try even harder to get calcium in my diet. I think I do pretty well compared to many Americans: I drink milk, eat cheese, and broccoli and spinach are frequently featured on our table.

What to do with those calcium supplements in my cupboard I'm not going to take? Well, the unopened ones I'll just put in the charity bin, because I'm sure there are other women out there whose decisions on calcium are different than mine. As for the opened ones... I did read you can use them in your garden.

Oh, and about mineral supplements expiring? I couldn't find a conclusive answer on calcium, but several sites said that "minerals are eternal" but that the industry practice dictates a 3-year expiration date. I can't really see any reason why a pill derived from rocks is going to break down or lose its potency while sitting in my cupboard.