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Calcium Pills May Increase Risk for Heart Attacks and Prostate Cancer

Many men and women take calcium and vitamin D pills to protect their bones. The vitamin D pills probably help to prevent heart attacks and prostate cancer, but the calcium pills may increase risk for prostate cancer (Ann Epidemiol, 2009;19:96-102) and heart attacks (The Oncologist, 2012;17[9]:1171-1179). On the other hand, dietary calcium from food may be associated with lower risk for prostate cancer (Preventing Chronic Disease, 2012;9:110-125).

Increased risk for both benign prostate cancer and aggressive prostate cancer is associated with high blood calcium levels (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2012;21:1768-1773). The risk for death from prostate cancer triples in men with high blood calcium levels, greater than 10.1 mg/dL (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2008;17:2302-2305).

The California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 11/07/2012) shows that:

• Men who take in the relatively high dose of more than 604 mg/day of calcium have a markedly increased risk for the relatively benign prostate cancer in general, and the aggressively malignant type of prostate cancer that specifically can kill them.

• Men who have the gene, VDR Cdx2, that reduces calcium absorption, are at reduced risk for prostate cancer (J Bone Min Res, 2012;27:187-194), and

• Men with this genetic defect who restrict calcium intake are less likely to develop prostate cancer.

HOW DOES CALCIUM INCREASE RISK FOR HEART ATTACKS AND PROSTATE CANCER? We do not know how high levels of calcium in the blood increase risk for prostate cancer and heart attacks. A possible explanation may come from the fact that high levels of calcium prevent your kidneys from converting vitamin D from its inactive to its active form. Low levels of vitamin D appear to increase risk for heart attacks and prostate cancer.

At this time, I believe that it is a good idea to try to keep your blood levels of vitamin D above 50 nmol/L. However, you may increase risk for heart attacks and prostate cancer by taking calcium pills.


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Sugared Drinks are Fattening When You Are Not Exercising

A review of the world's literature shows that the more sugar-sweetened beverage a person drinks, the more weight he gains (J Clin Nutr, 2006 Aug;84(2):274-88). You gain more weight when you drink a sugar-sweetened beverage than you do when you eat the same number of calories in solid form.

In one study, men and women were given 400 kcal of fruits and vegetables before meals for 21 weeks, either as solid fruits and vegetables or as their juices. They ate less food and felt less hungry after the solid food pre-meal than they did from the juice preload (International Journal of Obesity, 11/20/2012). Obese participants ate more food through the entire day when they preceded a meal with fruit juice than they did when they preceded a meal with the same calories from whole fruit. Researchers at Purdue University showed that obese people gained more weight when they consumed fruit juices than they did consuming the same number of calories as solid fruit (Obesity, 2012 Sep;20(9):1844-50). Another study from Purdue showed that people eat more after drinking calorie-containing fluids than they do after eating the same food and the same number of calories in solid form (Int J Obes (Lond), 2007 Nov;31(11):1688-95). However, you need sugared drinks when you exercise for more than an hour. There is only a limited amount of sugar stored in your body. If you run low on sugar during exercise, you will feel weak and tired and have to slow down.


All Sugared Drinks Increase Risk for Becoming Diabetic

74,749 women from the Nurses' Health Study (1984-2008) and 39,059 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2008) who did not have diabetes, heart diseases or cancer were followed for 24 years. Taking any sugared beverage regularly increased risk for diabetes. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks reduced risk for diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr, December 2012). Other studies show that taking sugared drinks DURING exercise is not harmful.


Eating Red Meat May Shorten Your Life

Eating red meat is associated with increased risk of death from cancer and heart attacks (Archives of Internal Medicine, November 12, 2012). For each increase of three ounces of red meat per day, there is a 16 percent increased risk of death from heart attacks, a 10 percent increased risk from death from cancer, and a 12 percent increased risk of death overall. The increased risks for processed meat are 21 percent for heart attacks, 16 percent for cancer, and 20 percent for death overall.

People who eat red meat are fatter, exercise less and smoke more, so the authors corrected for these factors and still found these frightening increases in death rates.


This week's medical history:
How Doctors Contributed to John F. Kennedy's Death

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries


Recipe of the Week:

Eggplant Sauce for Whole Grains or Pasta

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE


December 2nd, 2012
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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