Information We Didn t Really Need About Calcium, Women, and Heart Attacks

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Reuters' wire service does a good job of finding and reporting on health stories -- perhaps too good. This morning, for example, I received a short story about a New Zealand study on older women, which found that those who took calcium supplements for five years were more likely to experience a heart attack than those who did not. What the story didn't say, though, is where this study was published -- or even if it was. Perhaps it was just a report presented at a scientific meeting -- which would mean it hadn't been peer-reviewed, and thus could be considered preliminary.

My gripe is not with the study itself or the scientists who did it. It's with the lack of information in popular descriptions of studies. I don't think such results, which may well be preliminary, should be publicized as these were -- especially when they concern a widely-used supplement that helps to prevent and treat a condition as serious as osteoporosis. This is an example of fear-mongering that didn't have to happen.

Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., is Director of Nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org, HealthFactsAndFears.com).

See also: ACSH's guide for journalists, Good Stories, Bad Science.

Good Stories, Bad Science