The recent update of the dietary guidelines suggested that most Americans should up their daily absorption of calcium and most research deals with the mineral's virtues. One US cancer expert - Harold Newmark from Rutgers University - has even called for the US government to require calcium and vitamin D to be added to foods to achieve a 20 percent reduction in colon cancer deaths and osteoporosis-related fractures.
Similarly, a study published last month by the DSEA and the Lewin Group estimated that daily use of calcium by people over the age of 65 would save the US state $13.9 billion over five years by reducing hip fractures, and at the same time improve the quality of people's lives affected by such problems.
Two Canadian based scientists biological engineer Katja Hansen and journalist Douglas Mulhall have co-authored a book entitled The Calcium Bomb - to be published next month - that focuses instead on the dark side of calcium known as calcification.
They describe calcification as "the hardening of our body tissue by calcium salts that contain other minerals, such as phosphorus, and are often toxic" - "one of the most pervasive yet least understood medical conditions on Earth".
Hansen added: "Calcification is the leading chronic medical condition in America and Europe. It is found in heart disease, many cancers, arthritis, sport injuries and a host of other illnesses. Yet until now, doctors have not known where it came from or how to get rid of it."
In their book, the authors analyze research that has been carried out in this domain and see what dangers - or not - calcification holds for the supplements industry.
Hansen and Mulhall conclude that as far as they know there is no evidence linking dystrophic calcification - that occurs when blood calcium levels are normal or low - with calcium supplements when the supplements are used to raise low calcium blood levels.
Indeed, they suggest, in line with new research, that the health industry could actually benefit from further discoveries about calcification because a combination of nutraceuticals and antibiotics has been found to eradicate the infection and reverse calcification.
A study published this month in Pathophysiology (2004 Oct;11(2):95-101) by researchers in Florida showed positive results from the above treatment in a clinical trial.
Led by B.S. Maniscalco, researchers enrolled one hundred patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) and positive coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores into a four month study of comET therapy. They noted that ComET therapy is composed of a nutraceutical powder containing vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, folic acid, selenium, EDTA, l-arginine, l-lysine, l-ornithine, bromelain, trypsin, CoQ10, grapeseed extract, hawthorn berry and papain taken orally every evening, plus a dose of Tetracycline.
Seventy-seven patients completed the study and the researchers concluded that CAC scores decreased during the trial in most CAD patients, "inferring regression of calcified coronary artery plaque volume. Further treatment trials for long-term therapy with matched controls are warranted."
Hansen deemed these results "amazing", though agreed that this was only based on a small patient base and further research needs to be done.
"We talked to several cardiologists who had patients who had literally been sent home to die because there was nothing else that could be done for them, but this study indicates there could be a treatment," she said.
Nanobac Sciences began to market these ingredients as a supplement around three months ago. The 30 day supply of 120 oral capsules and 30 Nanobac EDTA suppositories is designed to help fight plaque and calicification.
Mulhall, though, is under the impression that the supplement industry in general has not picked up on this product, and both he and Hansen now hope to see a major research push into calcification.