Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Though they´re often used to promote bone health and stave off osteoporosis, calcium supplements have also been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A new study published online yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine claims men actually have a higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease when taking calcium supplements. And men who take these supplements are nearly 20% more likely to die from a cardiovascular disease than women.
According to the background information in the study, many elderly patients are being prescribed calcium supplements for all the bone health benefits they provide. Yet, fewer studies have been performed to understand the effect calcium has on other, non-skeletal parts of the body. The authors write these effects are becoming “increasingly contentious” among health officials, thus spurring their research.
The study was led by Dr. Qian Xiao of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. Along with colleagues, Dr. Xiao set out to determine if these calcium supplements were associated with mortality from heart diseases as well as cerebrovascular diseases.
To conduct this study, Dr. Xiao´s team examined more than 388,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study (NIH-AARP) dating from 1995 to 1996.
“In this large, prospective study we found that supplemental but not dietary calcium intake was associated with an increased CVD (cardiovascular disease) mortality in men but not in women,” write the study´s authors.
Dr. Xiao and team found 51 percent of men and 70 percent of women who died of CVD during the study period had been taking supplemental calcium. The team then compared the number of cardiovascular deaths of those taking calcium supplements against those who had died and had not been taking the supplements. By comparison, those men who had been taking calcium supplements were more likely to have suffered a cardiovascular event. These men also had a heightened risk of heart disease when taking the supplements. Women, on the other hand, were not found to be more at risk when taking calcium.
It is important to note, of course, this study observed the link between supplemental calcium and heart disease. This study found no link between calcium obtained through a normal diet and heart disease or death.
“Whether there is a sex difference in the cardiovascular effect of calcium supplement warrants further investigation,” said Dr. Xiao in a statement. “Given the extensive use of calcium supplement in the population, it is of great importance to assess the effect of supplemental calcium use beyond bone health.”
According to the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine, calcium is not only essential to bone health, but also plays an important role in blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Therefore, it is recommended men between the ages of 50 and 70 take in 1,200 milligrams of dietary calcium each day, found in dairy products, green vegetables such as broccoli or kale, and even corn tortillas. Men and women of a younger age, in between 19 and 50, are recommended to take in slightly less calcium every day, around 1,000 milligrams.