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Risk Of Cardiovascular Death Doubled In Women With High Calcium Intake – High Risk Only In Those Taking Supplements

High intakes of calcium (corresponding to diet and supplements) in women are associated with a higher risk of death from all causes, but cardiovascular disease in particular, compared with women with lower calcium , a study published today on bmj.com suggests.

Experts recommend a high calcium intake (as it plays a pivotal role in human physiology) and as such, more than 60% of middle-aged and older women in the USA now take supplements.

However, recent trials have indicated a higher risk of ischemic and stroke with but this was not observed in another trial and few studies have examined this association.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden therefore studied 61,443 (born between 1914 and 1948) for an average of 19 years to test this association.

Data were taken from the and data on diet were taken from the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Total calcium intake included . The mean intake in the lowest quartile was 572mg/day (the equivalent of five slices of cheese ) and in the highest 2137mg/day.

Information was obtained from the women on menopausal status, postmenopausal oestrogen therapy, parity information, weight and height, smoking habits, leisure-time physical activity and educational level.

Results showed that during 19 years of follow-up, 11,944 women (17%) died: 3,862 of these (32%) died from cardiovascular disease, 1932 (16%) from heart disease and 1100 (8%) from stroke. Highest rates of all-cause, cardiovascular and heart disease were observed among those with a dietary calcium intake higher than 1400mg/day.

In addition, researchers observed higher death rates among women with an intake below 600mg/day.

Women who had a higher dietary intake of calcium exceeding 1400mg/day and also used supplements had a higher death rate compared to those not taking supplements. Women with a high dietary calcium intake (>1400 mg/day) were more than twice as likely to die compared with women with a 600-999mg/day calcium intake.

The researchers explain their findings by suggesting that diets very low or very high in calcium can override normal homeostatic control causing changes in blood levels of calcium.

The researchers conclude that high calcium is associated with “higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality rates” and so to prevent fractures in the elderly emphasis should be placed on individuals with a low intake of calcium rather than increasing the intake of those already consuming satisfactory amounts.


Long term calcium intake and rates of all cause and cardiovascular mortality: community based prospective longitudinal cohort study, Karl Michaƫlsson, Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden