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Calcium Supplements Tied to Heart Risk in Men


WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Men taking calcium supplements may be running a nearly 20 percent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a new study suggests.

Both men and women take calcium supplements to prevent bone loss. In this study of calcium intake, the risk of dying from heart disease was higher for men but not for women.

"Increasing evidence indicates that too much supplemental calcium might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease," said Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm.

Larsson, who was not part of the study but wrote an accompanying journal editorial, added that "the paradigm 'the more the better' seems invalid for calcium supplementation."

The report was published in the Feb. 4 online edition of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

To find out if calcium supplements were associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a team of scientists led by Qian Xiao, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, collected data on more than 388,000 men and women, aged 50 to 71 years old. They took part in a study on diet and health conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the AARP from 1995 to 1996.

Over an average 12 years of follow-up, about 7,900 men died from cardiovascular disease, as did nearly 4,000 women. Among those who died, 51 percent of men and 70 percent of women were taking calcium supplements, the researchers found.

Xiao's group calculated that men taking 1,000 milligrams a day of a calcium supplement had a 20 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease. Men also had a 14 percent increased risk of dying from a stroke, but this was not statistically significant, the researchers said.

Among women, however, calcium supplements were not linked to an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. And, calcium from diet didn't increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease for either sex, the researchers found.

The study authors said more research is needed to determine whether there is difference between men and women in the cardiovascular effects of calcium supplements.

"Given the extensive use of calcium supplements in the population[often for osteoporosis], it is of great importance to assess the effect of supplemental calcium use beyond bone health," the investigators concluded in the study.

Taylor Wallace, a representative of the supplement industry, faulted this and other studies because, he said, they were not specifically meant to address calcium supplements and heart disease.

Wallace, who is senior director for Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said most studies of calcium supplements show no effects on the heart.

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