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Women's Health

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Calcium May Help Prevent Hormone Disorder

Calcium Supplements May Lower the Risk for Hyperparathyroidism

Calcium Levels Linked to a Common Hormone Disorder continued...

The high blood calcium caused by hyperparathyroidism can cause “trouble with the body’s electrical system so that people become tired, fatigued, depressed. They get bad osteoporosis. Calcium collects in their kidneys and causes kidney stones,” says James Norman, MD, chief of the Norman Parathyroid Center in Tampa, Fla., a center that specializes in surgery to remove parathyroid glands. Norman wrote an editorial on the study, but he was not involved in the research.

“It [hyperparathyroidism] often goes unrecognized because doctors aren’t used to looking for it,” Norman tells WebMD.

Hyperparathyroidism affects about 1 in 800 people, but it’s more common as we age and especially in postmenopausal women. “One in 250 women over age 55 will get a parathyroid tumor in her lifetime,” Norman says.

Study Is a First

Previous studies have suggested that when the parathyroid glands are overworked because of low calcium, they may go haywire and lose their ability to shut off.

“But we haven’t been able to prove it,” says researcher Julie Paik, MD, instructor and attending physician in the department of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Paik says this study is the first to look at the relationship between calcium intake and hyperparathyroidism.

When researchers divided women in the study by their average calcium intakes, they found those with the highest calcium intake had the lowest risk for developing hyperparathyroidism. That was true even after researchers adjusted their results to eliminate the influence of a variety of things that can raise a person’s risk for hyperparathyroidism, like age, body weight, taking in other nutrients like vitamins A and D, and protein, and smoking and drinking alcohol.

What’s more, women who supplemented their diets with at least 500 mg of calcium a day had a 40%-70% reduced risk of being diagnosed with the disease compared to women who didn’t take calcium supplements.

Paik says women who have questions about the risks and benefits of taking calcium supplements should talk to their doctors.

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