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Calcium Supplements Not Associated With Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Subjects followed for 24 years

Calcium supplements are widely taken by women for bone health. Previous studies have suggested that these supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but the data have been inconsistent.

In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers did not find that the intake of calcium supplements increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. The study was published online in Osteoporosis International.

The researchers examined supplemental calcium use and incident cardiovascular disease in a prospective cohort study of 74,245 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women did not have cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study. They were followed for 24 years to document the risk of developing heart attack and stroke. Calcium supplement intake was assessed every 4 years.

“Our study has several distinct strengths compared to prior studies, including the large number of participants, long-term follow-up, large number of cardiovascular events that were confirmed by medical record review, detailed information about diet and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, and repeated assessment of calcium supplement use over the 24-year follow- up period,” said lead author Julie Paik, MD, MPH.

The researchers found that at the start of the study, women who took calcium supplements had higher levels of physical activity, smoked less, and had lower trans fat intake compared with women who did not take calcium supplements. During the 24-year follow-up, there were 2,709 heart attacks and 1,856 strokes.

“Based on our findings, additional prospective cohort studies examining the potential cardiovascular disease risk associated with calcium supplement use are needed,” Paik said. “Future randomized trials of calcium supplementation, if conducted, should be designed to optimize the assessment of cardiovascular events.”

The new research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Brigham and Womens Hospital; May 9, 2014.

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