Is a high intake of calcium dangerous to women?
High dietary calcium intake or via supplements means a higher risk of death in women, particularly from cardiovascular disease, when compared to women with lower calcium intake.Generally health experts recommend a high intake of calcium as it plays a pivotal role in maintaining health. Indeed, more than 60% of middle-aged and older women in the USA are now believed to take calcium supplements.
However, recent trials have indicated that calcium supplement intake comes with a higher risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke.
To explore this association further, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden studied over 60,000 Swedish women for an average of 19 years. Their personal information such as menopausal status, postmenopausal estrogen therapy, parity information, weight and height, smoking habits, leisure-time physical activity and educational level was obtained.
The minimum average intake of calcium in these women was 572 mg/day or the equivalent of five slices of cheese, while the highest average intake was 2137 mg/day.
Strikingly, the highest rates of death from all causes and heart disease were seen in women with dietary calcium intake higher than 1400 mg/day. In fact, women who consumed more than 1400 mg of calcium every day and also used supplements were more than twice as likely to die compared with women with a 600-999 mg/day calcium intake.
Not only that - study researchers also saw higher death rates in women who consumed less than 600 mg of calcium daily.
Based on this data, the researchers believe that very low or very high calcium intake may be able to override normal physiological controls, causing changes in blood levels of calcium and damaging health - exactly how, they don't yet know.
A calcium-rich diet and calcium supplements are meant to prevent fractures in elderly women. This study suggests that only women with a low dietary intake of calcium should be treated in this way, instead of increasing calcium intake in all women - including those who are already consuming satisfactory amounts, since high calcium intake is clearly associated with higher rates of death from all causes and heart disease.
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