Men at Greater Risk From Calcium Supplements Than Women

Use of calcium supplements leads to a higher heart risk for men than women, a study found.

Men who took 1,000 milligrams or more of calcium supplements a day had a 20 percent higher chance of dying from cardiovascular disease then those who didn’t take the supplements, according to research published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. There was no similar link between calcium supplement intake and death in women, the authors said.

Today’s finding is the first to say the risk is more significant in men, conflicting with previous reports that the risk of a heart event linked to calcium supplements was about the same for both genders.

“Our findings add to the evidence base,” Qian Xiao, the lead author and a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, said in an e-mailed response to questions. More research is needed to “clarify the underlying mechanism,” she said.

Researchers studied 388,229 men and women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Calcium supplements were used by 51 percent of men and 70 percent of women.

Over the length of the study, there were 7,904 deaths from cardiovascular disease in men and 3,874 from women.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that men and women ages 19 to 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Women should increase that intake to 1,200 milligrams at age 50 while men can wait until age 71, the board has said.

“Calcium should preferably be obtained from foods. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy foods, beans and green leafy vegetables,” Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

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