Women who take a supplement have a 22% lower risk of early death

Taking a calcium supplement of up to 1,000 mg per day can help women live longer, say researchers.

A new study shows a 22 per cent lower risk of dying over a 10-year period compared with women who are not taking supplements regularly.

The study is likely to reassure many who take supplements either prescribed by their doctor for osteoporosis - thinning bones - or bought over the counter as 'bone insurance'.

Previously there have been fears that high-dose supplements could raise the risk of dying from heart disease.

But Canadian researchers behind the latest study are unequivocal in recommending extra calcium for women with low intakes.

Lead author David Goltzman, of McGill University in Montreal, said 'Our study found daily use of calcium supplements was associated with a lower risk of death among women.

'The benefit was seen for women who took doses of up to 1,000 mg per day, regardless of whether the supplement contained vitamin D.' according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

The researchers analysed data from the large-scale Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study which monitored the health of 9,033 Canadians between 1995 and 2007. During that period, 1,160 participants died.

The findings show a 22 per cent cut in risk of death for women using calcium supplements compared with non-users, but no statistical benefit for men.

The study found no conclusive evidence that taking vitamin D had an impact on death rates.

There appeared to be no benefit from taking calcium at doses bigger than 1,000mg a day.

Dr Golzman said 'Higher amounts of calcium were potentially linked to longer lifespans in women, regardless of the source of the calcium.

That is, the same benefits were seen when the calcium came from dairy foods, non-dairy foods or supplements.

'Our recommendation would be to assess dietary intake to meet calcium and vitamin D requirements for bone health and to consider supplementation as necessary to meet the requirements.'

The study, which is to be published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggests several possible mechanisms for promoting longer life.

Calcium supplements are linked to a better balance of blood fats, lower risk of high blood pressure, better bone metabolism and bowel health.

Health benefits may also be driven by eating more calcium from food within a healthy diet, including dairy products and fish.

There have been conflicting results from studies in recent years about the benefits and possible harms of taking calcium supplements, especially more than 1,000mg a day.

Scientists believe mega doses of calcium circulating in the blood have a 'flooding effect' which may lead to hardening of the arteries and heart attacks.

In contrast, dietary calcium is taken in small amounts spread throughout the day, so is absorbed slowly.

The Food Standards Agency recommends adults have 700mg of calcium a day, which should come from dietary sources including all types of milk, cheese, yoghurts and green, leafy vegetables.

Official figures suggest women consume only 740mg of calcium per day from food sources on average - 43mg lower than in 2000-1.

Carrie Ruxton, spokesperson for the Health Supplements Information Service, said it was likely that women taking extra calcium were reaping the benefits of having an optimal supply of the mineral.

She said: 'Men tend to get a bigger intake from their diet but many women don't consume as much, especially those cutting back on dairy products.

'The benefits found in this study could be from women having extra supplies, bringing them up to normal and optimal levels.'

She said there were subtle effects on metabolism apart from calcium's bone-building qualities, including regulation of appetite and weight.

But the direct effects of helping to prevent the consequences of osteoporosis such as falls and hip fractures should not be under-estimated.

Source : dailymail


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