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Calcium supplements linked to increased risk of dementia in women

Article By: Ellie Spanswick, News Editor

Calcium supplements have been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia in older women with certain health conditions.

In a new study in the latest edition (17 August) of online journal Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology it was revealed that women who have experienced a stroke or have other signs of cerebrovascular disease (the group of disorders which affect blood flow to the brain) were found to have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Researchers studied 700 women living without dementia in Sweden between the ages of 70 and 92. Memory and thinking tests were conducted and women were asked if they took calcium supplements with the tests being repeated five years later.

The results indicated that women who took calcium supplements were twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those who did not take supplements, but this was only found to be true in those who already had a history of cerebrovascular disease.

Director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Doug Brown, said: “While this research does not show a direct link between calcium supplements and increased dementia risk, it does warrant further investigation. Although the study involved 700 women, only 59 went on to develop dementia and of those, only 14 were taking calcium supplements. The risk was only found in women who had history of strokes and blood flow problems and so it’s important to find out more about the role of calcium supplements for this group of people.”

Overall, 14 out of the 98 women who took supplements went on to develop dementia. Those without a history of stroke or areas of damage to the brain associated with an increased risk of dementia (known as white matter lesions) were found to have no increased risk of dementia from taking calcium supplements.

Dr Brown continued: “People should not worry about eating and drinking calcium as part of a normal, healthy balanced diet. Calcium is essential to build strong bones and teeth and also aids muscle contraction.

“This study looked at calcium supplements only, which have a different effect in the body to dietary calcium. If you are taking calcium supplements and are concerned, speak to your GP before making any changes to your medication.”


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