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Are Females Who Take Calcium Supplements At Increased Risk For Dementia?

Topic Overview

Some studies have observed that certain females who have a history of cerebrovascular disease and take calcium supplements are at an increased risk for developing dementia later on in life. This risk is seen more in the elderly population than the younger generation. This study had been published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. An individual is said to have a cerebrovascular disease if the blood supply to the brain of that individual gets affected.  This may be due to narrowing of the arteries or a blocked blood vessel that transports blood to the brain.[1]

There are four types of cerebrovascular diseases that are quite common in the elderly.  These include TIA or Transient Ischemic Attack, Stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and vascular dementia.  Studies suggest that these conditions mentioned above are the fifth leading cause of fatalities across the United States.  Additionally, osteoporosis is also a medical condition that is quite common in the elderly. This is a degenerative condition of the bone when the body has severe depletion of calcium levels. It makes the bones brittle and vulnerable to fractures.[1]

To control the progression of osteoporosis, it is recommended that the individual should take around 1200 mg of calcium every day. However, this is not possible through diet alone and hence calcium supplements are prescribed to such individuals. However, researchers have questioned the effects that calcium supplements have on the overall health of an individual as of late.[1]

They have opined that calcium supplements increase the risk of dementia and this risk magnifies if the individual has a history of a cerebrovascular disease. This hypothesis by researchers is what has been discussed in detail below in the article.[1]

How Females Taking Calcium Supplements May Be At Increased Risk For Dementia?

A detailed study pertaining to this topic had been conducted in which around 700 elderly females who had no known diagnosis of any form of dementia were enrolled. The average age of these females were between 70 and 90. They were followed for a period of five years. The participants of the study had to undergo a memory and other cognitive skill test at the start and the end of the study. Radiograph in the form of a CT scan of the brain was also done for about 400 participants.[1]

The researchers also took into account the use of calcium supplements taken by the participants and whether they received a diagnosis of dementia while the study was being conducted. Observation was made that use of calcium supplements in people with a history of stroke increased the risk of dementia by about seven times. At the start of the study, there were 98 females who were taking calcium supplements and there were 54 females who had a history of stroke.  While the study was ongoing another 54 developed stroke and 59 developed dementia.[1]

Additionally, in the females who had a CT scan of the brain at the start of the study around 70% of them had a white matter lesion suggestive of a cerebrovascular disease.  After the study was completed, it was observed that females who took calcium supplements were twice likely to develop dementia than females who did not take these supplements. However, this risk was limited only to those females who had cerebrovascular disease.[1]

It was also observed during the study that females with a history of stroke who took calcium supplements had a seven times higher risk of developing dementia than females with a history of stroke who did not take the supplements. In addition, participants who had white matter lesion on CT scan at the beginning of the study and took calcium supplements had three times more risk of developing dementia in comparison to participants who did not take these supplements.[1]

Females who did not have a diagnosis of cerebrovascular disease but took calcium supplements did not have as much risk of dementia.  This proved that the risk of dementia in females who took calcium supplements was limited to only those who had a history of stroke or other forms of cerebrovascular disease.  The study also showed that out of 98 females who took calcium supplements around 14% of them developed dementia compared to 45 females or 8% who did not take calcium supplements.[1]

Of the participants with a history of stroke and took calcium supplements, 6 of the 15 females developed dementia compared to 12 out of 93 females who did not take these supplements.  The study also showed that out of 83 females who had no history of stroke and took calcium supplements developed dementia compared to 33 females out of 500 who did not take it.  The researchers however state that this is just an observational study and further research needs to be done to come up with concrete evidence of the relationship between calcium supplements and risk of dementia in females.[1]

They also state that since the study was only performed on 700 females, thus the results of the study cannot be generalized to the general population, and it calls for additional research.[1]

With that said, it should be noted that calcium present in foods act differently on the body and are believed to be safe for consumption and have no bearing on the increased risk of any condition like dementia,.  In fact, researchers suggest that calcium in diet protects the body from various vascular problems and keep the bones strong.[1]


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 10, 2019

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