[Note: It’s official - the recent notion that greater dietary and/or supplemental calcium intake might be linked to increased risk of arterial calcification & heart disease has no basis in fact. Careful measurements of more than 1,300 men and women tracked in the longest running medical study in history – Harvard’s Framingham Heart Study – turned up exactly no connection.]
Background: Adequate calcium intake is known to protect the skeleton. However, studies that have reported adverse effects of calcium supplementation on vascular events have raised widespread concern.
Objective: We assessed the association between calcium intake (from diet and supplements) and coronary artery calcification, which is a measure of atherosclerosis that predicts risk of ischemic heart disease independent of other risk factors.
Design: This was an observational, prospective cohort study. Participants included 690 women and 588 men in the Framingham Offspring Study (mean age: 60 y; range: 36-83 y) who attended clinic visits and completed food-frequency questionnaires in 1998-2001 and underwent computed tomography scans 4 y later in 2002-2005.
Results: The mean age-adjusted coronary artery-calcification Agatston score decreased with increasing total calcium intake, and the trend was not significant after adjustment for age, BMI, smoking, alcohol consumption, vitamin D-supplement use, energy intake, and, for women, menopause status and estrogen use. Multivariable-adjusted mean Agatston scores were 2.36, 2.52, 2.16, and 2.39 (P-trend = 0.74) with an increasing quartile of total calcium intake in women and 4.32, 4.39, 4.19, and 4.37 (P-trend = 0.94) in men, respectively. Results were similar for dietary calcium and calcium supplement use.
Conclusion: Our study does not support the hypothesis that high calcium intake increases coronary artery calcification, which is an important measure of atherosclerosis burden. The evidence is not sufficient to modify current recommendations for calcium intake to protect skeletal health with respect to vascular calcification risk.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 2012;96(6):1274-80. PMID:23134889, by Samelson EJ, Booth SL, Fox CS, Tucker KL, Wang TJ, Hoffmann U, Cupples LA, O'Donnell CJ, Kiel DP. Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston, MA, USA.