Scientists find link between calcium supplements and dementia in older women

A new study found a link between calcium supplements and dementia in older women with a history of strokes or cerebrovascular disease.  Apparently, they increase the risk of dementia in these women.

Cerebrovascular disease basically refers to some type of problem with how blood is getting around in the brain.  Lack of it can cause a stroke which is extremely common in the US.  Similarly, it causes dementia.

According to the author of the study, Silke Kern, MD, Ph.D. from the University of Gothenburg in Sweeden, “Osteoporosis is a common problem in the elderly. Because calcium deficiency contributes to osteoporosis, daily calcium intake of 1000 to 1200 mg is recommended. Getting this recommended amount through diet alone can be difficult, so calcium supplements are widely used.  Recently, however, the use of supplements and their effect on health has been questioned.”

“the use of supplements and their effect on health has been questioned”

The researchers looked at 72 women between 70 and 92 years of age who were free of dementia.  These women were followed around for five years with several tests beginning and ending the study.  These tests looked at memory and thinking skills.  447 participants at the beginning of the study were given a CT brain scan.

Meanwhile, scientists looked at how calcium supplements affected the participants and their dementia diagnosis throughout the study.  98 of those women were taking those supplements at the beginning of the study and 54 of them had already gone through a stroke.  Throughout the study, 54 women had strokes and 59 developed dementia.  The women who had the CT scans, at about 71% of participants, developed brain lesions in the white matter, an indicator of cerebrovascular disease.

This clearly drew a link between the calcium supplements and dementia: women who were on the supplements were twice as likely to develop dementia.  More specifically, women with cerebrovascular disease who took calcium supplements developed dementia.  The women who had undergone a stroke and took the supplements were 7 times more likely to develop dementia.  Then the women with the white matter lesions who took the supplements were about 3 times more likely to develop dementia.

Reflecting on their study, Kern said, “It is important to note that our study is observational, so we cannot assume that calcium supplements cause dementia.”

From here, it’s critical to determine why exactly women who have had strokes, have white matter lesions in their brain, or have cerebrovascular disease have the response of developing dementia in response to taking calcium supplements.

 

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