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Men Taking Calcium Pills have High Risk of Death due to Heart Disease

Update Date: Feb 05, 2013 05:14 AM EST

Men, but not women, who take calcium supplements are at a higher risk of dying due to cardiovascular deaths (CVD) than people who don't take the supplements, according to a new study.

Calcium is important for keeping teeth and bones healthy. Although most people get adequate amounts of calcium from foods like yogurt, cheese and milk, some older people may require additional amounts of calcium so that their bones don't get too thin (a condition known as osteoporosis)

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute who based their findings on health records available on some 388,000 participants between the ages of 50 and 71 years. These people were a part of the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study between 1995 and 1996. The study was conducted in six states and two metropolitan areas.

Researchers found that, after some 12 years of follow-up, about 8,000 men and nearly 4,000 women died due to cardiovascular diseases. Researchers identified that 51 percent of men and 70 percent of women among the people who died during the study were using calcium supplements. The risk of death following a heart-related event was higher for men using calcium supplements, as these men were 20 percent more likely to die due to CVD than men who didn't take the calcium pills.

Researchers found no such increase in heart disease-related death in women who were taking the calcium pills.

"In this large, prospective study we found that supplemental but not dietary calcium intake was associated with an increased CVD mortality in men but not in women," the authors conclude.

Qian Xiao, lead author from the National Cancer Institute, told Reuters Health in an email that calcium that gets deposited in arteries and veins may have increased the risk of heart disease in some men.

Researchers also maintain that the study doesn't prove a cause and effect relationship.

"Although we observed an increased risk of death from heart disease in men who reported taking supplements containing calcium, we cannot say for sure that it was a result of using those supplements," Xiao told Reuters Health.

The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the most part, calcium is considered a safe supplement. However, according to Medline Plus, using more than the required amount of calcium can raise chances of a heart attack. Also, combining calcium pills with other medication can have serious side-effects.

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