A new study at the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is investigating how the vascular health of postmenopausal women is affected by calcium in food compared to calcium in the form of supplements.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for optimal bone health and can protect bones against osteoporosis and fractures. Research has shown that postmenopausal women who take appropriate amounts of this nutrient have better bone strength and fewer fractures than those who don’t.
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 1200 mg of calcium per day is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements for healthy women over the age of 50. While calcium is a mineral found in numerous foods, many postmenopausal women find it difficult to attain the recommended amount of calcium from food alone. For this reason, postmenopausal women often rely on supplements to ensure adequate calcium intake.
Recently, there have been conflicting reports regarding the safety of calcium supplements. Some research groups report a possible association between the use of calcium supplements and an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, while others have found no effect. Importantly, none of these studies were specifically designed to assess the impact of calcium supplements on vascular health.
Researchers Dr. Suzanne Morin and Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou are currently conducting a study specifically designed not only to answer the question of whether calcium supplements have an effect on vascular health in postmenopausal women, but also whether calcium from dietary sources has a similar or different effect.
“As a physician, I routinely counsel my patients on the importance of calcium intake in the maintenance of optimal bone health,” said Morin. “This study will provide evidence to guide clinicians and women on the safest means to meet daily calcium requirements.”
Their research team is hoping to recruit 180 healthy non-smoking postmenopausal women to participate in the study. Eligible participants will be assigned by chance to one of three groups for the duration of the 1-year study:
1. 60 participants will follow a diet rich in calcium
2. Another 60 participants will replace most of the calcium in their diet with daily calcium supplements
3. The remaining 60 participants will not modify their eating habits or take any calcium supplements
To measure the effect of calcium on vascular health, participants in all three groups will have the stiffness of their arteries measured every 6 months using a safe ultrasound technique. This measure was chosen because arterial stiffness is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Charna Young is a healthy, physically active, postmenopausal woman, and a participant in the study.
“I hope to continue enjoying my lifestyle for many years down the road,” said Young. “It was for this reason that I decided to participate in the study. It was a golden opportunity to feel that my contribution as a subject may have an impact on the future of women’s health.”
To participate in this study, please contact the Calcium Study Team by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 514-934-1934 extension 45742.