Calcium supplements and dementia: we need to wait for better evidence

Calcium supplements may raise the risk of dementia among women who have had a stroke, a new study has suggested.

The supplements are recommended to women with osteoporosis to help prevent bone fractures.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, followed 700 women aged 70 to 92 who were initially all free of dementia. They were asked about their use of medicines and supplements and tested for dementia again after five years. Some had brain scans to look for signs of cerebrovascular disease — specifically, white matter lesions, or areas of poor blood flow on the brain — which is associated with vascular dementia.

It found that the women who had suffered strokes were seven times more likely to develop dementia if they took the supplements.

Women who had not had a stroke but whose brains showed signs of cerebrovascular disease were also three times more likely to develop dementia than those not taking the supplements.

However, researchers stressed that the study was very small and that more work was needed into the findings. Of the 700 women, only 98 took calcium supplements and just 14 of these developed dementia.

Two studies last year found that, for most healthy people, calcium supplements make little difference to bone health or your risk of breaking a bone. However, the studies looked at people aged over 50 rather than specifically those treated for brittle bones.

The UK government says that for most people a healthy diet (including milk and cheese, nuts, bread and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage) is sufficient to meet our need for calcium.

Instant analysis
This study suggests that more research is needed on calcium supplements. It does not suggest, as some newspapers stated, that you should ‘avoid calcium supplements if you want to escape the peril of dementia’.

The study was an observational one, which means that it wasn’t a trial as such. This has many drawbacks, including the inability to control potentially important influencing variables. In addition to this, the sample size is very small — only 98 subjects were actually taking calcium supplements. The authors themselves were conscious of these issues and were open about them in their write-up. The way the mainstream media have reported this, though, has the potential to frighten people about medication they may need.
Research score: 1/5

  • Jeff

    Gated Communities

    Gated communities are taking on an important role in modern politics. Donald Trump grew up in a gated community, and made his fortune building gated communities that illegally exclude African-Americans. Trump’s approach is not based on ideology, but on consumer demand, and in particular, the demand of the working class to live in a place where there are no minority groups, criminals, wierdos or politically correct (Catholic educated) people.

    A gated community has a number of characteristics. There is ideally a six metre high concrete wall to keep out intruders. When the wall surrounds a very large number of houses, the average cost of the wall becomes insignificant. Getting past the security guards is like going through customs. Hence there is no crime in a gated community, and children can roam unsupervised in complete safety. Parents can be sure their daughters will not encounter males that would be unsuitable sons-in-law.

    Allotments are typically quarter-acre or five acres (one-tenth or two hectares). Houses are fireproof and of a similar appearance. Services are provided by underground ducts, including pneumatic mail delivery. Television and internet are unobtrusively censored.

    There is a shopping centre with a supermarket and other key shops. Prices are controlled to prevent gouging. There is a club for men and older boys from which women are excluded. On the top of the shopping centre is a hospital and old people’s home overlooking a race track and playing fields.

    There is a non-denomination church, which has leather sofas instead of pews, and wallpaper with pictures of saints like in an eastern orthodox church. The priest is a family man employed by the management committee. There is a co-educational school, so that if children conceive a passionate desire for a classmate, it will be someone of the opposite gender. The school has international baccalaureate and no homework.

    Once people move into a gated community, it occurs to them that, instead of their having to move into a gated community, it would be better if the “undesirables” were forced to live in ghettos, or were kicked out of the country altogether. No doubt this is what Donald Trump has in mind. The Conservative Party should take on board this trend in modern living and become the party for people who live or would like to live in gated communities. ej