Calcium supplementation and the risks of atherosclerotic vascular disease in older women: results of a 5-year RCT and a 4.5-year follow-up

J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Jan;26(1):35-41. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.176.


Concern has been expressed that calcium supplementation, a key intervention for preventing osteoporotic fracture in older women, may increase the risk of atherosclerotic vascular disease. To evaluate the risk further, an examination of complete verified atherosclerotic vascular hospitalization and mortality data from a 5-year randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of calcium carbonate and 4.5 years of posttrial follow-up was undertaken. This study used data from a published 5-year randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial [Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study (CAIFOS)]. The participants were 1460 women aged 75.1 ± 2.7 years at baseline (1998) recruited from the general population and randomized to receive 1200 mg of calcium carbonate daily or an identical placebo. All hospital admission and deaths during the 5-year study and the 4.5-year follow-up were derived from the Western Australian Data Linkage Service (WADLS). Hazard ratios (HRs) for the combined endpoint of atherosclerotic vascular mortality or first hospitalization were calculated using prespecified intention-to-treat and per-protocol models. The intervention group that received calcium supplementation did not have a higher risk of death or first-time hospitalization from atherosclerotic vascular disease in either the 5-year RCT [multivariate-adjusted HR = 0.938, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.690-1.275] or during the 9.5 years of observational study (multivariate-adjusted HR = 0.919, 95% CI 0.737-1.146). Further analysis suggested that calcium supplementation may reduce the risk of hospitalization and mortality in patients with preexisting atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. This trial provides compelling evidence that calcium supplementation of 1200 mg daily does not significantly increase the risk of atherosclerotic vascular disease in elderly women.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / mortality
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Calcium / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Placebos
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors


  • Placebos
  • Calcium