Importance: Calcium intake has been promoted because of its proposed benefit on bone health, particularly among the older population. However, concerns have been raised about the potential adverse effect of high calcium intake on cardiovascular health.
Objective: To investigate whether intake of dietary and supplemental calcium is associated with mortality from total cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart disease, and cerebrovascular diseases.
Design and setting: Prospective study from 1995 through 1996 in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania and the 2 metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Georgia, and Detroit, Michigan.
Participants: A total of 388 229 men and women aged 50 to 71 years from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.
Main outcome measures: Dietary and supplemental calcium intake was assessed at baseline (1995-1996). Supplemental calcium intake included calcium from multivitamins and individual calcium supplements. Cardiovascular disease deaths were ascertained using the National Death Index. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusted for demographic, lifestyle, and dietary variables were used to estimate relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs.
Results: During a mean of 12 years of follow-up, 7904 and 3874 CVD deaths in men and women, respectively, were identified. Supplements containing calcium were used by 51% of men and 70% of women. In men, supplemental calcium intake was associated with an elevated risk of CVD death (RR>1000 vs 0 mg/d, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.05-1.36), more specifically with heart disease death (RR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.03-1.37) but not significantly with cerebrovascular disease death (RR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.81-1.61). In women, supplemental calcium intake was not associated with CVD death (RR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.96-1.18), heart disease death (1.05; 0.93-1.18), or cerebrovascular disease death (1.08; 0.87-1.33). Dietary calcium intake was unrelated to CVD death in either men or women.
Conclusions and relevance: Our findings suggest that high intake of supplemental calcium is associated with an excess risk of CVD death in men but not in women. Additional studies are needed to investigate the effect of supplemental calcium use beyond bone health.