Current studies: Calcium supplements can promote dementia in women

Not all women should take calcium supplements
Calcium supplements are supposed to have a positive effect on our health. However, this does not apply to all people. Researchers have now found that older women who have previously had a stroke should not use calcium supplements. Ingestion can lead to an increased risk of dementia in those affected.

Scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found in an investigation that taking calcium supplements in older women with a recent stroke increases the likelihood of dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Neurology".

Calcium supplements massively increase the risk of dementia in some women
If older women who have previously had a stroke take calcium supplements, they will develop dementia seven times as often in a five-year period compared to stroke patients who never take calcium supplements. In addition, the doctors were able to determine that women with a blood flow disturbance in the brain should not take calcium supplements on a regular basis either. The regular intake makes them twice as likely to develop dementia compared to women who do not take calcium, the experts explain.

Calcium supplements do not generally increase the risk of dementia
In general, we should of course make sure that our body receives enough calcium. This is the only way to avoid the negative effects of calcium deficiency. The study found that certain women with pre-existing conditions should not take calcium to avoid dementia, but that doesn't mean that calcium supplements generally lead to dementia, explains co-author Dr. Silke Kern from the University of Gothenburg. Additional research needs to be done to better understand the potential risks of calcium supplements for women, the doctor adds.

Study examines 700 older women
For their study, the researchers examined the medical history of 700 women between the ages of 70 and 92. All women had no signs of dementia at the start of the study, the scientists explain. The doctors asked the women about regular calcium intake and tested their memory and thinking skills. The researchers also scanned the brains of 447 subjects.

Many older people have lesions in their brains
The study found that 54 women had previously had a stroke and 98 women were taking calcium supplements at the start of the study, the experts say. In the scanned brains of women, it was noticed that 71 percent had so-called lesions (injuries, damage). A white substance was found in the brain of these women. It is considered a marker for cerebrovascular diseases that affect the blood flow in our brain, the doctors explain. Such lesions appear to be common in older adults. The study scientists estimate that 50 to 98 percent of older adults have these lesions.

Scientists observe the women for a period of five years
The doctors observed and examined the participating women over a period of five years. They found that 59 women developed dementia. 54 subjects had strokes during this period, say the scientists. When investigating the relationship between calcium intake and the development of dementia, it became clear that only women who had had a stroke or had signs of cerebrovascular disease at the start of the study were at increased risk of dementia. Cerebrovascular disease belongs to a group of diseases that affect the blood vessels in the brain, especially the cerebral arteries or cerebral veins.

Too much calcium can harm the body
For example, six out of 15 women who took calcium, who had previously had a stroke, developed dementia during the study period, the doctors explain. In comparison, however, only 12 out of 93 women who had previously had a stroke developed dementia if they had not taken calcium. In general, too much calcium can harm our body. Other studies have previously shown that high calcium intake increases the risk of heart attack.

Does calcium affect our blood vessels and blood flow?
It is still unclear why the use of calcium supplements leads to a higher risk of dementia in women with special health conditions, the authors say. Calcium supplements could affect the blood vessels and thus the blood flow in our vessels, the experts speculate. Some previous studies have linked blood vessel problems to an increased risk of dementia. Many people assume that supplements are automatically harmless. But such products can sometimes harm our bodies, the scientists warn. (as)

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