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New calcium supplement safety concerns

Study links calcium supplements to increased dementia risk in some women

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A new study, just released this afternoon, adds new questions surrounding the safety of calcium supplements.

Previous research has suggested the widely-used dietary supplement may increase the risk of a heart attack, and now this new study is linking calcium supplements to dementia in women who have had a stroke or white matter disease.

For five years, researchers followed 700 dementia-free women between the ages of 70 and 92. They looked at calcium supplement use and dementia diagnosis throughout the study.

Results show that women with a history of stroke who took calcium supplements, had nearly seven times the increased risk of developing dementia. Women who took calcium supplements and had white matter disease -- a condition where tiny arteries in the brain harden -- were three times as likely to develop dementia. However, women without a history of stroke or white matter disease had no increased dementia risk when taking calcium supplements.

Cleveland Clinic Neurologist Dr. Irene Katzan, who did not take part in this study, says more research is needed, and this study alone should not cause anyone to immediately stop taking their calcium supplements. However, she says it should prompt a discussion with your healthcare provider.

"This is a good time to talk to your doctor about what supplements you should be taking, what is best in my specific instance, given my risk factors and my medical history," Katzan explained.

Complete results of this study are published online in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.