AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. There is considerable evidence that calcium supplementation reduces bone loss and hip fractures in postmenopausal women. Researchers at the University of Auckland now report that calcium supplementation may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing the level of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the "good" kind. The study involved 223 postmenopausal women who were randomized to receive either a placebo or 1 gram of elemental calcium in the form of calcium citrate. Two 200 mg tablets were taken before breakfast and three in the evening. Fasting serum levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol were measured at baseline and after 2, 6, and 12 months of supplementation.
The researchers found that women taking the calcium citrate decreased their LDL cholesterol levels (the
"bad" cholesterol) and increased their HDL levels by an average 6 per cent corresponding to a 20 to 30 per
cent reduction in cardiovascular events. There was no significant change in triglyceride or total cholesterol
levels. The researchers point out that this highly beneficial effect of supplementation with calcium citrate is
in sharp contrast to the lack of beneficial cardiovascular effects observed with increased milk consumption.
They conclude that postmenopausal women should be encouraged to supplement with calcium.