Conference Coverage

Calcium supplement use linked to cancer death



The latest published report links calcium intake from supplements to increased risk of cancer death, a nutrition specialist noted at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

Marijane Hynes, MD, Director of Weight Management at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, Andrew D. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Marijane Hynes

The report, published (Ann Intern Med. 2019 Apr 9. doi: 10.7326/M18-2478) just 2 days before the start of the Internal Medicine meeting, found no mortality benefits associated with any reported dietary supplement use among nearly 31,000 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

On the contrary, they found that excess calcium consumption was associated with increased risk for cancer-related deaths. Calcium supplements were specifically implicated in the excess of mortality, according to the investigators, with a rate ratio of 1.53 (95% confidence interval, 1.04-2.25) for intakes of 1,000 mg/day versus no intake.

“It’s better to get all of your vitamins from your food, over supplements,” said Marijane Hynes, MD, director of weight management at George Washington University, Washington, in a meet-the-professor session at the conference.

The amount of calcium patients are getting from food can be estimated with one rule of thumb: Multiply the number of dairy servings per day by 300 mg, Dr. Hynes said, who added that a serving is 8 ounces of milk or 1 ounce of hard cheese. Dark green vegetables, breads, cereals, and some nuts can provide 100-200 mg of calcium per day.

Calcium carbonate can be taken with food to enhance calcium absorption, according to Dr. Hynes, while calcium citrate can be taken without food, and is preferred for patients taking acid reflux medications.

Because calcium absorption is reduced at higher doses, patients who need more than 600 mg/day should be taking divided doses, she said.

Bone health goes beyond the dairy aisle, Dr. Hynes added. High vitamin K intake was linked to reduced hip fracture risk among the Framingham Heart Study participants. To get the recommended amount of vitamin K in the diet, patients can consume one or more servings of broccoli, kale, collard greens, or dark green lettuce.

Dr. Hynes reported she that had no relationships with entities producing, marketing, reselling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients.

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