Published: Sat, April 13, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Calcium supplements linked to cancer in major study

Calcium supplements linked to cancer in major study

They also discovered that too much calcium was linked to an increased risk of cancer death, which they found was associated with supplemental doses of calcium exceeding 1,000 mg/day. The new research indicates that supplements don't help to reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer or death, though getting nutrients directly from food does. "More and more evidence suggests no benefits, so we should go with what the dietary recommendations suggest to achieve adequate nutrition from food, rather than relying on supplements".

The researchers also said excess intake of certain supplements - namely calcium - can have harmful effects, increasing a person's risk of a cancer-associated death, according to the study, which was published Tuesday in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. However, excess calcium was linked to an increase risk of cancer mortality.

Lead scientist Dr Fang Fang Zhang, said: 'It is important to understand the role that the nutrient and its source might play in health outcomes, particularly if the effect might not be beneficial.

One thing that the researchers can not say is whether the association is between the nutrients themselves or other components in the foods, Zhang said.

Sales of supplements have grown by six per cent in five years, with Britons spending an estimated £442million on them in 2018, according to market research group Mintel. After that, a household interview was held, and they had to answer whether or not they had used any vitamin supplements in the previous 30 days.

Debate as to their effectiveness has raged for years with many studies showing a supplement does not mirror the effects of when taken naturally. Each person provided information about their supplement use in the past month - more than half had used at least one - as well as their dietary habits.

The authors note some limitations, including the duration of dietary supplement use studied.

The participants included in Zhang's study all had filled out a 24-hour food questionnaire twice. They found that insufficient intakes of magnesium and vitamin K were associated with lower risk of death. In addition, prevalence and dosage of dietary supplement use was self-reported and so is subject to recall bias.

Professor Tom Sanders, of King's College London, said: 'People who self-medicate with supplements are often the "worried well" or those who have health problems.

'You can't turn a bad diet into a good diet with handful of pills'.

Intriguingly, supplement users were more likely than others to have higher levels of education and family income, eat a healthy diet and be physically active.

In light of these results, the scientists conclude that people who have no specific dietary deficiencies should continue to benefit from nutrients in "real" food by maintaining a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables.

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