A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has established a link between over consumption of calcium and a significantly increased risk of developing macular degeneration in the older population.
Researchers from the University of California evaluated 3,191 people aged 40 and over who participated in a national health survey. The group consisted of 248 people who were previously diagnosed with macular degeneration. Participants answered multiple questions regarding their use of dietary supplements and antacids, specifically. The survey also accounted for factors including age, sex, ethnicity, obesity smoking, alcohol consumption, cataract surgery, osteoporosis history, glaucoma and heart disease.
The results, published in the April 2015 issue of JAMA Ophthalmology, reported that individuals (aged 68 and older) supplementing with 800 mg of calcium per day were 85% more likely to be diagnosed with macular degeneration than those who do not supplement with calcium. The association between calcium supplementation and AMD was found to be more prominent in older individuals, likely due to the longer duration of calcium supplementation.
Indeed, some calcium is necessary for good health. However, studies like this one show that an over consumption of the mineral mixed with a lack of awareness may be serious concerns; especially considering that calcium supplementation is tremendously common among the older population, often due to concerns about osteoporosis and bone health. In fact, about 43% of the U.S. population (including approximately 70% of older women) say they take calcium supplements.
Researchers acknowledge the study’s limitations noting the possibility that some of the participant’s did not accurately report their use of calcium as well as the lack of research into the role that calcium from food and drink may play. Although the researchers have declined to make any new recommendations regarding calcium supplementation until further studies are conducted, individuals worried about developing AMD should continue to avoid smoking, wear protective eyewear when exposed to UV or blue light, eat a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and limit simple carbohydrates.
As usual, talk to your doctor before starting or discontinuing use of any supplement.