NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Getting a bit more calcium in your diet could help you live longer, new research suggests.
Swedish researchers found that men who consumed the most calcium in food were 25 percent less likely to die over the next decade than their peers who took in the least calcium from food. None of the men took calcium supplements.
The findings are in line with previous research linking higher calcium intake with lower mortality in both men and women, the researchers point out in a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
While many researchers have looked at calcium and magnesium intake and the risk of chronic disease, less is known about the association between consumption of these nutrients in food and mortality.
To investigate, Dr. Joanna Kaluza of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and her colleagues looked at more than 23,000 Swedish men who were 45 to 79 years old at the study’s outset and were followed for 10 years. All had reported on their diet at the beginning of the study. During follow-up, about 2,358 died.
The top calcium consumers had a 25 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease during follow-up relative to men that had the least amount of calcium in their diet. Calcium intake didn’t significantly influence the risk of dying from cancer.
Men in the top third based on their calcium intake were getting nearly 2,000 milligrams a day, on average, compared to about 1,000 milligrams for men in the bottom third. The US Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium intake is 1,000 milligrams for men 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 milligrams for men 50 and over.
“Intake of calcium above that recommended daily may reduce all-cause mortality,” Kaluza and her colleagues conclude.
Calcium could influence mortality risk in many ways, they note, for example by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels. For the men in the study, the main sources of calcium in the diet were milk and milk products and cereal products.
In contrast to calcium, there was no relationship between magnesium consumption and overall mortality or deaths from cancer or heart disease. Study participants’ intakes ranged from around 400 milligrams per day to around 525 milligrams; the RDA for magnesium is 420 milligrams for men 31 and older.
This analysis, the researchers say, may have found no effect for magnesium because all of the men in the study seemed to be getting enough of the mineral in their diet. “Further studies are needed in other populations with lower dietary magnesium intakes to address this issue,” they say.
Future research should also look into calcium and magnesium intake from drinking water, they add, which can be a significant source of these minerals.
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 19, 2010.