Calcium and health

Monday 12 September, 2016

Previously we reported Dr Belal Khan was researching calcium intake among Health 2020 participants and whether this has an effect on heart and bone health.

Calcium intake is important for maintaining bone density but we do not know whether it can help prevent bone fractures, which are common in older people, or whether high intakes may be harmful. Dr Khan's research found that men and women with the highest calcium intakes were at lower risk of bone fractures, non-fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death from all causes, compared to those with the lowest intakes. There was no indication that a high calcium intake could be harmful. His research suggests the recommended daily intake of calcium for men and women of 70 years and older (1400 mg/day) is likely to be beneficial.

Dr Khan's data were also used by Xianwen Shang for his recently completed PhD. Xianwen investigated the effect of omega-3 fat consumption and abdominal aortic calcification (AAC). The aorta is the main artery supplying the body with blood from the heart. Aortic calcification is associated with atherosclerosis and increased risk of CVD. We often hear about the benefits of long chain omega-3 fats (found in oily fish) but alpha-linolenic acid is another omega-3 fat (found in nuts and seeds) and is more commonly consumed by Australians than the omega-3 fats from oily fish. Xianwen found that higher intakes of both alpha-linolenic and total omega-3 fats were associated with lower AAC for women but not for men. It is possible an association was not found for men due to the relatively low intakes of omega-3 fats by Health 2020 participants.

Xianwen also found that a higher quality diet, as assessed by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010), was associated with less AAC. A high AHEI-2010 score is associated with high consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes and low intakes of meats and sugar-sweetened beverages. Xianwen's research highlights the importance of following the current dietary guidelines for Australians.

Updated: 12 Sep, 2016