Calcium Supplementation May Raise Dementia Risk in Older Women

white pills bottle
white pills bottle
Women who received calcium supplementation were at a greater risk for dementia and dementia with stroke.

A recent study published in Neurology suggests that the use of calcium supplementation in elderly women with cerebrovascular disease may be associated with an increased risk of dementia development.1

Calcium supplementation is recognized as a gold standard to minimize the risk of bone loss or decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis in most if not all elderly patients. However, there has been growing concern  whether people are receiving enough, and whether it should be taken by all populations.2 

Additionally, previous reports have indicated an association between calcium supplementation and an increased risk of cardiovascular events.3

The present study, led by Jürgen Kern, MD, PhD, of Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Mölndal, Sweden, assessed calcium supplement use in 700 dementia-free women (aged 70-92 years) to determine its association with dementia diagnosis over a 5-year follow-up.

During the study, 54 women experienced stroke and 59 women developed dementia. Those that received calcium supplementation (n=98) were twice as likely to develop dementia (OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.01–4.37, P = .046) or vascular or mixed dementia (OR 4.4, 95% CI 1.54–12.61, P = .006) compared to those that did not take the supplementation (n=602). Notably, women with a history of stroke (n=108) and white matter lesions (WMLs) who took calcium supplementation were found to be at a greater risk of developing dementia than those with no history of stroke or WMLs (OR 6.77, 95% CI 1.36–33.75, P = .020 and OR 2.99, 95% CI 1.28–6.96, P = .011, respectively).

While the findings are significant, the authors recognized that the sample size was small and that it was an observational study compared to an experimental study. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the potential risks of calcium supplementation and confirm these findings for patient application.

The authors reported no relevant disclosures.


  1. Kern, J, Kern,S, Blennow, K, et al. Calcium supplementation and risk of dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease. Neurology. 2016;87:1-7.
  2. Moyer VA. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation to prevent fractures in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(9):691-6.
  3. Bolland MJ, Grey A, Avenell A, Gamble GD, Reid IR. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;342:d2040.