Do Calcium Supplements Increase the Risk of Macular Degeneration?

According to a cross-sectional study of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), participants 68 and older taking more than 800 milligrams of calcium a day were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition causing severe vision loss. The association between AMD and calcium intake was not significant among participants aged 40 through 67 years.

The study evaluated close to 3,200 people, 248 of which were diagnosed with AMD; and the results appeared to hold true, accounting for age, sex, ethnicity, obesity, alcohol use, heart disease and other medical conditions. Each participant was asked about calcium supplements and antacid intake though there was no accounting for the role calcium from foods or drinks may have played.

Caitlin Kagini explained that while the findings suggested a threshold of calcium supplementation at which they found increased odds of AMD, it was a cross-sectional study that did not show causation. She also explained that it’s not recommended for people taking calcium to treat medical conditions to change their therapy. However, Kagina added that the study may suggest that anyone with elevated risk of AMD should avoid excessive amounts of calcium if there’s no medical necessity for it.

Dr. Rahul Khurana, a spokesman for the American Academy of Opthalmology, cautioned that doctors should not change prescribing habits until further studies are done; however, patients should still avoid smoking and maintain a diet in rich green vegetables and fish.

With 43% of the U.S. population taking some kind of calcium supplements, future studies will hopefully provide more insight into what direct correlation, if any, exists between supplemental calcium intake and AMD.

If you have questions about your dietary intake or your risk for AMD, please call our eye care specialists at 877-871-1684.