(NaturalNews) Not enough calcium in their diet can increase the risk in women of a hormone condition that causes bone fractures and kidney stones, according to scientists.
The condition, primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), can affect one in 800 people during their lifetime, but it's occurrence is most common in post-menopausal women, said researchers, who wrote about their findings in the British Medical Journal. The research team suggested that increasing calcium intake cuts the risk of developing the disease.
"Primary hyperparathyroidism is the most common cause of hypercalcemia and the third most common endocrine disorder, with 100,000 new cases in the United States each year," said the team of Dr. Julie Paik, Dr. Gary Curhan and Dr. Eric Taylor, of the Brigham and Women's Hospital at Boston's Harvard Medical School wrote, noting that as many as two percent of post-menopausal women could have the condition.
Hypercalcemia is defined as "too much calcium in the blood," according to the National Institutes of Health. Dietary guidelines call for adults to consume around 700 mg of calcium daily.
44 percent reduced risk
Calcium is readily available in milk and other dairy products, nuts and fish such as sardines and pilchards (where the bones are also eaten), and in oral supplements. But taking too much could cause stomach pains and diarrhea, say doctors and dieticians.
Researchers say PHPT is caused by overactive parathyroid glands that secrete too much parathyroid hormone.
In addition to bone and kidney problems, there are also suggestions that PHPT is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
The team examined 58,300 women who were taking part in a much broader, ongoing piece of research called the Nurses' Health Study, the BBC reported. All of the women were between the ages of 39 and 66 in 1986, when the study launched. None had a history of PHPT.
The participating women completed food questionnaires to let researchers know how often they consumed specific foods or supplements, including calcium, every four years. The last year data was collected was 2008.
Women were divided into five groups, depending on their calcium intake. The participant groups accounted for such factors as age, body mass and ethnicity.
Over the period of time of study, 277 cases of PHPT were discovered, the team said, noting that those women with the highest intake of dietary calcium had a 44 percent reduced risk of developing PHPT when compared to the group with the lowest intake.
"Increased calcium intake, including both dietary and supplemental calcium, is independently associated with a reduced risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism in women," Paik wrote in the journal.
James Norman of the Norman Parathyroid Center in Florida added that "modest doses" of daily calcium supplements could like provide "more benefits than risks."
Calcium, the primary mineral in building strong bones and teeth, also helps regulate muscle contraction and works to ensure blood clots normally.
Improve your diet to improve your levels of calcium
Vitamin D is also important because it helps you absorb and retain calcium in the bones.
Other experts say you are better off getting your calcium from the foods you eat.
A previous meta analysis of several studies involving the benefits of calcium have found that taking supplemental calcium tablets doesn't necessarily work to prevent osteoporosis - a disease that results in weakened bones.
Writing in Natural News, Dr. David Jockers said:
The best forms of calcium and bone building nutrients come from leafy green vegetables and fermented, raw milk products from 100-green fed cows and goats. Pasteurized forms of milk and grain-fed animals provide inflammatory fatty-acids and other metabolites that promote calcium mineralization into arterioles.
The point? A better diet will provide better, more effective levels of calcium in your body.