Calcium and vitamin D improve cholesterol in postmenopausal women

Calcium and vitamin D supplements after menopause can improve women's cholesterol profiles. And much of that effect is tied to raising vitamin D levels, finds a new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) just published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Whether calcium or D can indeed improve has been debated. And studies of women taking the combination could not separate the effects of calcium from those of vitamin D on cholesterol. But this study, led by NAMS Board of Trustees member Peter F. Schnatz, DO, NCMP, is helping to settle those questions because it looked both at how a calcium and vitamin D supplement changed cholesterol levels and how it affected of vitamin D in postmenopausal women.

Daily, the women in the WHI CaD trial took either a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D3 or a placebo. This analysis looked at the relationship between taking supplements and levels of vitamin D and cholesterol in some 600 of the women who had both their cholesterol levels and their vitamin D levels measured.

The women who took the supplement were more than twice as likely to have vitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL (normal according to the Institute of Medicine) as were the women who took the placebo. Supplement users also had low-density lipoprotein (LDL—the "bad" cholesterol) levels that were between 4 and 5 points lower. The investigators discovered, in addition, that among supplement users, those with higher blood levels of vitamin D had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL—the "good" cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides (although for triglycerides to be lower, blood levels of vitamin D had to reach a threshold of about 15 ng/mL).

Taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements was especially helpful in raising vitamin D levels in women who were older, women who had a low intake, and women who had levels first measured in the winter—what you might expect. But lifestyle also made a difference. The supplements also did more to raise vitamin D levels in women who did not smoke and who drank less alcohol.

Whether these positive effects of supplemental calcium and vitamin D on cholesterol will translate into benefits such as lower rates of cardiovascular disease for women after menopause remains to be seen, but these results, said the authors, are a good reminder that women at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency should consider taking calcium and vitamin D.

"The results of this study should inspire even more to be conscientious about their calcium and vitamin D intake—a simple and safe way to improve health. One action can lead to multiple benefits!" says NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD.

The study, "Calcium/vitamin D supplementation, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and cholesterol profiles in the Women's Health Initiative /vitamin D randomized trial," will be published in the August 2014 print edition of Menopause.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Calcium and vitamin D help hormones help bones

Jun 26, 2013

Should women take calcium and vitamin D supplements after menopause for bone health? Recommendations conflict, and opinions are strong. But now, an analysis from the major Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial throws weight ...

Vitamin D deficiency may compromise immune function

Feb 25, 2014

Older individuals who are vitamin D deficient also tend to have compromised immune function, according to new research accepted for publication in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) ...

Type 1 diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency occurs in an early stage

Feb 27, 2014

Vitamin D is known as a major regulator of calcium levels and bone metabolism. Furthermore, it also influences the immune system. Previous studies have shown that patients with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes have significantly ...

Recommended for you

Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body

6 hours ago

The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research.

Hot flashes linked to increased risk of hip fracture

10 hours ago

Women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats during menopause tend to have lower bone mineral density and higher rates of hip fracture than peers who do not have menopausal symptoms, according to a ...

Core hospital care team members may surprise you

10 hours ago

Doctors and nurses are traditionally thought to be the primary caretakers of patients in a typical hospital setting. But according to a study at the burn center intensive care unit at Loyola University Health System, three ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.