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Calcium and vitamin D reported to improve cholesterol profile in menopause

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Women in their menopausal years are at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Research has shown that increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C; “good cholesterol”) and lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C; “bad cholesterol”). A new study has reported that calcium and vitamin D supplementation in postmenopausal women improves their lipid profile (increased HDL-C and decreased LDL-Cl). The findings were published in the August edition of the journal Menopause.

The researchers conducted a study to determine whether increased serum vitamin D concentrations due to calcium and vitamin D would result in an improved lipid profile in postmenopausal women. From 1993 to 1998, women from the general community, including multiple sites in the US were enrolled in the study. This group included 300 Caucasian, 200 African-American, and 100 Hispanic women who were randomly selected from the Women’s Health Initiative CaD trial.

The researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial designed to test the effects of CaD supplementation (1,000 mg of elemental calcium + 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily) compared to a placebo in postmenopausal women, meaning that the women were randomly assigned to receive the medication or placebo, and neither the researchers or the women knew whether they were receiving the medication. Serum vitamin D and lipid (fasting plasma triglycerides (TGs), HDL-C, and calculated LDL-C) levels were measured before and after the women entered the study.

The investigators found a 38% increase in average serum vitamin D concentrations after two years for women who received vitamin D and calcium, compared to those who received the placebo. In addition, women who received the supplements had a 4.46 mg/dL average decrease in LDL-C. Higher concentrations of vitamin D were associated with higher HDL-C, together with lower LDL-C and TG levels.

The authors concluded that calcium and vitamin D supplementation significantly increases serum vitamin D levels and decreases LDL-C. Women with higher vitamin D levels have more favorable lipid profiles, including increased HDL-C, lower LDL-C, and lower TG. They noted that their results support the theory that higher serum concentrations of vitamin D, in response to calcium and vitamin D supplementation, are associated with improved LDL-C.