Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Taking grandma's milk away

Many of my family members have been ending up with alzheimers and dementia in their older years, leading to a painful, slow death full of medication, illness and full-time care in nursing homes. This has been a big concern for some of us who are getting up in our years. We know that calcium is essential but getting it through plant foods is the safest and healthiest way to do it.


Excess calcium in elderly 'linked to dementia'

By John von Radowitz, PA Science Correspondent
Published: 14 May 2007

Calcium and vitamin D in dairy products may be helping to cause brain damage and dementia in older men and women, new research suggests.

Scientists believe too much calcium can narrow blood vessels in the brain, leading to neural damage.

The effect may be compounded by vitamin D, which regulates calcium retention and activity.
Researchers made the discovery after scanning the brains of 79 men and 153 women aged between 60 and 86.

All had at least a number of brain lesions - areas of tissue damage.

They varied in size and included tiny ones often seen even in healthy older people. But participants consuming the most calcium and vitamin D were significantly more likely to have a higher total volume of brain lesions.

Age, high blood pressure and other medical and mental conditions, including depression, made no difference to the results.

In earlier studies, the same US team found that individuals who consumed high amounts of fatty dairy products had larger numbers of brain lesions.

However, fat intake in general was not a significant factor. The researchers wanted to find out if a factor other than fat caused the harmful effects of a high dairy diet.

The new findings, presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington DC, point to calcium, which exists in abundance in dairy foods. Its regulator, vitamin D, is also found in many dairy products as well as vitamin-fortified foods such as margarine, breakfast cereal and bread.

Study leader Dr Martha Payne, from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said: "At this point, we do not know if high calcium and vitamin D intake are involved with the causation of brain lesions, but the study provides support to the growing number of researchers who are concerned about the effects of too much calcium, particularly among older adults, given the current emphasis on promoting high intakes of calcium and vitamin D."

Her team is continuing to investigate possible ways in which high levels of calcium and vitamin D might damage the brain.

The leading theory is that when too much calcium is absorbed into blood vessel walls it produces bone-like deposits. This calcification may narrow the blood vessels and make them less flexible, reducing the blood flow through them.

In the brain, neurons could be deprived of blood and die, causing the lesions that increase the risk of cognitive impairment, dementia, depression and stroke.


1 comment:

Valerie Winters said...

I’d not heard this before about the link between milk and dementia. Thanks for sharing.