Opthalmology: No Evidence Linking Calcium Supplements to Age-Related Macular Degeneration

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Emily Y. Chew, M.D.Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical ApplicationsDeputy Clinical Director at the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health

Dr. Chew

Emily Y. Chew, M.D.
Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications
Deputy Clinical Director at the National Eye Institute (NEI),
National Institutes of Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:     The current study was conducted to see if we could bring some clarity to the issue of calcium intake and AMD risk. Up to this point, the data on calcium and AMD were mixed, with one study showing that calcium supplementation might increase the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration, and another suggesting that high calcium intake may be protective.

Our findings are based on a retrospective analysis of AREDS data on baseline self-reported calcium intake and 10-year AMD outcomes. We looked at rates of AMD onset, as well as rates of progression to late age-related macular degeneration among those people who had early and intermediate AMD at baseline.

Although our findings are suggestive of a protective effect from calcium, it is not possible to control for confounding factors that could explain the result. For example, people who make sure to get the recommended level of calcium may be more likely to also exercise, eat a diet rich in omega-3 foods, such as fish, and avoid smoking – all of which could lower their risk of AMD onset or progression.

That said, we found no evidence that high calcium intake increased the risk of age-related macular degeneration. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: The take home message applies to the population of people who need to take calcium for a non-AMD-related medical reason, such as for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis. We found no evidence that calcium should be withheld in that population due to concerns about age-related macular degeneration risk.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: A prospective, controlled study would be needed to determine whether calcium has a protective effect against age-related macular degeneration. 

None of study investigators had conflicts of interest. 


Tisdale AK, Agrón E, Sunshine SB, et al. Association of Dietary and Supplementary Calcium Intake With Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Age-Related Eye Disease Study Report 39. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online March 21, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2019.0292









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