- Intake of calcium supplements along with vitamin D may give rise to colon polyps.
- Polyps are abnormal growths found in the inner lining of the large intestine .
- Women and smokers who are exposed to calcium and vitamin D supplements are at high risk of developing serrated polyps.
Intake of calcium supplements with or without vitamin D may be associated with the development of small abnormal growths called polyps
in the colon region, finds a study published in the journal Gut
The scientists suggest that further studies should be done in order to confirm the results as calcium supplements have a lot of benefits and are taken by millions of people around the world. The findings may be helpful in the prevention and screening of bowel cancer.
‘Women and smokers who are exposed to calcium supplements are at a high risk of developing colon polyps.’
Polyps are small growths in the lower part of the large intestine. They are usually non-cancerous, but some could eventually turn into cancer if not removed at the right time.
Polyps are of different types, but this study mainly focuses on the serrated polyps
. These polyps occur rarely compared to the usual "adenomatous"
type of polyps. Both have the same risk of developing into cancer. Some studies suggest that intake of calcium supplements and vitamin D protects the body from colon polyps. The studies show mixed results.
In order to investigate it further, a team of US-based scientists wanted to see whether intake of calcium and vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of serrated polyps.
The study involved about 2,000 patients aged between 45 and 75 years, who had a history of polyps and were due to a follow-up test (colonoscopy) in 3 to 5 years. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other serious health conditions were excluded from the study. Several factors like diet, sex, weight (BMI) and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs were taken into account.
The remaining patients were split randomly into different groups. Some received calcium supplements daily, some Vitamin D supplements and a few of them had both together. Certain patients were not given any supplements for 3 to 5 years until their colonoscopy. The effects after the treatment period were also recorded.
The results of the study showed that during the treatment phase the calcium and Vitamin D supplements did not show any effect on the patients. However, after the treatment phase, researchers found increased risk of serrated polyps among patients taking calcium alone and those taking a combination of both calcium and vitamin D.
Previous studies prove that women and smokers were at high risk when exposed to calcium supplements but no association was found between vitamin D supplements intake and serrated polyps.
Strengths of the study include its randomized design and large sample size, say the authors. However, they point out that findings are derived from a secondary analysis of a trial and it is possible that some results from these analyses were due to chance.
In order to confirm the results, further studies are recommended to see if calcium and vitamin D supplements are really associated with the development of serrated polyps. They conclude by saying that this has an important implication on public health.
Meanwhile, the researchers suggest that patients with a history of pre-cancerous serrated polyps, mainly women and smokers may avoid the intake of calcium and vitamin D supplements.
About Colon Polyps
Colon polyps are small growths in the inner wall of the large intestine. It is usually non-cancerous but can become cancerous if they are not treated properly. The common symptoms of colon polyps are abdominal pain, black stools, blood mixed with stools, anemia, pain and weakness. There are different types of polyps and are diagnosed by colonoscopy method. Polyps are mainly removed by surgical method.
- Seth D Crockett, Elizabeth L Barry2, Leila A Mott, Dennis J Ahnen, Douglas J Robertson, Joseph C Anderson, Kristen Wallace, Carol A Burke, Robert S Bresalier, Jane C Figueiredo, Dale C Snover, John A Baron. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation and increased risk of serrated polyps: results from a randomised clinical trial. Gut (2018)