Calcium/vitamin D supplementation and coronary artery calcification in the Women's Health Initiative

Joann E. Manson, Matthew A. Allison, J. Jeffrey Carr, Robert D. Langer, Barbara B. Cochrane, Susan L. Hendrix, Judith Hsia, Julie R. Hunt, Cora E. Lewis, Karen L. Margolis, Jennifer G. Robinson, Rebecca J. Rodabough, Asha M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Coronary artery calcified plaque is a marker for atheromatous plaque burden and predicts future risk of cardiovascular events. The relationship between calcium plus vitamin D (calcium/D) supplementation and coronary artery calcium (CAC) has not been previously assessed in a randomized trial setting. We compared CAC scores after trial completion between women randomized to calcium/vitamin D supplementation and women randomized to placebo. METHODS: In an ancillary substudy of women randomized to calcium carbonate (1,000 mg of elemental calcium daily) plus vitamin D3 (400 IU daily) or placebo, nested within the Women's Health Initiative trial of estrogen among women who underwent hysterectomy, we measured CAC with cardiac CT in 754 women aged 50 to 59 years at randomization. Imaging for CAC was performed at 28 of 40 centers after a mean of 7 years of treatment, and scans were read centrally. CAC scores were measured by a central reading center with masking to randomization assignments. RESULTS: Posttrial CAC measurements were similar in women randomized to calcium/D supplementation and those receiving placebo. The mean CAC score was 91.6 for women receiving calcium/D and 100.5 for women receiving placebo (rank test P value = 0.74). After adjustment for coronary risk factors, multivariate odds ratios for increasing CAC score cutpoints (CAC >0, ≥10, and ≥100) for calcium/D versus placebo were 0.92 (95% CI, 0.64-1.34), 1.29 (0.88-1.87), and 0.90 (0.56-1.44), respectively. Corresponding odds ratios among women with a 50% or higher adherence to study pills and for higher levels of CAC (>300) were similar. CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with moderate doses of calcium plus vitamin D3 did not seem to alter coronary artery calcified plaque burden among postmenopausal women. Whether higher or lower doses would affect this outcome remains uncertain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-691
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Calcium
  • Coronary artery calcification
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Supplementation
  • Vitamin D
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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