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The Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study, led by Dr. Carlos Lorenzo of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, found that high concentrations of serum calcium - not necessarily related to calcium intake - were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Lorenzo was inspired to explore the link after recent studies showed a relationship between high calcium supplement intake and cardiovascular disease. Since diabetes shares many of the same risk factors as heart disease, Lorenzo wanted to study further the correlation betweencalcium and diabetes.
"Our hypothesis was that serum calcium may also play some role in the development of diabetes," he said.
The study focused on 863 subjects without diabetes between the ages of 40 and 69, and measured their insulin sensitivity and insulin response over the course of a five-year period.
During the five-year study, Lorenzo and his colleagues found that those subjects with the highest concentration of calcium also showed markers for a higher risk of diabetes.
The higher levels of calcium did not appear to be related to blood glucose levels, insulin secretion, or insulin resistance, he said, and increased calcium intake did not impact the results.
Previously, Lorenzo said, researchers had surmised that the link between calcium and diabetes was related to insulin resistance, but Lorenzo's results suggested otherwise.
That suggests that it is not calcium intake that causes the elevated risk factors, but instead is related to the body's ability to regulate calcium.
To better determine the factors surrounding calcium regulation, more research is required, but the initial study does offer another marker for detecting diabetes risk.
"I suspect it won't add much to our prediction equations, but if you have someone in the clinic who has those levels of calcium, that person is going to be at higher risk for diabetes," he said.
Lorenzo presented his results at the 2013 meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Barcelona, Spain.
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