The inability to lose weight -- a rather frustrating issue -- has been linked to a lack of calcium. Researchers first observed this “antiobesity effect” accidentally during a study in the 1980s that investigated the antihypertensive effect of dairy products in obese African American men (1). Increasing dietary calcium from ≈400 to ≈1000 mg/d through the consumption of 2 cups (≈437 mL) of yogurt daily for 1 year produced expected decreases in blood pressure that was accompanied by an unexpected 4.9kg reduction in body fat
According to animal and human studies, the calcium stored in fat cells helps regulate the processing and storage of fat in the body. Fat cells that contain the most calcium actually burn more fat, leading to weight loss.
A study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2002 summarized data from 9 studies (including 3 controlled trials and 6 observational studies) of calcium intake in which body weight could be assessed as a secondary outcome (2). Overall, increases in calcium intake were consistently associated with reduced indexes of adiposity (body weight, body fat, and weight gain); each 300mg increase in daily calcium intake is associated with a 2.5-3kg lower weight in adults and a 1kg less body fat in children. Consequently, they suggested that a 600mg/d increase in calcium intake (2 standard dairy servings) could reduce the risk of overweight by as much as 70%.
Of course, you can’t simply add calcium on to a high-calorie diet and expect weight loss. But if you have trouble shedding pounds, extra calcium-rich foods in addition to your lower calorie diet could be of great benefit. In fact, studies have shown calcium supplementation could give an edge on weight loss especially in women. University of Washington researchers reviewed a decade's worth of data on 5,341 women ages 53 to 57. Increasing calcium intake, in the form of calcium supplements, may be beneficial for weight maintenance, especially in women during midlife. Women currently taking a calcium supplement dose of >500 mg/day had significantly lower 10-year weight gain than non-users.
Consider Calcium supplements coupled with Vitamin D for optimal health!
1. Zemel MB, Shi H, Greer B, DiRienzo D, Zemel PC. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium. FASEB J 2000;14:1132–8.
2: Heaney RP, Davies KM, Barger-Lux MJ. Calcium and weight: clinical studies. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Apr;21(2):152S-155S. Review. PubMed PMID: 11999544.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research