Does Calcium Help Encourage Weight Loss? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday May 23 | BY |
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You’ve heard calcium can help trim away the pounds. Is it true?

You may have heard the latest diet buzz that calcium can help you lose weight. Should you be popping more calcium pills?

A Study in the Year 2000
It started about a decade ago. Hang Shi and colleagues from the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville found that low-fat calcium may help reduce body fat. Co-author Michael Zemel called the findings “shocking.” In his past studies, he found that calcium stored in fat cells played a crucial role in regulating how fat is stored and broken down by the body.

In Shi’s study, one group was given calcium supplements, and others were fed “medium” and “high” amounts of low-fat dry milk. Body fat storage was markedly reduced by all three high-calcium diets, but calcium from dairy products produced the best results.

Good for the Calcium-Deficient
In 2009, researchers from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine published a study in the British Journal of Nutrition that showed boosting calcium consumption spurred weight loss, but only in people whose diets were calcium deficient.

Tremblay and colleagues conducted a 15-week weight loss program on obese women. The participants consumed on average less than 600 mg of calcium per day. (The recommended amount is 1,000 mg.) In addition to following a low-calorie diet, the women took two tablets a day of either 1,200 mg of calcium or a placebo. Those who took the calcium lost nearly 6 kg over the course of the program. Researchers theorized that the brain detects the lack of calcium and tries to compensate by spurring food intake, leading to weight gain. Therefore, consuming adequate calcium would make it easier to lose weight.

More Evidence
In 2011, a study in Nutrition Reviews showed that daily calcium supplements could result in a loss of about 4 pounds of body fat per year. Not a lot, but considering that most middle-aged Americans experience the “slow creep” of 1-2 pounds of weight gain a year, it could be significant.

Another study published in 2009, however, did not show similar results. Researchers gave half of 340 participants calcium pills with meals and the other half placebos, then collected information about their weight over the next 2 years. Both groups gained weight and did not differ in weight change. Researchers noted that the study used calcium pills, and the findings might be different if high-calcium food was used instead.

Where We Are Today
In a recent issue of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, researchers examined two studies that suggest that if calcium encourages weight loss at all, it’s only calcium from your diet, not from pills. Just how calcium may work is also still up for debate. One study shows that calcium encourages fat excretion, but another credits increased calcium intake with curbing appetite.

The first study reviewed by the letter includes the aforementioned study of 340 participants, in which there was no difference between those who took calcium pills and those who didn’t. The second study, however, was a meta-analysis that pooled data from 13 previous trials. This study found that boosting dietary calcium intake by an average of 1,241 milligrams was associated with an increase in fat excretion of 5.2 grams per day—almost 50 calories.

Publishing their findings in Obesity Reviews, researchers suggested that this could have an effect on weight. The greater fat excretion, however, was seen only with dietary calcium. Results when looking at combined dietary and supplemental calcium were mixed. The paper also mentioned the Tremblay study, and noted that a lack of calcium may spur hunger.

Where to Find Your Calcium
Though more studies need to be done to clear up this debate, it looks like dietary calcium does play some role in weight management, so getting more in your daily diet is probably a good idea. The standard recommended amounts are as follows:

  • Teens: 1,300 mg/day
  • Adults: 1,000 mg
  • Adults over 50 years old: 1,200 mg

Good plant-based sources of calcium:

  • Spinach and collard greens
  • Turnip greens, kale
  • Mustard greens and Swiss chard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Non-GMO tempeh or tofu

Good animal-based sources of calcium:

  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Raw, organic yogurt, cheese, kefir, and milk

What do you think about the calcium/weight-loss debate? Do you have a favorite high-calcium food?

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Photo courtesy conidutka via Flickr.com.

Sources

Jeanie Lerche Davis, “Weight-Loss Tip: Add Extra Calcium to a Low-Fat Diet,” WebMD Health News, April 17, 2000. http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20000417/calcium-low-fat-diet.

Université Laval (2009, March 12). Diet Rich In Calcium Aids Weight Loss In People With Calcium Deficient Diets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/03/090312115053.htm.

Onakpoya IJ et al. Nutrition Reviews 2011; 69(6): 335-43. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00397.x/abstract.

“Can Calcium Pills Help People Lose Weight?” Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009, http://www.annals.org/content/150/12/I-24.full.pdf.

“Calcium and Weight Loss: Magic Bullet or Myth?” Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, Volume 10G.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

14 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Stephanie says:

    No…I’d rather avoid all those diseases and not eat dairy -_-
    It’s probably the alkaline-effect of calcium that’s aiding weight loss.

  2. Hello says:

    I have a feeling that it only makes a difference in weight loss when someone is deficient in calcium. Calcium is involved in pretty much everything when it comes to important cell signaling. A biology professor once joked that if he falls a sleep during a lecture or research presentation, to look smart, he just asks how is calcium involved. The presenter usually tells him that’s a very important question. lol.

    Some higher calcium favorites:
    -yogurt: I know some people hate the taste of plain yogurt, but I grew up eating everything with it and can’t imagine life without it.
    -parsley
    -garlic
    -okra
    -orange zest: more like a seasoning than a food but whatever.
    -figs
    -dates
    Looking at my list, I guess my tastes run more mediterranean 🙂

  3. robyn says:

    The bigger problem with calcium to consider is malabsorbtion, and how it contributes to calcification of our bones, arterys etc. Yes, we take from our bones when our body is overly acidic, yet the wrong calcium can cause serious problems. Best to get it naturally from foods, and try to avoid the cheaper walgreens brands etc.

  4. Almonds, I love to make almond milk and use it on my quinoa or in my morning smoothie.

  5. Ira Edwards says:

    In the 15 years of study that led to publishing Honest Nutrition, and the six years since, one question that I could not answer even for myself was “Should I take a calcium supplement?”
    The pro and con evidence was too mixed, as it still is with this article.
    Possibly related: “Why were these studies done with low fat? Natural man, along with carnivorous and omnivorous anaimal, have always sought high fat food if it was available, and it should not be assumed that low fat is normal, or unrelated to calcium.
    It may be that supplemental calcium, or even high-calcium foods are not needed where there is adequate vitamin D, or perhaps where there is also adeqate fat. Calcium intake may not be the question, but calcium absorption.
    Cows seem to get enough calcium from grass, and that would require high absorption. Grass-fed cows have a digestive system where bacteria produce fat from cellulose, resulting in high fat absorption.
    Another thought: Thin people often get osteoporosis. How does this relate to calcium and fat intake?
    Perhaps studies could be done to determine calcium need with high fat diets.

  6. Margot says:

    I also think that it only makes a difference in weight loss when someone is deficient in calcium.
    Generally, deficienties in vitamins and minerals pushes people to eat more. Just to get enough vitamins and minerals. Starving in plenty.

    Even though I do take my supplements, I prefer getting my minerals from food.
    Spinach however is not only high in calcium, but also in oxalic acid, which destroyes calcium. So all in all the amount of calcium that gets where it is needed is not that great.
    Kale, another great source of calcium, is a cruzifier. They are extreemly healthy, except for the people who have problems with their thyroid.
    Being allergic to cowmilk and sesameseed doesn’t help either, so I eat buckets of greens. 🙂

  7. Genie Bell says:

    I personally prefer to eat dark leafy greens along with receiving calcium in my multi vitamin as opposed to dairy foods.

    Dairy from grain fed cows is very acidic and causes mucous formation in the body which can lead to colds, allergies and immune suppression.

    I have recently been introduced to Jordan Rubin’s, Garden of Life fame, new company – Beyond Organics and his green fed cows are a special breed carrying the gene for digestible protein. His green fed cheddar artisan cheese and green fed Amasi cultured dairy drink are my new favorite delicious choices for taking in calcium along with greens.

    Check out his website: http://www.livebeyondorganic.com

  8. zyxomma says:

    My favorite source is organic raw tahini, drizzled on my high-calcium greens.

  9. Mist says:

    Excess estrogen (phytoestrogen from food and xenoestrogen from chemicals) causes weight gain from water retention and fat accumulation around hips and thighs. Supplementing with calcium-D-glucarate can help the body excrete estrogen and promote weight loss. Indole-3-carbinol (contained in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale) can also help excrete estrogen.

  10. Jerilyn says:

    Margot,
    What is the issue with throid and cruciferous vegies?
    My favorites are parsley or celery in my smoothie with any other green. And goat cheese! I’ll have to check for lower fat versions

    Almonds, collards, spinach, brazil nuts, oranges, blackstrap molasses, broccoli!!

    I don’t eat sesame seeds because they are not good for type B blood.

  11. Therese von Rodeck says:

    Well I believe that taking supplements is not as good as the foods we get the vitamin or mineral from. And just how do we know that when getting calcium from food rather than pills, the calcium is making the difference?? Whole foods have MANY benefits. Eating whole food is just the magical way to stay healthy!

  12. DAWN CRAWFORD says:

    Hi,

    Just a thought. If you have hypothyroidism, you must be careful not to overdo your calcium intake as too much calcium in the body affects iron absorption and it is the iron that your body uses to transport the thyroid hormone throughout your system. In which case, if you took to much calcium you would start to put weight on. Another reason for those with hypothryoidism not to overindulge in leafy green vegetables.

  13. Calcuim and magnesium work in tandem. Mag helps cal get into the cells. Food is always a better source for nutrients.
    Jerilyn, the blood type food plan has no real scientific basis. The De Adamos have a plan, they make money from it, but it may not work for all. You may be missing out on nutirents you really need thru the foods you are avoiding.

  14. You can find calcium in sea veggies. Wakame is high in calcium and is said to be the woman’s seaweed because of this. Asian women have known about the benefits of seaweed and wakame for centuries now. Find your wakame (tested and found free of radioactive isotopes) at http://www.seaweedmermaid.com

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