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Calcium Supplements May Help with Weight Loss


The results of a new study in Nutrition Reviews qualify for the “every little bit helps” category: calcium supplements may help you lose weight, but only just under 3.5 pounds per year. In addition, daily calcium supplements can result in a loss of about 4 pounds of body fat per year.

Calcium is not just for stronger bones

Over the years, studies regarding the ability of calcium to assist with weight loss have yielded conflicting results, with some research suggesting calcium from dairy foods was helpful while others indicated supplements offered more benefit. Another argument is that calcium in dairy foods plays a minor role in the goal to lose weight.

The new study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter, evaluated data from seven randomized clinical trials that involved the use of calcium supplements in overweight and obese individuals. All the studies in the meta-analysis lasted at least six months.

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Researchers found that calcium supplementation may help people lose about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) per year when compared with placebo. Individuals who took 1,000 mg daily of calcium saw a “small, significant reduction in body fat” equalling about 2 kg per year.

According to Igho Onakpoya from the Department of Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School at the University of Exeter, and his colleagues in the study, one possible reason calcium may help promote weight loss could involve a decline in 1,25-vitamin D levels, which stimulates fat metabolism and inhibits the activity of fat cells.

Some literature also notes that a calcium-rich diet may promote fat oxidation, which can result “in the removal of additional amounts of calories from the body.” A number of these studies have been supported by the dairy industry, however, and raise the question of conflict of interest.

Overall, the study’s authors conclude that “evidence from randomized clinical trials suggests calcium supplementation generates small, statistically significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals,” yet they are not certain what clinical relevance these findings provide. Although calcium supplements may not lead to losing more than few pounds per year, they also do provide an essential mineral for bone and overall health. And when you are trying to lose weight, every little bit counts.

Onakpoya IJ et al. Nutrition Reviews 2011; 69(6): 335-43