Is Calcium the New Magic Bullet?
New research suggests that upping your calcium intake can help you lose fat
New research suggests that low-fat dairy products may be a new weapon in
fighting the battle of the bulge.
How? It seems that exciting evidence from University of Tennessee shows that
adequate calcium intake not only helps prevent osteoporosis but can also
enhance weight loss -- meaning increased dairy calcium appears to be a key
factor in preventing osteoporosis, controlling high blood pressure, potentially
reducing the incidence of colon and breast cancer, and promoting
weight loss. Sound too good to be true? Read on.
Dairy Products Enhance Weight Loss
A recent study suggests that dietary calcium lowers body weight by
converting a portion of dietary energy to heat rather than to stored body fat.
When we reduce dairy products, we send the body a signal -- make more fat, says
Michael Zemel, PhD, lead researcher on the study reported in the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
When your body is deprived of calcium, it conserves it, prompting you to
produce higher levels of calcitriol, a hormone that triggers increased
production of fat cells. Extra calcium in your diet suppresses calcitriol,
leading to the breakdown of more fat, making fat cells leaner and trimmer.
Zemel estimates that a high-dairy diet can boost weight loss by as much as
In his experiment, Zemel gave overweight people on a low-calorie diet about
three daily servings of yogurt, totaling 1,100 milligrams of calcium, while
another group received 400-500 milligrams of calcium supplements. The result:
The yogurt eaters' waist size dropped more than an inch and a half and their
weight dropped an average of 13 pounds compared with the supplement group,
which lost six pounds or less and one quarter of an inch from their waist. The
weight loss was belly fat, not only an important site for weight loss for
health reasons, but a place most dieters welcome shrinkage!
Speaking of shrinkage, an important issue to remember when losing pounds is
to make sure weight loss comes from fat and not muscle protein. Most diets
cause dieters to lose a combination of fat, muscle, and water. The fact that
participants in the Zemel study essentially lost just fat is another reason his
results are intriguing.
Getting the Calcium You Need -- Even When Lactose Intolerant
And food, instead of supplements, is the best way to get your recommended
calcium. Food has the advantage of not only giving you the mineral calcium but
all the other nutritious substances food contains, such as phytochemicals,
fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Because calcium-rich diets are essential in treating and managing many
conditions, it's imperative that dieters, especially women, maximize their
intake of such foods. A few calcium sources include dark leafy greens (spinach,
kale), almonds, sesame seeds, salmon, and fortified foods (orange juice).
Pumping up your calcium, boosting it to at least three servings a day, is
easy. Try these:
- enjoy a yogurt smoothie
- eat a fresh fruit and yogurt parfait for breakfast or dessert
- drink skim milk on ice with your meals
- coffee lovers: make cafe au lait with strong coffee and warm skim milk
- fill an ice cube tray with flavored milk and insert Popsicle sticks for a
- munch on part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
But what if you're severely lactose intolerant and can't handle even the
smallest amounts of lactose or suffer from an age-related decline in your
lactose tolerance? The good news is that your body can adapt to lactose with
consumption of small amounts of dairy foods eaten with other foods. Here are a
few tips that could help increase your calcium intake without the painful side
- consume smaller quantities of dairy more often
- consume dairy with food
- eat diary with lower amounts of lactose, such as yogurt and hard
- use lactose-free or reduced-lactose products
- try supplemental enzymes