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Calcium for Weight Loss?

Girls Who Get More Calcium Have Less Body Fat

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"What perhaps is important about this is that they are in a period of rapid growth, and because of that growth there is an opportunity to modify their body composition," says Novotny. "It sets the stage for future body composition."

High body fat and obesity is associated with many health risks such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The exact mechanism behind calcium's fat-fighting power is not fully understood, but previous research in animals suggests that high levels of calcium in the bloodstream slow down fat production and help shift the body's focus from accumulating fat to breaking it down.

Registered dietitian Althea Zanecosky says the old adage, "like mother, like daughter" usually doesn't apply to weight control methods, but this study shows that it can.

"As a dietitian, I'm really thrilled because here's a food we're trying to get them to eat for other reasons, and now here's this added bonus," says Zanecosky, who is also spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Preventing bone disease coming years down road might not be an incentive for girls," Zanecosky tells WebMD. "But for those concerned about their weight, this is one more reason for them to drink their milk because it may also have this beneficial effect on their weight."

Zanecosky says it's not hard for parents to sneak extra doses of calcium-rich foods into their children's diet. As a mother of two adolescent daughters herself, she finds the following "tricks" especially effective in her own children:

  • Grab a decaffeinated cappuccino with your teenager as an after-school snack.
  • Send yogurt along with their lunch, as a snack, or have it for breakfast (no-fat or low-fat versions of many yogurts are also available for weight-conscious kids).
  • Whip up fruit smoothies with skim milk or yogurt.
  • Sprinkle reduced-fat grated cheeses on salads.
  • Incorporate low-fat shredded cheese blends into dinner entrees, such as Mexican cheeses on fajitas and tacos, Italian cheeses on pasta, etc.
  • If your child doesn't like plain milk, offer flavored milks such as chocolate or strawberry.

"This is one potentially trendy diet that's healthy. You can control fat and get strong bones at same time. I don't know of any other diets can make that claim," says Zanecosky. "You can't lose anything but pounds."

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