Calcium May Curb Middle-Aged Spread
Study Shows Biggest Benefit in Women, But Makes No Promises
WebMD News Archive
June 30, 2006 -- Women who take calcium supplements may gain slightly less
weight over the decade or so between their mid 40s and mid 50s than those who
don't take them.
So says a study in July's issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic
The study shows that of 5,341 women aged 53 to 57, those taking at least 500
milligrams of calcium each day gained about 11 pounds after age 45, compared to
15 pounds for those who didn't take the supplements.
Calcium gotten from foods didn't affect the results.
The 5,250 men who took part in the study didn't see the same benefit in
weight control from calcium supplements.
About the Study
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Researchers included
Alejandro Gonzalez, MS, of Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Participants had volunteered for a long-term study of vitamin and mineral
supplements and cancer risk.
But for this particular report, Gonzalez and colleagues didn't focus on
cancer. Instead, they checked data on participants' weight gain from their mid
40s to mid 50s.
Participants had reported their weight eight to 10 years earlier, when they
were 45. They also noted their physical activities, age, smoking status,
height, diet habits, and current and past use of calcium supplements.
Men were "much less likely" than women to be currently taking
calcium supplements, the researchers note. Fifteen percent of the men were
taking calcium supplements, compared to 53% of the women.
Weight Gain Was Common
Participants typically reported gaining some weight after age 45, regardless
of calcium- supplement use.
Postmenopausal women taking at least 500 milligrams daily of calcium
supplements, and who hadn't taken hormone replacement therapy, gained the least
weight, the study shows. Those women gained about 10 pounds, compared to the
11-pound average for all women in the study taking supplements, and the 15
pounds gained by women not taking them.
It's possible people who take calcium supplements have other healthy habits
that help keep their weight in check. But the results held after researchers
took that into account.
It's too soon to recommend calcium supplements for weight control, say
Gonzalez and colleagues; more studies are needed first. They point out that
people don't always report their weight or supplement use accurately, and that
people who volunteer for studies like this one may not be typical of the
Also, the study was purely observational. Participants weren't asked to take
calcium supplements. So the findings don't prove that the supplements curbed
weight gain by themselves.
For now, Gonzalez and colleagues write that "calcium supplements taken
for other reasons (e.g., prevention of osteoporosis) may have a small beneficial
influence on reducing weight gain, particularly among women approaching