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Calcium and Weight Loss: the Controversy Continues

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Weight Loss related image Photo: Getty Images

Weight loss is a difficult task. While some people make the effort by cutting down on their eating and changing their lifestyles, many others appear to be relying on magic pills or nutrients. Almost every week there is a new pill, herb, lotion or portion that is designed to help people lose weight and inevitably, the new treatment turns out to be a passing fad.

Recently there has been a lot published about calcium and how it can help adults lose weight. Obese individuals are known to have low calcium intake and vitamin D deficiency. There is up-and-coming evidence of a role for these supplements in the modulation of body weight. However, it is so far uncertain whether increasing consumption of calcium and/or vitamin D during calorie restriction is a superior approach for weight and fat loss.

A number of anecdotal reports claim that excess calcium can help all individuals lose weight. The people who advocate high calcium for weight loss claim that the calcium binds to the fat in the gut and prevents its absorption. Since these initial studies, the sale of calcium supplements has soared.

Now a study reveals that gulping excess calcium does not help obese teenagers lose weight. In the latest study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight teenagers were split into two groups. One that received 1350 mg and the other, got 650 mg of calcium.

The calcium supplements came from foods like milk proteins, frozen chocolates desserts or fats. These individuals were then placed on a restricted diet and followed.

In the end, the researchers found no difference in body fat or weight between the two groups. These researchers also tested the amount of fat and calcium excreted and found zero evidence that calcium induces weight loss by binding to fats. (1)

Even the calcium studies done in adult patients have not been convincing. While some studies show weight loss due to extra calcium supplements in obese adults, there are just as many studies which shown no benefit.

So what should the consumer do?

There is no doubt that calcium is of benefit for bone growth and many other physiological functions. But so far just relying on one health supplement to reduce weight is not the answer.

For people who want to lose weight, eat less and walk more. (2) What all consumers should be wary about is that many studies on health supplements/drugs are sponsored by the manufacturers, thus the results can be biased toward positive results.


Weaver CM, Calcium, dairy products, and energy balance in overweight adolescents: a controlled trial. Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21918216

Soares MJ. Calcium and vitamin D for obesity: a review of randomized controlled trials. Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21731038

Reviewed October 24, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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