Fat-loss and Calcium

It is here! “A solution, to the growing epidemic of obesity raging in the western world”. Followed by these bold words, “Now just take this calcium pill and do away with fat like never before”. This very well could have been the national headlines pouring through our commercials and news channels, regarding the decade of studies by Zemel and associates involved with calcium and weight-loss. If only this statement rained true right!

We are on the verge of a find like no other, in our life time there will be an available pill that will make all other fat-loss methods primitive. Now the question has to be asked is calcium that very pill?

In this blog article I will uncover the science that calcium reveals about weight-loss and take you on a journey that may be the beginning of what is the fat-loss pill of the future.


Calcium derived Diary and fat-loss

In this day and age it is quite common to find weight-loss diets that have either a low amount of dairy or none entirely, this is often due to one or more reasons particularly targeted against fat content and calories. This is often valid in the principle of calorie reduction though where is that person getting their calcium from? Before you argument that you get more calcium out of vegetables and I will debate that further, consider the many interesting studies on dairy derived calcium and effects on weight-loss over the past decade.

Take for example the studies performed by Zemel and colleagues over the past years, which have concluded the valuable role of dietary calcium against the widening obesity epidemic[1].


 Clinical study

In 2009 Zemel and colleagues tested a base of one hundred and six healthy over weight and obese adults, between the ages of 18 to 35. These individuals undertook a 12-week calorie restrictive trial (-500kcal) and were placed into control groups that either consisted of high calcium or low calcium diets. What was founded through this study was one control group that was supplied with 3 servings per day of milk, cheese and/or yogurt resulted in a two-fold increase in fat loss as compared to the high- and low-calcium diets. Concluding that “dairy-rich diets augment weight loss by targeting the fat compartment during energy restriction.”Zemel eta.[2][3]


So why calcium found in dairy ?

The facts are that calcium found in dairy is higher than that found in vegetables. As noted by Greer and colleagues, most vegetables contain calcium, although at relatively low density. Thus, large servings are needed to equal the total intake achieved with typical servings of dairy products.[4] Also as a note calcium derived from dairy has been at the forefront of investigation as it may influence lipid metabolism and body composition. Due to high concentrated doses found in dairy it merits the extensive studies that debate over the valuable nature of dairy in childhood development and against its practical use in battling obesity.


Calcium derived in food vs supplemented calcium

In regards to weight-loss, there have been many studies incorporating dairy derived calcium and the benefits it poses with reducing body fat. Though, what of supplemented calcium uptake and weight-loss? In 2007 the American society of clinical nutrition with the support of Genevieve et. al, discovered that consumption of a calcium + vitamin D supplement enhanced the beneficial effect of body weight loss on the lipid and lipoprotein profile in overweight or obese women with usual low calcium intake. In this particular study 1,200 mg of calcium experienced ( 2 tablets of 600 mg elemental calcium and 200 iu vitamin D/tablet) a decrease in lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, slightly higher than that of the recommended daily allowance. [5]

Sources of calcium

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium, the non-dairy sources include vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Spinach provides calcium, but its bioavailability is poor. Most grains do not have high amounts of calcium unless they are fortified; however, they contribute calcium to the diet because they contain small amounts of calcium and people consume them frequently.

Some of the many foods that contain calcium
Some of the many foods that contain calcium

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Calcium [1]

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0–6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7–12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1–3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4–8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9–13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14–18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19–50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51–70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

* Adequate Intake (AI)

To find out more on calcium visit: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#en1


The science on Calcium

  • A recent study found that an increase in dietary calcium intake, together with a normal protein intake, increased fecal fat and energy excretion by about 350 calories per day.[6]
  • Zemel et al (2002) looked at the effects of calcium supplements on obese adults who were dieting. They found that a high-calcium diet (1200-1300 mg/day) resulted in greater weight and fat loss in humans compared to a low-calcium diet (400-500 mg/day).[7]
  • Calcium has also been reportedly helpful for lowering bad cholesterol levels by as much as 6%, the study was founded through 1,800 milligrams of calcium a day. [8]

Calcium Homeostasis Labeled-min

Bottom Line 

In conclusion if you consider a calorie restrictive diet add the extra calcium and make sure you take a balanced nutritional approach for an increased response to your next weight-loss goal.


[1] Zemel MB, Richards J, Mathis S, Milstead A, Gebhardt L, Silva E. Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects. International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 391–397. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802880 Published online 11 January 2005

[2] Zemel MB, Teegarden D, Van Loan M, Schoeller DA, Matkovic V, Lyle RM, Craig BA.  Dairy-rich diets augment fat loss on an energy-restricted diet: a multi-center trial.  Nutrients.  2009; 1(1): 83-100.

[3] Zemel MB, Thompson W, Milstead A, Morris K, Campbell P. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obes Res 2004; 12: 582–590

[4] Frank Greer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Nancy Krebs, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center wrote in their Feb. 2006 paper “Optimizing Bone Health and Calcium Intakes of Infants, Children, and Adolescents,” Pediatrics

[5] Geneviève C Major, Francine Alarie, Jean Doré, Sakouna Phouttama, and Angelo Tremblay Supplementation with calcium + vitamin D enhances the beneficial effect of weight loss on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr January 2007 vol. 85 no. 1 54-59

[6] Jacobsen R, Lorenzen JK, Toubro S, Krog-Mikkelsen I, Astrup A. Effect of short-term high dietary calcium intake on 24-h energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and fecal fat excretion. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2005 Jan 18

[7] Increase your weightl-loss by a considerable amount. Zemel MB, Thompson W, Zemel P, Nocton AM, Morris K, Campbell P. Dietary calcium and dairy products accelerate weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 75:342S

[8] Denke MA, Fox MM, Schulte MC. Short-term dietary calcium fortification increases fecal saturated fat content and reduces serum lipids in men. J Nutr 1993; 123: 1047-1053.