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An extra gram of calcium daily – and a kilogram less fat after a year

The more calcium you take in with your food, the more fat leaves your body at the other end of your digestive tract. According to a study done at the American Vanderbilt University, you can lose almost a kilogram more fat in a year by taking an extra gram of calcium daily.

If nutritionists read somewhere that calcium has positive effects, warning bells start to sound immediately. Their first thought is that the dairy industry is up to its tricks again. For the dairy industry is the sector that has learned best how to disguise its own interests as something for the general good. The positive image of dairy and calcium is the work of the dairy industry, particularly their clever use of funding, infiltration of nutrition research and intimidation of critics. There's now a widespread belief that consuming more dairy and calcium will make you healthier.

That's why the dairy industry is prepared to stake a lot to silence researchers like Walter Willet, whose studies have shown that a high calcium intake increases the chance of prostate cancer. This is probably because calcium reduces the body's vitamin D reserves: vitamin D inhibits prostate cancer.

As far as we know, the study in question here was not paid for by the dairy industry. It was done with 34 overweight test subjects, who followed a diet for 12 weeks that consisted of less energy than they burned. Half of the subjects were lactose tolerant [digesters], the other half were intolerant [non-digesters]. The researchers put the digesters on a 6-week diet that provided 500 mg calcium, followed by a 6-week diet that provided 1500 mg calcium. The calcium came in the form of dairy products.

The non-digesters got the same treatment, but their second lot of calcium was provided in the form of supplements.

The figures below show the percentage of consumed fat consumed that was expelled from the body in the faeces.

An extra gram of calcium daily – and a kilogram less fat after a year

The amount of fat in grams is shown below.

An extra gram of calcium daily – and a kilogram less fat after a year

The dairy eaters lost 2 g extra fat daily. That’s 18 kcal. Those who took supplements lost 1.5 g extra fat daily. That's 14.5 kcal. We're talking small amounts here, but if you add it up over a year, it makes 0.75-0.93 kg difference in fat mass.

The subjects followed a regular weight-loss diet. Low-carb dieters eat relatively more fat. So calcium pills may work better for low carbers than they did in this study.

The researchers used calcium citrate supplements. Calcium citrate is easily absorbed by the body, which is precisely what you don't want. The more calcium stays in the intestines, the better. The less easily absorbed calcium carbonate - which is what you get in cheap calcium supplements - may work better.

If you want to lose weight more quickly by taking calcium supplements, you might also consider increasing your vitamin D intake.

Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Jan; 34(1): 127-35.