What Is the Connection between Calcium and Weight Loss?

Rebecca Harkin

The connection between calcium and weight loss is not entirely clear. Many research studies have found that calcium promotes weight loss and others show calcium has no impact on weight loss. The studies are not identical, and some used low fat dairy products, others studied calcium supplements, and some include an exercise program and calorie restriction while others did not.

Bananas contain calcium.
Bananas contain calcium.

According to some research studies, calcium seems to have a beneficial impact on many factors associated with weight loss. Studies have found that supplementing calcium with either low fat dairy products or calcium supplements increased weight loss in dieting participants over participants taking a placebo or no calcium. In another study, it was found that calcium augments the fat burning capacity of the body. Yet another study showed that women who take calcium supplements gained 5 pounds less over a 10 year period than women who were not supplementing calcium, suggesting that calcium may slow gradual weight gain.

Some studies have shown that calcium promotes weight loss.
Some studies have shown that calcium promotes weight loss.

The way in which calcium promotes weight loss is still not clear, adding to difficulty of drawing a definitive connection between calcium and weight loss. One possible mechanism thought to explain calcium’s impact on weight loss is that calcium, at low levels, causes the brain to over-activate the appetite, leading to increased food consumption and weight gain. This suggests that high calcium levels may help to control the appetite. Another idea to account for the benefits of calcium in weight loss is that calcium may decrease fat production and retention by preventing the absorption of fat in the intestines, increasing fat excretion.

Drinking calcium-rich milk may encourage weight loss, but this connection is not yet proven.
Drinking calcium-rich milk may encourage weight loss, but this connection is not yet proven.

By contrast, several research studies have shown no connection between calcium and weight loss. One large study involving the use of calcium supplements over a two year period showed no significant change in the weight or body mass index of individuals on calcium over those who did not receive the calcium supplement. Another study involving the augmentation of dairy calcium found no difference in fat burning capacity between those on dairy calcium and those that were not on dairy calcium.

The connection between calcium and weight loss will probably remain murky until a definitive, physiological explanation for the role of calcium in weight loss is determined. The good news is, regardless of whether the connection between calcium and weight loss is understood, calcium is an important mineral, essential in maintaining bone health. This means dietary augmentation of calcium, whether with a supplement or through low fat dairy products, can only benefit ones health.

A routine exercise program will likely aid any weight loss endeavor.
A routine exercise program will likely aid any weight loss endeavor.

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Discussion Comments

turquoise

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies increase appetite and cravings. So a calcium deficiency can cause weight gain and getting enough calcium can promote weight loss.

donasmrs

@MikeMason-- My experience has been exactly the opposite. I eat non-fat Greek yogurt every day and I drink skim milk and I've been losing weight.

Especially Greek yogurt is very high in calcium and protein and keeps me full for a long time. I have it after workouts and when I get a sweet craving, I think it's helping me burn fat.

stoneMason

From my personal experience with milk products, I don't think there is a connection between calcium and weight loss.

I've never been able to lose weight while eating milk products-- particularly milk and cheese. I don't have a lactose intolerance, but my body just doesn't respond well to milk products. Even the low fat versions are relatively high in calories and I end up putting on weight before even realizing.

On the weight loss programs that I lost considerable weight, I had cut out milk from my diet completely and had cheese and plain yogurt in very small amounts. If calcium promoted weight loss, this wouldn't have been the case.

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