Elderly Woman
Okay, I know you think this may be another typical article on the perils of not getting enough calcium every day, that it’s going to describe in painful and extreme detail all the terrible things that will happen to your health as you age if you don’t receive enough calcium. Although the above is correct (you will suffer health problems in your elderly years if you have a lifetime low intake of calcium), that’s not what we are going to discuss today.

Nope. I promise not to talk about that well worn-out topic. This will be a positive article on a topic all of us are interested in: losing weight.

Calcium intake increases weight loss

A recent study at the University of Sao Paulo (Source: Nutrition, July 2008) of 1,459 adults aged between 20 and 59 suggests that intake of dietary calcium is related to body weight. The group with the highest average daily intake of calcium was less likely to be overweight. Conversely, those with the lowest average intake had a 25 percent greater chance of being overweight.

People of All Ages

One of the researcher’s theories behind calcium’s role in controlling weight is that calcium seems to bind more fatty acids in the intestines, thereby inhibiting fat absorption.

A 2003 study showed subjects who consumed three servings of yogurt daily as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost about 20 percent more weight than those who simply cut calories alone.

The yogurt eaters consumed around 1,100 milligrams of calcium daily. The non-yogurt eaters consumed about 500 milligrams of calcium a day (the average amount in the typical American’s diet). The yogurt eaters lost 22 percent more weight, 61 percent more body fat, and 81 percent more stomach fat than the non-yogurt eaters. As with the most recent study, the researchers hypothesized that the extra calcium provided by yogurt played a role in increasing the amount of weight lost during the study period.

Sources of calcium

At this point, due to the preponderance of data to support the theory, most researchers agree that calcium plays an important role in weight control and weight loss. The debate within the scientific community, however, is with the SOURCE of calcium. Most of the studies investigating calcium’s role used dairy-sourced calcium from foods. “Dairy for some reason, yet unexplained, has a greater effect on fat loss and specifically trunk fat loss than does calcium alone,” states Rachel Novotny, PhD, RD, professor and chair of the department of human nutrition, food, and animal sciences at the University of Hawaii.

Researchers also believe that there are various potential mechanisms that may explain those additional benefits. For example, some of the minerals in dairy foods, such as phosphorous and magnesium, may enhance calcium’s beneficial effects on fat breakdown within cells.

What the research doesn’t support is the benefits of calcium from sources other than dairy, or simply taking a non-dairy-sourced calcium supplement (such as calcium lactate or gluconate). The data to support the weight loss benefits here is limited and ambiguous at best. The bottom line is that if you want to ensure your efforts of maximizing weight loss with calcium, make sure the calcium is from dairy sources.

Dairy isn’t for everyone

This is great news, but what about those who cannot consume dairy because of lactose intolerance or allergies? Lactose intolerance is a condition caused by a lack of an enzyme called lactase, which, in turn, causes the body to be unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk products. A lack of lactase can cause uncomfortable symptoms for some people.

Adult and Child
Thirty to 50 million Americans (adults and children) are lactose intolerant. The disorder affects some populations more than others:

  • Seventy-five percent of all African-Americans and Native Americans are lactose intolerant.
  • Ninety percent of Asian-Americans are lactose intolerant.
  • It is estimated that 75 percent of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood, thus decreasing their ability to digest milk products.

Startling statistics

Young Girl
To add fuel to the fire, the group with the greatest need for calcium, girls in their teen years through young adulthood, has an alarmingly deficient intake of calcium. In fact, African-American girls in this group have the lowest average intake, adding up to little more than half the recommended daily amount of calcium (Source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, April 2006).

Adult men and women in general aren’t doing much better. According to the National Institutes for Health, 55 percent of men and 78 percent of women ages 20 and above do not meet the recommend daily intake for calcium.

Add this all up, and most of us simply aren’t meeting our calcium needs every day. Keep one thing in mind. These values are established for calcium in its known roles for bone health and other biological functions, and not for weight loss.

What are your options?

Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
Obviously, for those of us who can consume dairy without any issues, including milk, cheeses, and yogurt in our diets is a viable option. However, for many others, that simply isn’t a possibility. In fact, for many of those who can safely consume dairy products, a simpler alternative could ensure adequate daily intakes.

One viable option is taking calcium supplements, and there are literally hundreds of calcium supplements on the market from which to choose. Many of them are excellent choices for meeting your bone health needs, but unless those supplements are dairy-sourced, they probably won’t help you with your weight loss program.

Core Cal-Mag?
Beachbody Nutritionals Core Cal-Mag is one of the very few calcium supplements on the market today that uses milk calcium as one of its calcium sources. Most calcium in Core Cal-Mag is sourced from calcium-, phosphorus-, and magnesium-rich milk. It’s all the benefits of milk without the unwanted issues associated with it. Core Cal-Mag is lactose free and free of allergens found in milk and dairy. It also contains vitamin D, which is necessary for helping absorb and utilize calcium; 230 milligrams of phosphorus; and 500 milligrams of magnesium (125 percent of the recommended daily value), an essential mineral required for over 300 metabolic and biological processes. Core Cal-Mag also supplies the nutrients in dairy associated with weight loss, and in similar ratios. Plus, purity and potency are guaranteed: no risk of lead contamination as with some calcium sources. It’s the next best thing to drinking three glasses of milk every day.

I started off by promising not to talk about the dire consequences of inadequate calcium intake, and I hope I’ve kept that promise. Of course, you want to ensure an adequate calcium intake every day to protect the long-term health of your bones, but wise choices in your calcium sourcing can pay dividends in your weight loss program, too. Regardless, if you use dairy foods or a supplement like Core Cal-Mag to meet your daily calcium needs, your bones-and your waistline-will thank you for it!