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Weight-loss Tip: Add Extra Calcium to a Low-Fat Diet
Got milk? New research suggests you should if you want to lose weight. The weight loss study shows that calcium, three or four daily servings of low-fat dairy products, can help adjust your body's fat-burning machinery.
Low-fat dairy may help reduce body fat
His paper on the effects of a high-calcium diet in increasing body fat loss was presented at the Experimental Biology 2000 meeting in San Diego.
"The magnitude of the findings was shocking," says Michael Zemel, PhD, director of the Nutrition Institute, who is Shi's co-author and doctoral supervisor.
The more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat it will burn
The researchers used mice bred to be obese in their current study. The mice were fed a special high-fat, high-sugar diet for six weeks. All had a 27% increase in body fat.
Some were then switched to a calorie-restricted diet. Of those, one group was given calcium supplements (calcium carbonate similar to Tums) and others were fed "medium" and "high" amounts of low-fat dry milk.
Body fat storage was markedly reduced by all three high-calcium diets, say the authors.
Mice getting their calcium via supplements had a 42% decrease in body fat
Mice on the "high-dairy" diet lost 69% body fat
"Calcium is no magic bullet. What the study says is that ... higher-calcium diets favor burning rather than storing fat. Calcium changes the efficiency of weight loss," Zemel tells WebMD.
The human body's metabolism makes weight loss difficult, he explains. "Many people who stick to a calorie-reduced diet don't lose weight as fast as they think they should. That's because they activate metabolic protection ... Their bodies sense starvation and hang on to energy, fat, more voraciously."
Substitute high-fat dairy products with low-fat dairy
Keeping in mind that the mouse study is preliminary, it is very well done and shows promise, Pamela Meyers, PhD, a clinical nutritionist and assistant professor at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta. "But the calcium amounts the study suggests are effectively equal to what the USDA already recommends as a minimum for adults," she adds.
While nonfat dry milk was used in this study, few people buy that product, says Meyers. "Also, there are people who are lactose intolerant who can't consume dairy products. That is why we need to look at other food sources of calcium, [such as] ... dark leafy vegetables, salmon, mackerel, almonds, and oats. ... They also are very high in fiber, which helps in terms of weight management."
If using calcium supplements, it's important to choose those with added vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium, which help the body to better absorb calcium, says Meyers.
This study was supported in part by the National Dairy Council.
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