Calcium supplements and body fat in adolescent girls.




Am J Clin Nutr

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Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. Average healthy males have about two and a half to three pounds of calcium while females have about two pounds. Approximately 99 percent of calcium is present in the bones and teeth, which leaves only about one percent in cells and body fluids. While the most important function of calcium involves the maintenance of skeletal health, the small percentage of calcium outside the bones is used to maintain a variety of vital body functions. Milk and dairy products are the major source of dietary calcium for most people. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

Calcium is necessary for a wide array of other functions. Calcium may initiate muscle contractions. For this reason it plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy heartbeat. It is also involved in the body's blood clotting process. On the cellular level, calcium regulates the passage of nutrients and wastes through cell membranes. It is also involved in the regulation of various enzymes that control muscle contraction, fat digestion, and metabolism. Finally, calcium regulates the transmission of nerve impulses.

Recent studies have shown that calcium intake may be associated with a leaner body. Investigators wanted to see if this link could be shown with calcium dietary supplements, as most studies have been with calcium rich foods. This study involved 110 girls, randomly assigned to receive 500 mg of calcium carbonate daily or placebo. The participants were divided into a high dietary intake group (1000-1304 mg per day) and a low intake group (less than 713 mg per day). Height, weight, and body fat measurements were recorded at the beginning of the study and at 1 year. The results showed that a habitual dietary intake of calcium was associated with lower body fat, but intake with dietary supplements showed no association. The authors suggested that, “the effect of calcium on body weight is only exerted if it is ingested as part of a meal, or the effect may be due to other ingredients in dairy products, and calcium may simply be a marker for a high dairy intake.”1


1. Lorenzen JK, et al. Calcium supplementation for 1 y does not reduce body weight or fat mass in young girls. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan 2006;83(1):18-23.