Calcium Enhances Fat Burning

by Dr John W Phelts, D.C

A recent study published in the Nutrition Journal reveals that supplementing with Calcium and Vitamin D3 may augment fat loss in those on a weight loss diet.  The study included 53 participants, between the ages of 18-25 years old, who regularly consumed low levels of calcium.   They were put on a calorie restricted diet for 12 weeks and divided into two groups.  One group was given 600 mg/day of Calcium and 125 I.U./day  of vitamin D3.  The other group did not have any Calcium or Vitamin D3 included in their diet.  At the end of the study there was no significant difference in total weight loss between the two groups.  However, the Calcium + D group lost 55% more body fat.  This means that a higher percentage of their weight loss came from fat instead of muscle.  

Calcium is usually thought of as the nutrient for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis and we rarely think of it as a fat burning nutrient.  However, recent research shows that it helps the body to regulate body fat through a few different mechanisms. According to the authors of the study, “.... a calcium-rich diet is shown to increase fat oxidation (fat burning) [29], promote fat cell apoptosis (fat cell death) [10], and reduce lipid absorption (fat absorption) due to the formation of insoluble calcium-fatty acid soaps in the intestine, which are eventually excreted in the feces [30]”.  The group that did not take calcium + D did not lose as much fat, most likely, because of a decreased ability to burn fat due to inadequate dietary calcium intake.  They still lost weight, but at the cost of losing a higher percentage of muscle.    

If you are on a weight loss diet, make sure that you are consuming sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin D3 so that your body has the components necessary to burn fat. The optimal daily intake of calcium is 1000 mg/day for people between the ages 25-65 years of age and 1500 mg/day for those ages 65 and older.  It is recommended that you have at least 600 IU of vitamin D/day.

Calcium Sources   Vitamin D Sources  
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 415 mg. Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon 340 I.U.
Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 ounces 333 mg. Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces 566 I.U.
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces 307 mg. Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces 447 I.U.
Milk, whole, 8 ounces 276 mg. Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces 42 I.U.
Salmon, bone-in 3 ozs 181 mg. Egg, 1 large (found in yolk) 41 I.U.
Turnip greens ½ cup 99 mg.    
Kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup 100 mg.    

Dairy is the best source of calcium  However, if you have challenges digesting dairy or are sensitive to dairy products, then salmon, turnips, and kale are great alternative sources of calcium.  If you are having a difficult time getting sufficient calcium and vitamin D from food, then you may consider investing in a supplement that combines vitamin D and calcium  as Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium.