There’s a fair amount of scientific evidence around that calcium helps the body burn fat faster. Unfortunately, one of the major studies people point to for this information was partially funded by the National Diary Council. That’s not a clean test in my mind, but there is still enough interesting results to learn more, and to adjust your diet accordingly.
The most publicized study about calcium and weight loss came out of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. It showed that the more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat is burned. The test was set up, basically, to fatten mice up, then put them on a weight-reduction diet and see if calcium helped them lose more weight. The difference between the test subjects (mice) and the control group was fairly dramatic — a 42% reduction in body fat for mice that were getting calcium supplements, versus only an 8% reduction in body fat for the group of mice that got no supplements.
The primary thing to note about the calcium and weight loss connection is that the calcium needs to come from low-fat sources. So you still need to skip the full-fat milk, and be really careful about how much cheese you’re eating. That said, non-fat milk is an excellent source of calcium, as is yogurt. My favorite yogurt, Faye greek yogurt, comes in a fat-free version. It is delicious, decadently creamy and packed with protein and calcium. Its just really expensive. Other superb sources of calcium include kale (learn to cook it properly and you’ll like it more) and other dark leafy vegetables and oats.
There are other creative ways to get more calcium in your diet. Some of these ideas are from Jana Klauer’s book “How the Rich Get Thin”, which includes an interesting “calcium diet” that is supposed to make you drop a dress size in three days. I haven’t tried it, but it looks healthier than most crash diets. The interesting calcium ideas from this book include drinking mineral water to get some of your calcium (some mineral water has as much as 8% of your daily calcium requirements per 8 oz glass), and the yummy candies known as calcium chews. They come in fruit or chocolate flavor, and they give you 500 mgs of calcium for 20 calories, along with a reasonable doze of zinc, magnesium and vitamin D. I keep a cookie jar of them in my kitchen… they’re nice for just a little taste of something if you need it.
Another popular book about calcium and weight loss right now is The Calcium Key. This came out in 2003, so its a little old in terms of latest research, but its all of $1.49 on Amazon right now, and its got a full diet plan and all the calcium romance you could want if you choose to make calcium into your magic weight loss elixir. I think calcium helps, but its just another tool in the arsenal. And remember that calcium helps with fat burning, not with keeping you from retaining fat in the first place. That’s splitting hairs, but it does mean that you’ll see your best results from calcium intake when you’re going to the gym and eating more salad, not while you’re curled up on the couch with Haagen Daaz.
The other important thing to know is how much calcium is considered enough. Men should get 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg of calcium per day at a minimum, and women need at least 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg daily.