Getting enough calcium in the diet is associated with lower percent body fat in young adults, according to researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
Their study evaluated dietary calcium in 76 men and 121 women aged 18 to 28 years—all university students—across all weight categories using food-frequency questionnaires, dietary recalls, and blood draws to measure and confirm intakes.
The authors reported that an intake of approximately 1500 milligrams per day “could aid in the management of whole body fat and truncal fat [belly fat]” irrespective of gender in young adults. In addition, the association between higher dietary calcium intake and lower percent body fat was maintained even after controlling for physical activity.
“We recommend that young adults be encouraged to increase their total calcium intakes to at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 mg/d for reasons extending beyond bone health,” they wrote in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
With now two thirds of Americans overweight or obese, the authors suggest, more focus is on the role of micronutrients such as calcium and their relation to body fat and especially belly fat, which has been linked to higher risks of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, dyslipidemia, and diabetes.
Scientists are still debating how one micronutrient can make such a big difference when it comes to body fat. Some researchers think that low calcium levels boost expression of lipogenic (fat building) genes. Others site the fact that calcium can bind fat in the colon and prevent absorption. Another theory is that low calcium status promotes hunger. Whatever the answer may be, the current research asserts that calcium may be a key nutrient in managing body fat and attaining dietary success.
Boosting calcium may be as simple getting enough calcium-rich dairy or supplementing on a daily basis. Other sources of calcium are leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, or spinach), salmon or sardines, oranges, or black or baked beans.
Reference: Skinner ML et al. Dietary and total calcium intakes are associated with lower percentage total body and truncal fat in young, healthy adults. J Amer Coll Nutr 2011;30(6):484-90.