Calcium Plus Vitamin D May Cut Fat

A recent study from researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has found that taking daily supplements of calcium plus vitamin D might help you lose fat around your waist.

Two Clinical Trials

The researchers conducted a pair of double-blind clinical trials that ran simultaneously with each other for 16 weeks. During both the studies, participants were asked to drink 3 full 8-oz. glasses of orange juice every day.

In one of these twi trials, though--let's call it the standard trial--all the participants (whether in the treatment group or the control group) drank standard orange juice, with "standard" here meaning juice from which none of the calories has been removed.

In the other trial--let's call it the lite trial--all participants were given a reduced-calorie (lite) orange juice--the kind that's had some of the calories removed during processing.

Fortified, and Non-Fortified

The crucial thing to know is that the people in the treatment arms of both these studies received orange juice that had been fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Those in the control groups of both studies, however, drank juice that had not been fortified.

The fortified juices used in both the studies--whether regular juice or lite--provided a total daily dose of 1,050 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 900 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D. (To put this into perspective, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium for adults aged 19-50 is 1,000 mg per day, and 600 IUs per day of vitamin D.)

Why It's Important

Because in both the standard trial and the lite trial, the participants who drank the fortified juice (those in the 2 treatment arms) experienced significant reductions in the volume of their visceral fat deposits. In contrast, those in both the control arms, who didn't get fortified juice, lost only minimal or no appreciable amounts of visceral fat.

And these results are important was well because, if you are overweight, losing visceral fat from around your middle is a wonderful thing to do for your health. Unlike the subcutaneous fat that's found just below the skin's surface, your visceral fat is deposited deeper inside the body, around the internal organs, and many studies have linked it to a significantly higher risk of heart disease and metabolic problems

The Researchers Sum Up

These scientists believe

  • That these 2 clinical trials corroborate evidence that calcium and vitamin D supplementation can play a role in the healthy reduction of visceral fat
  • That calcium, or vitamin D, or both, might also be important in the regulation of fat metabolism and distribution.
  • That these findings dovetail nicely with the fact that a significant portion of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D, and that our dietary calcium intake also often falls short of current recommendations.

My Take on This Study

  • Since many of us are deficient in vitamin D, which apparently helps to achieve a healthy metabolism and fat loss (among many other benefits), please talk with your doctor about assessing your 25-OH vitamin D level. If you're low, your doctor will prescribe vitamin D; if you're mildly low, he or she may recommend an over-the-counter vitamin D3 supplement.
  • Since calcium works together with vitamin D, a calcium deficiency can pose various risks, including metabolic bone disease. Among the best tests for detecting calcium deficiency is an assessment of one's parathyroid hormone level. Merely checking one's blood level of calcium is unsatisfactory, since this measure sometimes does not register as "low" until significant calcium has been lost.
  • Consider seeing a registered dietitian to ensure that your diet is adequate, including in calcium.
  • Healthy, low-fat sources of dietary calcium include skim or 1-percent milk (or calcium-fortified soy milk); low- or non-fat Greek yogurt, or soy yogurt; low-fat cottage or ricotta cheese; and low- or non-fat cheeses, or soy cheeses.
  • A calcium supplement might be indicated for you if you're not getting enough calcium in your diet or your doctor has recommended a supplement to augment it.

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