If you love dairy products but worry they may be holding you back when it comes to weight loss, think again. Although research results are conflicting, it appears that getting more calcium in your diet may help you lose weight in certain circumstances.
Calcium and Weight Loss
Both an increased intake of calcium and an increased intake of vitamin D, which is essential for absorbing calcium, may help you lose more weight during a restricted calorie diet, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010. Another study, published in "Obesity Research" in June 2005, found that increasing the amount of high-calcium food that you eat while keeping your total calories the same may help reduce body fat. Furthermore, if you cut calories, this approach may help with weight loss, the study concluded.
Dairy vs. Nondairy Calcium
Taking a calcium supplement probably isn't the best way to increase your weight-loss results. You may have better luck trading some of the less-healthy foods you eat for low-fat dairy foods. A study published in "Obesity Research" in April 2004 found that people who followed a reduced-calorie diet and used supplements containing 800 milligrams of calcium per day lost more body fat and weight than those who cut calories but only consumed 400 to 500 milligrams of calcium per day. But people who followed a high-dairy diet with at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium from dairy products had even better weight-loss results.
Not all studies agree that an increased calcium intake helps with weight loss. A study published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2013 found that eating a diet rich dairy with at least 1,400 milligrams of calcium per day didn't increase weight loss compared to a control diet containing only 700 milligrams of calcium per day. The authors note, however, that this type of diet may help people feel more full and eat less fat while limiting their calories for the day.
How to Get the Potential Benefits
Even the studies that show a weight-loss benefit for calcium agree that increased calcium intake only increases weight loss in conjunction with cutting calories. If you want to try getting more calcium in your diet, stick to low-fat or nonfat dairy products, as this will make it easier for you to accomplish the necessary decrease in your daily calorie consumption. Skim milk, for example, has just 83 calories per cup, compared to 149 calories in a cup of whole milk.