While most women know they should be supplementing daily calcium for bone health and osteoporosis prevention, many fail to do so. This may be because osteoporosis isn’t always a pressing concern for women under 50. Would you be motivated to take your daily calcium formula if you knew it helped promote weight loss as well?

It turns out that calcium may significantly boost your ability to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Professor Angelo Tremblay—holder of the Canada Research Chair in Environment and Energy Balance—has long studied the link between calcium and obesity. His initial findings revealed that women who consumed diets low in calcium had more body fat and higher levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than those who consumed optimal levels.

Dr. Tremblay’s hypothesis is that the brain can detect the lack of calcium and seeks to compensate with greater food intake, which is obviously counterproductive to weight loss. He maintains that consuming enough calcium may literally stifle the desire to overeat.

In a new study conducted by Tremblay and his team, he verified that milk protein suppresses appetite during weight loss, making it easier to stick with a sensible eating plan over time.1 One of his earlier studies indicated that dieters given optimal levels of calcium and vitamin D improved their cholesterol profiles as well, independent of weight loss.2

Calcium appears to be responsible for approximately 50% of the “anti-obesity” activity of dairy foods—a term that means they help prevent weight gain. The additional dairy bioactivity appears to be localized in whey protein, due to the high concentration of leucine it contains.3

The amino acid leucine plays some vital roles, including moving calories from fat tissue to skeletal muscle in the course of weight loss, and helping to preserve precious—calorie-burning—lean muscle while accelerating fat loss. Leucine is also a potent “signal nutrient” regulating protein metabolism and helping to prevent protein loss.4

But wait, there’s more. Calcium also helps reduce fat absorption and may prevent excessive hunger during weight loss.5 Another study confirmed that calcium plus vitamin D helped patients lose body fat, partially due to consuming fewer fatty foods—again due to calcium naturally helping to suppress appetite.6 High-calcium diets also minimize dangerous oxidative and inflammatory stress caused by obesity.

While many factors play into healthy fat loss, optimal calcium intake clearly plays a powerful role. Be sure you take a high-quality form that also includes magnesium, vitamin D and other key nutrients for optimal absorption.

1 Br J Nutr. 2011 Jan;105(1):133-43
2 Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):54-9
3 Phys Sportsmed. 2009 Jun;37(2):29-39
4 Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 May;13(3):265-70
5 Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Mar;1190:25-41
6 Br J Nutr. 2009 Nov;102(10):1538