Calcium: Drink Yourself Skinny

Dairy products boost metabolism and aid weight loss

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

Calcium's leading role is legendary. In fact, there seems to be no end to calcium's repertoire: It strengthens bones and teeth and new studies suggest that it may also prevent colon cancer, and even keep Montezuma's revenge at bay.

There's also good evidence that -- regardless of what your age is -- calcium can help with weight loss.

"At midlife, women tend to gain one-quarter to one-half a pound per year whether they want it or not, and it all goes to their waist," says Robert Heaney, MD, an internationally recognized expert in bone biology and calcium nutrition with Creighton University in Nebraska.

"We've found that women with the highest dairy intake have an average weight gain of zero, and those with the lowest dairy intake gained a pound per year," Heaney tells WebMD.

There's one catch: You also must cut back on calories for weight loss to happen. "Dairy will only help you lose weight if you have reduced calories. If you add it to what you eat all the time, it won't make a whit of difference," Heaney explains.

The Science

Michael Zemel, PhD, director of The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is actually the hero of this tale.

In studies of both mice and men, Zemel and colleagues have been the first to show that calcium stored in fat cells plays a crucial role in regulating how fat is processed and stored by the body. The more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat the cell will burn -- and the greater the weight loss, Zemel says.