Calcium and dairy unlikely to aid in weight loss

A new study does not support the theory that a boost in calcium intake or dairy consumption is useful for maintaining or losing weight. “Media have been promoting dairy to lose weight and therefore this topic has gained a lot of importance,” Dr. Swapni N. Rajpathak, who led the study, told Reuters Health. “At this time, there is not enough justification to increase dairy intake to lose weight,” the researcher warned. “Calcium and therefore dairy — the best source of calcium in the diet — may be associated with weight loss, based on some data suggesting that calcium has some role in fat synthesis,” Rajpathak explained. However, the results of studies of calcium and dairy intake in relation to weight loss have been inconsistent.

Rajpathak, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York and colleagues looked for links between baseline calcium intake and change in calcium intake and weight change over time in about 43,000 healthy middle-aged men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study — a prospective study launched in 1986 to evaluate the role of diet in chronic diseases. After taking into account multiple potentially confounding factors, baseline or change in intake of total calcium was not significantly associated with a change in weight, the team reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “We found that men who increased their dairy/calcium intake did not lose more weight — in fact, they gained slightly more weight — in the 12-year period,” Rajpathak told Reuters Health. This was primarily due to an increase in high-fat dairy intake.

However, even low-fat dairy intake was not significantly associated with a change in weight. The take home message, said Rajpathak, is that “calcium is important for optimal health and people should have adequate calcium from diet (including dairy) or use supplements if they wish. Importantly, it is advisable to consume dairy in low-fat form.” However, increasing calcium in the diet as a means to lose weight is not advisable, the researcher said.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2006.

April 11, 2006

Original web page at Reuters