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Is Calcium Good For Weight Loss?

There are many supplements that supposedly help you lose weight. What about the essential mineral calcium, does it play a role in weight loss?

The relationship between vitamins and minerals and weight loss is often interesting. If there is any relationship, weight loss usually comes from resolving an insufficiency or avoiding an excess intake of the vitamin or mineral.

From a theoretical standpoint resolving a calcium insufficiency may benefit weight loss but more calcium will not always lead to weight loss.

The actual findings of the studies that look at the relation between calcium intake and weight loss are contradictory.

Not consuming enough calcium is definitely an issue for some people, especially groups like postmenopausal women, amenorrheic women, individuals with lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy, vegetarians, and vegans.

If you think you think your levels of calcium may be insufficient you can get your blood levels measured to see if you should actively work on increasing your calcium intake. Even if it’s just for the health benefits you can expect.

Keep in mind that too much calcium can cause negative side effects.

How calcium may help you lose weight

Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all kinds of processes inside of your body. If you don’t consume enough of these vitamins and minerals many of these processes take place in lesser or even zero amounts. This is usually bad for your health.

The opposite is also sometimes the case. Consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can cause negative side effects too.

Here are some processes calcium plays a role in that may be related, directly or more indirectly, to weight loss.

Muscle function

Exercise is one of the most popular methods to lose weight. To exercise you need to be able to move your muscles.

Calcium is an electrolyte, which means this mineral helps conduct electric pulses throughout your body. This process is required to make your muscles move (1).

Without enough calcium, you can get things like cramps and muscle twitches. This can decrease the quality of your workouts and sleep which both play a role in losing weight.

Energy levels

More indirectly related to weight loss is that one of the symptoms of a calcium deficiency is lethargy (2). This is likely not helpful when trying to lose weight which often involves working out and using some willpower.

May reduce fat absorption from food

Not all nutrients from the food you eat enter your actual system. Some go through your body undigested.

Calcium may decrease the amount of fat you absorb from the food you eat (3). This leads to a lower calorie intake from food which in turn can benefit weight loss.

Bone health

Lastly a function of calcium that is more indirectly related to weight loss is bone health. Not consuming enough calcium makes it easier for you to break a bone while for example working out.

Breaking a bone turns down how much you move for an extended period of time. This is not what you want when trying to lose weight.

Should you focus on calcium for weight loss?

The research findings on the influence of calcium on weight loss vary.

Some studies find significant relations between calcium intake and weight loss (4, 5, 6, 7). Other studies don’t conclude the same relation (8, 9, 10).

While the relation between calcium intake and weight loss is not entirely clear you likely want the right calcium levels. Many important processes require calcium to take place.

If you already have a healthy calcium intake consuming more calcium may not lead to weight loss. If your calcium levels are low, consuming more calcium may help with weight loss.

It is hard to put resolving a calcium insufficiency into a certain number of extra calories burned. For most people this will not be the lifestyle change that instantly gets them to their dream weight. However, together with the health benefits, making sure that your calcium intake is sufficient may be worth it.

Calcium daily recommendations

Below you can find a table with the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for calcium for adults, infants, and children (2).

Obviously, not all people have the same bodyweight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general intake numbers you can aim at.

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months200 mg200 mg
7-12 months260 mg260 mg
1-3 years700 mg700 mg
4-8 years1000 mg1000 mg
9-13 years1300 mg1300 mg
14-18 years1300 mg1300 mg1300 mg1300 mg
19-50 years1000 mg1000 mg1000 mg1000 mg
51-70 years1000 mg1200 mg
71+ years1200 mg1200 mg
recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for calcium

As a first food example, mozzarella cheese contains about 731 mg of calcium per 100 grams (11). A non-cheese example is kale with about 135 mg of calcium per 100 grams (12).

People at risk of calcium deficiency

Some groups of people are more at risk of a calcium deficiency or inadequacy than others. Examples include (2):

  • Postmenopausal women
  • Amenorrheic women
  • Individuals with lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy
  • Vegetarians and vegans

If you are in one of these groups you may need to pay more attention to get an adequate calcium intake.

Other people may want to talk to their doctors and get their blood levels checked first before heavily supplementing with calcium to see if there is any need for it.

Calcium deficiency symptoms

There are some symptoms that are associated with a calcium deficiency. Experiencing these on a regular basis may be a sign that your calcium levels are not optimal.

Some calcium deficiency symptoms include (2):

  • Numbness and tingling in fingers
  • Muscle cramps
  • Convulsions
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Avoiding these calcium deficiency symptoms alone may be reason enough to ensure that you are getting enough of this mineral.

Ways to get enough calcium

In many cases it is luckily not that hard to increase your calcium levels. This can be done both naturally with whole foods and supplementing.

Whole foods

Eating whole foods with calcium in them is usually the most recommended way to increase your intake. The reason for this is the wide variety of additional nutrients you get.

Some examples of foods with relatively high amounts of calcium include:

  • Mozzarella cheese: about 731 mg per 100 grams (11)
  • Cheddar cheese: about 721 mg per 100 grams (13)
  • Sardines (canned): about 382 mg per 100 grams (14)
  • Tofu: about 350 mg per 100 grams (15)
  • Kale: about 135 mg per 100 grams (12)
  • Yogurt: about 121 mg per 100 grams (16)

When you know what foods to focus on it becomes a lot easier to reach your daily recommended intake for calcium. Besides these examples, milk and cheeses generally contain nice amounts of calcium. You can also find some amounts in certain vegetables.

Dietary supplements

The next option to increase your calcium intake is by taking dietary supplements. These are pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids with concentrated quantities of calcium.

One challenge when supplementing is that it is not always clear just how much of the calcium is actually absorbed.

Too much calcium can also cause negative side effects. That’s why it may be smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing. At least keep an eye on the dosage of the supplements.

Can you consume too much calcium?

One thing you do have to keep in mind is that you can also consume too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This is called the tolerable upper intake level, the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (17).

There are tolerable upper intake levels established for calcium. This means that having too much calcium can cause adverse health effects. These are currently the tolerable upper intake levels established for calcium (2):

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months1000 mg1000 mg
7-12 months1500 mg1500 mg
1-8 years2500 mg2500 mg
9-18 years3000 mg3000 mg3000 mg3000 mg
19-50 years2500 mg2500 mg2500 mg2500 mg
51+ years2000 mg2000 mg
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for calcium

Conclusion

From a more theoretical standpoint, implementing more calcium into your diet or supplementing may help weight loss if your calcium levels are currently too low. If your calcium levels are already normal, adding more calcium may not help weight loss.

The actual findings of the studies that look at the relation between calcium intake and weight loss are contradictory.

There are daily intake recommendations you can aim for but ultimately the ideal calcium intake for you personally also depends on how well you absorb it and other lifestyle factors.

Since there are tolerable upper intake levels you also don’t want to consume too much calcium. This can cause negative side effects. Before drastically increasing your calcium intake it may be smart to talk to your doctor first.

Exactly how many extra calories you will burn by resolving a calcium insufficiency is not clear. This will likely not be the thing that gets you to your dream weight. Even so, together with the other health benefits making sure that your calcium intake is sufficient may be worth it.