Researchers have discovered that taking calcium and vitamin D supplements while on a weight loss program lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The scientists enrolled 63 women with a body mass index over 30 on a 15-week low-calorie diet. At the start of the experiment, the women's daily calcium intake was 700 mg on average, well below the 1,000 mg recommendation. "This is nothing exceptional," points out Dr. Angelo Tremblay, who led the study. "More than 50% of women don't get the daily recommended dose."
In addition to the low-calorie diet, participants were given daily tablets containing either a placebo or 1,200 mg of calcium with vitamin D "to facilitate calcium absorption," adds Dr. Tremblay. At the end of the 15-week period, researchers observed greater drops in LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases in HDL (good cholesterol) in the calcium-plus-vitamin D group than in the placebo group.
Researchers also observed that the amount of weight lost during the 15 weeks did not seem to have an impact on the improvement seen in cholesterol levels. This suggests that calcium and vitamin D supplementation might also lower cardiovascular risk in women with low calcium intake as it does with women on a diet.
The authors conclude that prescribing calcium and vitamin D supplements should be considered as a component of weight loss programs aimed at people with insufficient calcium intake.
Professor Tremblay and his team have been studying the relationship between calcium and obesity for the past six years. Their first results, published in 2003, revealed that people with low calcium intake have a higher fat percentage, wider waists, and higher bad cholesterol levels than people whose calcium intake is moderate or sufficient. A second study, spanning over six years, showed that people who reduced their dairy consumption during that period gained weight, and saw an increase in body fat percentage and waist size.