My final assignment for my nutrition class was to research a nutrient or supplement and determine whether or not the claim being made about it is legitimate and true, according to scientific studies. I chose the topic of calcium and its claim to aid in weight loss (that is, a decrease in fat mass, as well as helping to preserve lean muscle mass).
This is what I’ve found on the topic, from scientific journal articles written within the past couple years discussing numerous case studies:
A high-calcium diet (between 1100 and 1400 mg of calcium per day) that consists of low-fat dairy products as the source of calcium is a safe and effective way to reduce the amount of fat mass in your body as well as lower your waist-to-hip ratio!
All of the research stresses that the calcium needs to be from the diet and not from supplements, and that dairy products in particular were the most effective. This has something to do with the other nutrients in dairy products, like whey protein, and their combination with the calcium to produce maximum benefits.
The concept also emphasizes that simply adding a few glasses of milk to the way you eat now won’t have the desired effect; those glasses of milk need to replace some other source of nutrition in your diet (otherwise, you’re just consuming a bunch of extra calories and it’ll be a case of over-nutrition).
I’d like to take this moment to say how much I adore calcium. It does so much for the body—among other things, it regulates blood pressure, aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction, and builds and maintains strong bones.
Something important to take into consideration, though, is the absorption of calcium. Calcium in milk is absorbed into the body really well; however, other foods that claim to be high in calcium (such as spinach) don’t get absorbed very well into the body at all, due to substances like oxalates which binds the calcium and inhibits absorption.
So it’s not really how much of a nutrient is in a food, but how well it gets absorbed, that is the important thing to think about. And interestingly enough, combining certain foods enhances the absorption as well. Drinking tea with a meal hinders the absorption of most nutrients, so it’s better to have your tea on its own and wait an hour or two before you eat—that way, you can get the most out of your meal. And that’s why nutritional supplements aren’t going to do as much for your body as the nutrients will when they’re coming from your diet.
In case anyone’s interested, the scientific journals that I researched are: Obesity, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, and Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Anyone can access them from the PubMed homepage.
I’ve never taken any kind of supplements—no multivitamins or omega 3’s or any of that. So I’m interested, do you take any supplements (of any variety; including those ones advertised as “Exercise In A Bottle”)? And has it had the effect that it claims on the bottle?
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