"Women not taking enough calcium were getting the greatest benefit. They
were 11% less likely to gain weight and more likely to remain weight-stable or
lose weight," Caan says. "The effect was not cumulative: Women got the
benefit after three years, and then were able to maintain that
This is good news for women, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports
nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"The neat thing about this study is there may be a very easy little
thing women can do to prevent some of that weight gain after menopause: Keep
their calcium up," Bonci tells WebMD.
Caan and colleagues report the finding in the May 14 issue of Archives of
Calcium/Vitamin D: More at Stake Than Weight
The average weight benefit was not very large -- just over a quarter of a
pound overall, and less than half a pound in women with low calcium intake.
But in this latter group, women who took the calcium and vitamin D
supplements were 11% less likely to gain 2.2 to 6.6 pounds and also 11% less
likely to gain over 6.6 pounds.
And weight isn't the main reason to take calcium and vitamin D. Caan and
colleagues previously reported that the supplements slow bone loss and cut a
woman's risk of bone fracture after menopause.
"This is not just about preventing that muffin top above the belt --
there is a whole-body benefit from calcium and vitamin D," Bonci says.
"Calcium and vitamin D may make you a slightly smaller muffin, but it is
vitally important for bone health."
Does it matter whether you get your calcium from a pill or from dairy foods?
Bonci notes that dairy foods contain other valuable nutrients besides calcium.
But they are not calorie-free.
"If you are getting your calcium from low-fat dairy foods, you have to
swap those calories out for something else," she says. "It is not just
a matter of adding the low-fat cottage cheese; it means having those dairy
foods instead of the tuna or the turkey. And one is not going to get one's
vitamin D needs met from the small amounts added to dairy foods."
Caan warns that calcium and vitamin D supplements are not magic weight loss
"Postmenopausal women this age should be taking calcium supplements
anyway," she says. "But to prevent weight gain, they should still
consider calorie restriction and exercise."
By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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