Calcium and vitamin D supplementation can help body rid itself of ‘toxic’ fat

I am a big believer in keeping our diet based on foods that are as natural and unprocessed as possible. For me, the core foods (if we are happy to eat them) should be meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of milk, on the basis that I find it to be quite-common cause of problems related to food sensitivity. Either then lactose (sugar) or protein such as casein can cause problems here, and the protein seems to be a particular problem after pasteurization. By chance, I was talking to a receptionist yesterday and she told me how her longstanding itchy rash disappeared on the elimination of milk from her diet, but returned when she resumed milk.

While I’m not thrilled about pasteurized milk as a food, I’m much warmer to yoghurt. And this is primarily because the fact that it’s fermented does seem to partially digest its constituents, which makes it more digestible and less problematic. Also, for what it’s worth, there is at least some evidence linking yoghurt eating with improvements in terms of weight control.

It’s been theorised that this might have something to do with calcium. Consumption of calcium has been shown to paradoxically lower calcium level within fat cells, and this accelerates the process of lipolysis (breakdown of fat) Zemel MB, et al. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium. FASEB Journal 2000;14:1132-1138. There is considerable evidence linking higher intakes of calcium with reduced body fatness. Teegarden D. Calcium intake and reduction of fat mass. J Nutr 2003;133:249S–251S

Vitamin D has also been implicated in body weight regulation. In short, several studies have linked lower vitamin D levels with heightened risk of excess weight. Some of suggested, though, that this might be because the more fat someone carries, the more vitamin D can end up getting sequestered (transported to and stored in) in the fat cells. Mind you, there is a study which found that women with higher levels of vitamin D lost more weight than those with lower levels on a reduced calorie diet.

This background information may help provide some explanation of the results of a study published on-line this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this study, men and women were given one of two orange juices to drink on a daily basis [1]. One group received regular orange juice which containing 110 calories per serving (240 mls) and they were to consume 3 servings a day. The other group consumed ‘lite’ orange juice (containing artificial sweetener) containing 50 calories per serving (3 servings a day).

However, the study designed was actually more complex in that in each group, half of the people drank orange juice fortified with 350 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D, while the other half did not. In summary, therefore, there were four groups in this study:

  1. regular orange juice no fortification
  2. regular orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D
  3. lite orange juice no fortification
  4. lite orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D

The trial went on for 16 weeks.

Each of the study participants were assessed for a range of body measurements including body weight and waist circumference, and there were no significant differences between the groups here.

However, another assessment measured the amount of what is known as ‘visceral adipose tissue’ (VAT) – VAT is fat found in the abdomen and is particularly strongly linked with chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Changes in VAT were not different between the regular- and lite-orange juice drinking groups (comparing groups 1+2 combined with groups 3 + 4 combined).

However, there were differences between the results obtained by those drinking fortified and non-fortified drinks. Group 2 lost more VAT than group 1, and group 4 lost more VAT than group 3.

It’s only one study, and this was also a study which was funded by The Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness which is part of the Coca Cola Company which supplied the product (Minute Maid). And just to be clear – I’m not a fan of fruit juices, principally because of the large sugar load they provide. However, the results of this study are, I think, interesting, and add to the body of evidence linking calcium and vitamin D with body weight and fat storage regulation.

References:

1. Rosenblum JL, et al. Differential effects of macronutrient content in 2 energy-restricted diets on cardiovascular risk factors and adipose tissue cell size in moderately obese individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 14 December 2011 epub ahead of print

9 Responses to Calcium and vitamin D supplementation can help body rid itself of ‘toxic’ fat

  1. Greg Carlow 15 December 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    I am wondering about the affect that our bodies adapt to our diet, a feature of Omnivors. So all such tests may well have considerably different results in the beginning of the test period, but would they still be valid over 12 or 24 months. Our digestive system does it’s best to produce the same nutritional elements we need, from a wide variation of the food we intake. Adapting our digestion (and other processes) to what we intake is part of that so that very apation over time would seem likely to affect the results

  2. zephyr haversack 15 December 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    A very strange study. In the US, there is a tendency to add sugar to anything that’s not moving too fast, including fruit juices. In Canada (where I live) juice is juice only if it contains only fruit extract, no additives. So the idea of ‘lite’ juice makes absolutely no sense to me, as the juices we have are pure, unsweetened extract of fruit. Also, this study was funded by Big Sugar (aka Coca Cola). Pls check who funded the ‘calcium helps you lose weight’ study, as many of those have been funded (surprise!) by the Dairy Council (aka lobby). I am dubious of the benefit of calcium supplements, especially for postmenopaual women — one metastudy showed supplements raise their rates of heart attacks by 50%. Fortified drinks would likely do the same, as the calcium in them is not naturally occurring.

  3. Valerie H 17 December 2011 at 2:17 am #

    According to this nutrition facts website, http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1966/2, oranges contain 7% of US RDA for calcium. This website is problematic for many reasons, but it can he held as a baseline as to what an orange is understood to be. It seems silly to put calcium and vitamin D in a “food” that never has that to begin with. Unless this juice was consumed with fat, these nutrients would not be absorbed, as both calcium and vitamin D are fat-soluble.

  4. DoctorM 17 December 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    ‘I am a big believer in keeping our diet based on foods that are as natural and unprocessed as possible. For me, the core foods (if we are happy to eat them) should be meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of milk.’
    I am glad to see you write this Doctor John. However to keep consistent with the first sentence there is a need to distinguish different types of meats and fish. There’s a world of difference between, on the one hand, say, wild salmon and grass fed lamb – both natural and healthy and protective and on the other hand, intensively farmed salmon or soy fed industrialised pork which are unhealthy and cause inflammation.
    As regards milk, I think modern cows milk needs to be avoided as it it is highly industrialised. Cows have been selectively bred to increase milk yields and a side effect has been to change the dominant casein from type 2 (as in humans and all other mammals) to type 1 only in modern cows – I think this leads to allergies and is wny other types of mammal milks may be better tolerated.
    A further problem is pasteurisation – if calves were fed pasteurised milk I don’t think they would survive ! And again we have an obsession with reduced fat or zero fat milks which enhance the protein content at the expense of fat – it is well known that we need to consume fat with protein to make it digestible. There is evidence that that calcium is better absorbed from whole milk whereas skimmed milk leaches calcium from the bones due to acifification of body fluids.
    It is a shame that we can’t get unpasteurised natural whole milk with type 2 casein. The best cows milk I can find is Gold Top from Jersey and Guernsey cows in whose milk type 2 casein is still (exceptionally for different breeds of cow) the dominant casein – but this is still pasteurised – and I use this in small quantities. I also agree that modern yogurt is better than milk but I think it is better to get greek sheeps yogurt if one can find it. Paradoxically consumption of equivalent number of calories from full fat milk may give better weight control and better bones than the same number of calories from skimmed milk.

  5. Pete 18 December 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    what would you consider to be the minimum optimal dose of vitamin D we should be taking daily?

  6. rox 19 December 2011 at 3:06 am #

    I suffered from cramps when I supplemented calcium and vitamin D (after reading about the benefits of vitamin D). After research, I concluded I was probably magnesium deficient and now take it in liquid form: no more cramps, and fewer generalised aches and pains. I have lost belly fat by cutting out bread, pasta, potatoes and minimising consumption of rice and anything made from flour.

  7. Suepgooch 10 January 2012 at 12:05 am #

    I don’t know if either of you are familiar with the Weston A Price organisation, but part of what they promote is to drink unpasteurised whole milk. This has become more widely available in England and Wales and can be obtained via mail order from Hook and Sons in Sussex. I buy it locally from a farm which has an organic Jersey herd and consider myself lucky to be able to avail myself of it. Btw I live near Preston. You can buy raw cheese, raw cream and raw butter.

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    [...] fat than those who had the ordinary orange juice or had a low-sugar version.  Dr John Briffa writes that: However, the results of this study are, I think, interesting, and add to the body of evidence [...]

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