Calcium/Vitamin D Supplementation May Help Prevent Weight Gain in Postmenopausal Women

May 2007

Findings Summary

Some research suggests that calcium and vitamin D may play a role in weight management. These nutrients may stimulate the breakdown of fat cells and suppress the development of new ones.
In the May 14th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Bette Caan, Principal Investigator of the Oakland WHI Clinical Center, published results based on data provided by the 36,282 participants in the WHI Calcium and Vitamin D Study (CaD). Dr. Caan and her co-authors looked at weight change over the 7 years that women participated in the CaD study. She found that at the end of the study, women in the group taking study pills with active calcium plus vitamin D weighed an average of 0.28 pounds less than those taking the placebo pills, which is a small but statistically significant difference in weight change.
Women taking active pills were also less likely to gain weight. The greatest benefits were seen in women whose total calcium intakes at the start of the study were below 1,200 mg/per day, which is the current recommended dietary intake for women this age. In these women, when compared to women taking placebo, women taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements had a lower risk of gaining weight, and had a higher likelihood of maintaining a stable weight (within 2.2 pounds of their starting weight) or losing weight (more than 2.2 pounds), after three years in the study.
Prevention of weight gain is an important public health goal. Monitoring calories in the diet and maintaining daily physical activity should clearly be considered the basic parts of weight management. However, further research is needed to look at the effect of calcium supplementation, combined with caloric restriction and physical activity, on preventing weight gain.