We all know that getting adequate calcium during childhood is essential to building strong teeth and bones. But what effect does a calcium-rich diet have on weight gain in youngsters, especially adolescent girls who are particularly concerned about body image?
To determine that, researchers examined 59 girls over a period of 2 years. The girls, who were 9 years old at the start, were randomly divided into two groups, one that received at least 1,500 mg of calcium per day by consuming calcium-rich foods (not supplementation) and a second group that stuck to their regular diets.
Even though the girls on the calcium-rich diet consumed almost twice as much dietary calcium as the control group, they did not have greater increases in body weight, body mass index, or fat or lean mass than their counterparts. Compared to the girls who stayed on their usual diets, the girls who ate a calcium-rich diet also significantly increased their intake of essential nutrients.
Reporting in the September 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the researchers concluded that “calcium-rich diets do not cause excessive weight gain in pubertal girls but do contribute positively to overall nutrition. These findings provide support for programs to promote calcium-rich diets, which are critical for attaining peak bone mass.”