Weight loss can cause calcium depletion


February 02, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Now that we've launched into the new weight-loss year, a new word of warning appears. You may need to increase your calcium while losing weight.

Obese women lost 2 to 3 percent of their bone density while losing weight, even though they were consuming 800 milligrams of calcium (the current RDA) per day, according to a report by Environmental Nutrition newsletter.

Because the research was done only on obese women, we do not know whether bone loss happens when thinner women lose weight. But it's likely.

We have known for some time that smaller, thinner women are at higher risk for osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones) than larger, heavier women. Recall that "weight-bearing exercise" is recommended for improving bone strength.

Carrying more body weight is "weight-bearing," even without exercise, and causes bones to retain more calcium. So there's a certain kind of logic to bones relinquishing calcium as body weight diminishes.

So far, no research addresses whether or not adding more calcium to the diet during weight loss will prevent bone loss. Adding calcium is easy and risk-free, so it wouldn't hurt to do it.

Most high calcium foods are also high in many other nutrients, so it's a good idea to get at least your 800 milligrams from food. Then you can use supplements like Tums to get you up to 1,200 or 1,500 milligrams.

4( It's important to note diets high in

protein (about twice the recommended daily amount of 85 grams for women), sodium and caffeine increase loss of calcium in the urine.

Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, so some vitamin D fortified milk, or 15 minutes per day in the sunlight with hands and face exposed will help maintain bone strength.

Ongoing research has not clearly defined the best time of day to take your calcium supplement. Calcium

absorption requires the presence of stomach acid, which is released when there is food in your stomach. Vitamin D and lactose, both present in milk, also improve absorption. So maybe you should take your supplement when you drink your milk.

For a bedtime treat, mix 8 ounces skim milk with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and one packet artificial sweetener. Warm in microwave. Enjoy.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

Foods high in calcium

8 ounces skim milk 300 milligrams

8 ounces non-fat yogurt 450 milligrams

1 cup 1 percent cottage cheese 138 milligrams

ounce Swiss cheese 272 milligrams

1/2 cup frozen yogurt 120 milligrams

3 1/2 ounced sardines w/bones 350 milligrams

1 cup baked beans 155 milligrams

1 cup broccoli (frozen) 94 milligrams

1 cup kale (frozen) 179 milligrams

1 cup black-eyed peas (fresh) 211 milligrams

1 cup cooked spinach 244 milligrams

1/2 cup tofu 130 milligrams

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses 274 milligrams

1 ounce low-fat Cheddar 200 milligrams

1 sourdough English muffin 112 milligrams

1/2 cup part skim ricotta 335 milligrams

1/2 cup soft vanilla ice milk 135 milligrams

packet instant oatmeal 163 milligrams

3 ounces salmon w/bones 240 milligrams

1 cup beet greens 165 milligrams

1 cup bok choy cooked 158 milligrams

1 cup dandelion greens 147 milligrams

1 cup mustard greens (frozen) 152 milligrams

1 cup soybeans (from dry) 175 milligrams

1 cup acorn/butternut squash 100 milligrams

1/2 cup carob flour 180 milligrams

1 tablespoon dried basil 95 milligrams

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