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Back to Calcium

Calcium and Vitamin D: Improved Lipids

A study performed on women-one group that received calcium and vitamin D supplements and one that did not - has provided new data on the correlations between calcium and weight loss. The study showed that calcium and vitamin D supplementation has a beneficial effect on blood lipids and lipoproteins in obese or overweight women.

Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D.

Professor, Kinesiology, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université Laval, Quebec

What we know

In an initial study, we observed greater body fatness in females who had low calcium intakes than in other subjects with higher calcium intakes.1 In addition, low calcium intake predicted increased plasma concentrations of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. In a subsequent study, an increase in the consumption of skim milk and semi-skimmed milk was related to a decrease in body fat over a 6-year follow-up, whereas the opposite trend was found in subjects who decreased their milk intake over time.2

New study

As a continuation of our previous research, we performed a double-blind study in 20073 in which we randomized healthy, overweight or obese women with low calcium intakes (<800 mg/day) at baseline into 2 groups. The first group was given a supplement containing 600 mg elemental calcium and 200 IU vitamin D (n=30) twice a day, while the second group received a placebo (n=33). All 63 women were also placed on a 15-week weight-loss intervention that restricted daily caloric intake by 700 kcal. Our goal was to determine the effects of the calcium/vitamin D regimen on blood pressure, plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, and plasma glucose and insulin concentrations in low calcium consumers, independent of improvements in body weight and fat mass.


By week 15, significant decreases were observed for body weight, body mass index, waist circumference and fat mass in all women receiving the calcium and vitamin D supplement as well as those receiving the placebo. However, there were significant differences in favour of the study group for weight loss/calcium supplement interaction effects for total:HDL cholesterol and LDL:HDL cholesterol (p<0.01), which occurred independent of variations in abdominal fat mass and waist circumference. In addition, as shown in Table 1, the reducing effect of the program on plasma LDL cholesterol was also significantly greater in the calcium/vitamin D supplemented group. This study is the first to demonstrate that calcium plus vitamin D supplementation has a beneficial effect on blood lipids and lipoproteins in overweight or obese women during a weight-loss intervention. Variations in terms of weight and fat mass response to the program were of particular interest, notably when the subjects were divided into 2 sub-groups based on their baseline calcium intake (<600 mg/day or >600 mg/day). The subjects in the placebo group who consumed less than 600 mg of calcium per day were unable to achieve a significant body weight loss despite good compliance in comparison to those who received supplementation (see Table 2).4 In contrast, weight loss was 4 times greater (p<0.05) in very low calcium consumers receiving supplementation. This difference was mostly explained by a significant group difference in spontaneous fat intake.

Table 1

Mean changes in plasma lipid/lipoprotein profile in 2 groups of obese women subjected to an energy-restricted weight loss intervention3
Calcium + vitamin D group (mmol/L) Placebo group (mmol/L)
Total cholesterol/HDL –0.38 0.08**
LDL cholesterol –0.41 –0.18*
LDL/HDL cholesterol –0.32 0.008*

Significant interaction between weight loss and calcium supplementation reflecting a significant difference between changes in the 2 groups, *p<0.05; **p<0.01

Table 2

Calcium intake <600 mg/day Supplement Placebo
Weight loss 5.8 kg 1.4 kg


Women with an inadequate calcium intake on a calorie-restricted diet could improve their lipid profile and their capacity to lose weight with calcium supplementation.


  1. Jacqmain M et al. Calcium intake, body composition, and lipoprotein-lipid concentrations in adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1448-1452.
  2. Drapeau V et al. Modifications in food group consumption are related to long-term body weight changes. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:29-37.
  3. Major GC et al. Supplementation with calcium + vitamin D enhances the beneficial effect of weight loss on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:54-59.
  4. Major GC. Calcium + vitamin D supplementation and weight loss in women who are low calcium consumers: is there a role for a calcium-specific appetite control? Obesity 2006;14:A93.

Keywords: calcium , vitamin D

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