Calcium, most recently recognized for its benefits in alleviating Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, has now been proven to help with the battle against obesity. A new study published in the June issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology reveals how a diet high in calcium helps the body metabolize and burn fat cells, expediting the weight loss process.

In his study entitled "Regulation of Adiposity By Dietary Calcium," Michael Zemel, Ph.D., at the University of Tennessee, explains that because calcium plays a key role in the metabolic disorders associated with obesity and insulin resistance, a diet low in calcium actually stores fat cells, while the opposite is true for higher calcium diets.

"The body releases a hormone used to maintain the metabolism and blood circulation which sends signals that are read by the body's fat cells," says Dr. Zemel. "Based upon these signals, the body is triggered to lose weight or to gain weight." Dr. Zemel discovered that a high calcium diet released more signals that were read by fat cells to lose weight than a low calcium diet.

Dietary calcium appears to modulate the efficiency of energy utilization. Low calcium diets increase the body's tendency to store calories, whereas, high calcium diets help to more effectively burn calories that would otherwise be stored as fat.

Therefore, a diet high in calcium accompanied by a modest reduction in calories provides the optimum balance for the body to burn calories and lose fat most efficiently.

To expedite weight loss, Dr. Zemel found that 1,200 to 1,600 mgs. is the optimum daily level of calcium and any increase above this milligram intake would not be beneficial. This amount of calcium could be obtained through two to four servings of low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, skim milk or cottage cheese, and fruits and vegetables, including fortified orange juice and broccoli. If you do not obtain 1,200 to 1,600 mgs. of calcium through daily diet alone, a calcium supplement such as Tums E-X can supply the necessary calcium. Two Tums E-X tablets taken twice daily will provide 1,200 mgs. of calcium.

Although calcium should not be looked upon as a magic pill, combined with a minimal decrease in calorie intake, it can make a significant difference in the body's weight loss process in as little as a few weeks.