Carrying excess fat endangers your health. It puts constant stress on your heart and lungs… not to mention the strain on your joints. We all know this. But there is a type of body fat that is particularly insidious.
You might have heard about “apple” and “pear” body compositions. “Pear-shaped” people carry more fat around their butt and thighs. Most of this fat is subcutaneous. It lies just under the skin and you can easily grab or pinch it. “Apple-shaped” people, on the other hand, carry more fat in their midsections. This belly bulge is the result of visceral fat.
Visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal cavity. It fills the spaces between organs. It is also highly biologically active. That’s why abdominal fat is closely linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer. That is also why being apple-shaped creates many more health problems than being pear-shaped.
Hormones are often blamed for excess visceral fat, particularly in women. Lower estrogen levels associated with menopause change where the body stores fat. This makes women more likely to collect fat around their midsection. Chronic stress can also increase cortisol levels. As this hormone rises, it can trigger the storage of abdominal fat.
In recent years, the dangers of visceral fat have become widely understood. More studies are being conducted on how to reduce it. One of these studies was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It shows that calcium and vitamin D together can help.
The 16-week study divided 171 participants into three groups.
- The first group consumed three measured servings of regular orange juice per day. Each serving of juice was fortified with 350 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D
- The second group consumed the same amount of “reduced-calorie” orange juice, also fortified with 350 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D per serving
- The control group consumed unfortified orange juice.
The two groups who drank the fortified orange juice had reductions in stomach fat significantly greater than the control group.1 Other studies have shown similar results.2 And it appears that calcium and vitamin D work synergistically. In fact, they have been shown to increase the breakdown of stored fat for energy.3
The Best Way to Get Your Calcium and D
Increasing your levels of calcium and vitamin D may be just the ticket for losing unwanted belly fat. But we don’t recommend supplements to do this.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone. It is best produced naturally, through moderate sun exposure (without sunscreen). Half an hour a few days a week should suffice.
We don’t recommend taking an isolated calcium supplement (as opposed to dietary calcium) either. Calcium supplements have been linked to heart disease.4 Instead, get this vital mineral from calcium-rich vegetables. Collards, kale, bok choy, turnip greens, and broccoli all contain high levels of calcium.
And if you’re able to tolerate dairy, consider one or two servings of raw milk, cheese or unsweetened yogurt daily. Dairy products contain the fat-busting combination of calcium and vitamin D together.
1 Rosenblum, JL et al. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased abdominal visceral adipose tissue in overweight and obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;95(1):101–8.
2 Shahar DR et al. Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D, and successful weight loss. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1017–22.
3Teegarden D et al. Calcium and dairy product modulation of lipid utilization and energy expenditure. Obesity. 2008;16:1,566–72.