The recommended daily intake of calcium (1000 mg/day for most adults, 1200 mg/day for pregnant women) has been set to meet the requirements of bone-health and the prevention of osteoporosis. Beyond this, calcium plays an essential role in numerous other vital functions: regulation of cell membrane fluidity and permeability, nerve conduction, muscle contraction and blood clotting. Calcium has anti-hypertensive properties and the consumption of calcium in sufficient amounts may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Various studies over the last few years have shown that increased calcium intake can significantly fight overweight and obesity.
In the following sections the question will be addressed as to whether a role for calcium in weight control is substantiated by facts gained from epidemiological studies and the results of in vitro, animal and human intervention studies, showing either a positive role for calcium in lipid metabolism and weight control, or no effect at all. In order to understand these effects, the role of calcium in the regulation of energy metabolism is to be examined. This comprises effects on cellular energy metabolism (the Zemel hypothesis) and the reduction of energy intake by the formation of poorly absorbable calcium soaps and a potential calcium effect on appetite.
Section 11.4 compares dietary calcium from milk products with calcium supplements and calcium-fortified food, and deals with quantitative aspects. Section 11.5 gives an overview of the calcium salts used for functional food products. Some conclusions, a short outlook on future trends and recommendations for further references are given at the end of the chapter.
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