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Increased calcium intake linked with reduced body fat in children at risk for diabetes

05.04.2014

The results of a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference, held in San Diego, associates a higher intake of calcium with lower body fat in African American children at risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study included 142 nondiabetic African American children aged five to nine years who were genotyped for variations associated with type 2 diabetes risk. Forty percent of the children were categorized as overweight and 20 percent were obese. Body mass index (BMI) percentile, percent fat and total body fat to height ratio were determined and dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the amount of daily calcium consumed.

The researchers, led by Laura L. Tosi, MD, who is the director of the bone health program at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, uncovered significant relationships between body fat and five out of 67 genetic variations examined. In children who tested positive for diabetes-associated gene variants, higher calcium intake was associated with lower body fat and BMI in comparison with low intake. The authors suggest that calcium or related factors could cause epigenetic changes affecting how the genes associated with diabetes risk are expressed.

“What got us interested in this is the whole question of how the environment—including a person’s diet—influences gene expression,” Dr Tosi stated.

“Even though life expectancy for people with diabetes has gone up, the disease has a significant impact on quality of life, so finding ways to prevent people from developing diabetes is critical,” she observed. “We were excited to find that higher calcium intake appears to mitigate the impact of some of the risk genes for type 2 diabetes, and we’re eager to see if these results hold true in other populations.”

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