According to a study carried out at North Carolina State University, low levels of calcium early in life could set the stage for unhealthy bones later on – and even lead to weight gain and a higher risk of obesity. It’s never too early to start getting bone building calcium.
Low Levels of Calcium Early, Higher Obesity Risk Later?
When newborn pigs ate a diet that was low in calcium for eighteen days, they not only developed unhealthy bones with a lower bone density, but were predisposed to obesity later in life. Why obesity? Researchers found that some of pig’s stem cells – cells that can develop into a variety of different cell types – were reprogrammed to become fat cells instead of bone cells in the absence of sufficient calcium. This could mean more fat deposits for the pigs – along with weaker, less healthy bones.
Does This Also Apply to Humans?
Researchers chose to use newborn piglets in this study because their bone development and nutritional needs are very similar to those of humans. Of course, you can’t necessarily extrapolate from a pig to a human, but it does raise some red flags for human babies too. Interestingly, levels of vitamin D (which helps to regulate calcium levels) between the pigs fed a low calcium diet and a regular diet didn’t differ. This suggests that vitamin D may not be important for regulating calcium in newborns.
Early Life Events May Affect Obesity Risk
Studies are showing that a higher obesity risk may be brought about by environmental influences during infancy – and even exposures that go as far back as the womb. A study published in the Journal of Physiology showed that mama rats that ate a “junk food” diet consisting of processed carbs and sweets – similar to the average American diet – had a higher obesity risk and more insulin resistance than a group of control rats that ate a more balanced diet. At least in rats, what a mom eats during pregnancy can have unhealthy consequences for her offspring after birth.
Low Levels of Calcium and Higher Obesity Risk
Moms need to be aware that low levels of calcium and other nutrients can have a major impact on a newborn or fetus’s health later in life by influencing the development of stem cells. It’s important to remember that good nutrition is critical throughout life to build healthy bones, lower the risk of obesity – and for overall good health.