Dietary calcium affects body composition and lipid metabolism in rats

PLoS One. 2019 Jan 10;14(1):e0210760. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210760. eCollection 2019.


Calcium (Ca) intakes may affect cardiovascular disease risk by altering body composition (body weight and fat) and serum lipid profile, but results have been inconsistent and the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. The effects of dietary Ca on body composition and lipid metabolism were examined in rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed high-fat, high-energy diets containing (g/kg) low (0.75Ca, 0.86 ± 0.05; 2Ca, 2.26 ± 0.02), normal (5Ca, 5.55 ± 0.08) or high (10Ca, 11.03 ± 0.17; 20Ca, 21.79 ± 0.15) Ca for 10 weeks. Rats fed the lowest Ca diet (0.75Ca) had lower (p < 0.05) body weight and fat mass compared to other groups. Rats fed the high Ca diets had lower serum total and LDL cholesterol compared to rats fed normal or low Ca. Liver total cholesterol was lower in rats fed high compared to low Ca. In general, liver mRNA expression of genes involved in cholesterol uptake from the circulation (Ldlr), cholesterol synthesis (Hmgcr and Hmgcs1), fatty acid oxidation (Cpt2) and cholesterol esterification (Acat2) were higher in rats fed higher Ca. Apparent digestibility of total trans, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids was lower in rats fed the high compared to the low Ca diets, with the largest effects seen on trans and saturated fatty acids. Fecal excretion of cholesterol and total bile acids was highest in rats fed the highest Ca diet (20Ca). The results suggest little effect of dietary Ca on body composition unless Ca intakes are very low. Decreased bile acid reabsorption and reduced absorption of neutral sterols and saturated and trans fatty acids may contribute to the better serum lipid profile in rats fed higher Ca.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Composition* / genetics
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Eating
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lipid Metabolism* / genetics
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipogenesis / genetics
  • Liver / anatomy & histology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Minerals / blood
  • Minerals / urine
  • Organ Size
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sterols / metabolism


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Blood Glucose
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Fatty Acids
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Minerals
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sterols

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Health Canada. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.