Recent claims that low-fat dairy
products or calcium can help people lose weight
are untrue, according to a review of the published scientific
literature, which shows that neither dairy products
in general nor calcium intake promote weight loss.
"Don't believe the hype," Dr. Amy Joy Lanou stated.
"The ads that promote milk as helping to achieve a healthy
weight are misleading; the science does not support
Lanou, an assistant professor in the department of
health and wellness at the University of North Carolina
in Asheville and Neal D. Barnard with the Physicians
Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC,
evaluated evidence from 49 clinical trials that assessed
whether dairy products or calcium can help people lose
Of the 49 trials, 41 showed no effects of diary or
calcium on weight, two showed an increase in body weight
with a dairy regimen, one showed a lower rate of weight
gain and only five showed weight loss.
However, it's quite likely that an association between
calcium or dairy intake and weight loss seen in some
"observational" studies may be due to other factors,
such as increased exercise, cutting out high-calorie
foods with little nutritional value, lifestyle habits,
or increasing fiber, fruit, and vegetables in the diet,
the researchers say.
"Our findings demonstrate that increasing dairy product
intake does not consistently result in weight or fat
loss and may actually have the opposite effect," Lanou
and Barnard conclude in the latest issue of Nutrition
Lanou said she was not at all surprised by the findings
because milk is designed for growth. "Milk is a food
that is designed for helping small mammals grow into
rather large ones in a relatively short period of time,"
she explained. "It is counterintuitive to think that
a food that has lots of calories, fats, and protein
would be helpful for weight loss."
She suggests switching to water. "We drink way too
many of our daily allotted calories in milk, milkshakes,
lattes, sodas and other sweetened beverages. Water is
healthy and naturally calorie-free," Lanou said. "Choosing
water instead of milk means you can enjoy more nutrient-dense
foods such as fruits vegetables, grains, and legumes
and stay within your energy needs."
SOURCE: Nutrition Reviews, May 2008.