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Study Challenges Dairy's Weight Loss Claim

Teens Who Drank the Most Milk Gained Weight
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WebMD Health News

June 6, 2005 -- A growing body of research is taking aim at the claim that there is something special about milk and other dairy foods that help people lose weight.

In a study published in April, women who added extra milk to their diets for a year lost no more weight than women who consumed the same number of calories, but drank less milk. Now a new study in older children and teens shows that drinking more than the recommended three servings of milk a day actually promotes weight gain. But the dairy industry doesn't see it that way.

Harvard Medical School researcher Catherine S. Berkey, ScD, who led the research team, says the evidence regarding milk and weight loss is far from conclusive.

"Studies examining the relationship between milk and body fat have been very mixed, but the marketing messages directed at families are clear -- advertisements encourage dairy products such as milk to help promote weight loss, so it is critical we continue to study this area until we have solid answers," Berkey says.

What the Ads Say

The American Dairy Council's "24/24 -- Milk Your Diet, Lose Weight!" campaign makes the claim that drinking three servings of milk a day, as part of a reduced-calorie diet "may help you lose more weight and burn more fat than cutting calories alone."

"A growing body of evidence shows that when people include three servings of milk a day -- or 24 ounces in 24 hours -- in a reduced-calorie diet, they lose significantly more weight than people who don't," the Council's weight loss web site states. "The studies suggest that the mix of nutrients found in milk, such as calcium and protein, may help improve the body's ability to burn fat -- particularly around the middle."

The campaign is based largely on a 2004 study by University of Tennessee nutrition researcher Michael Zemel, PhD, who has since published the book The Calcium Key: The Revolutionary Diet Discovery That Will Help You Lose Weight Faster.

Zemel's study included 32 obese people who followed different reduced-calorie diets for six months. He reported that people who consumed three to four servings of milk or other dairy products a day lost more weight than those who took in the same number of calories but ate less dairy.

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