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Lawsuits Challenge Dairy Weight Loss Claims

Vegetarian Group Says Dairy Industry Ads Touting Weigh Loss Are Misleading
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Charges of False Advertising continued...

Approximately 20 studies have looked at the effect of increasing dairy intake on body weight. Two published studies found that obese adults consuming three servings of dairy products per day -- as part of a calorie-reduced diet -- lost significantly more weight than those who consumed no dairy.

But the PCRM says 14 other studies found that dairy consumption had virtually no effect on body weight. According to the PCRM, the overwhelming evidence contradicts industry claims that milk aids weight loss.

The group filed a complaint about the ads with the Federal Trade Commission in April, but the agency has yet to take action.

"We recognize the dairy industry has a right to advertise their products. They should do so without making false health claims," says Mindy Kursban, executive director and general counsel for the PCRM.

A second lawsuit brought by 48-year-old Catherine Holmes and backed by the PCRM seeks $236 to pay back money Holmes says she spent on dairy products hoping to lose weight.

"Not only did I not lose weight, I gained weight. Not a lot, a few pounds. This is not a tragedy, I'll lose the weight," Holmes said at a news conference. "I just want the truth to come out."

Dietary Guidelines

New federal dietary guidelinesNew federal dietary guidelines published in January increased the recommended dairy intake from two servings per day to three. But the recommendation was based on health benefits of calcium and other nutrients and not on weight loss.

"At this time there is insufficient evidence on which to base a more definitive statement regarding the intake of milk products and management of body weight," the report states.

Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a dietitian and anesthesiologist at Altoona Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania, says that she strongly recommends three servings of dairy products per day for children until they reach puberty and for many adults. But the recommendation has nothing to do with promoting weight loss.

"That is a tough leap of faith. I would go with the 14 studies that show no strong effect," says Gerbstadt, a spokeswoman for the National Dietetic Association.

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