Lawsuits Challenge Dairy Weight Loss Claims
Vegetarian Group Says Dairy Industry Ads Touting Weigh Loss Are Misleading
New 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
"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
One Scientist Convinced
Still, the researcher of the two published studies directly linking dairy
intake to weight loss says that the scientific evidence is now strong enough to
conclude that milk intake can directly lead to fat loss.
"We absolutely have the data to support that," says Michael B.
Zemel, PhD, director of the University of Tennessee Nutrition Institute.
In addition to the two studies already published, another three conducted by
Zemel are soon to be published this summer concluding that milk intake aids
weight loss -- but only in people with insufficient calcium intake. Other
unpublished studies by Zemel show that calcium has a direct effect on hormones,
including calcitriol, which can interfere with the breakdown of fat.
"For people with adequate intake, I would predict no effect," he
All of Zemel's studies were funded by dairy industry interests, which
activists point to when they question the validity of the findings.
Zemel confirms that he has received nearly $3 million in research funding
from companies and industry groups marketing dairy products, including the
National Dairy Council and General Mills. He has also been paid by the National
Dairy Council for speeches, he says.
Zemel says that consumers "should be aware" of who funds his
research but that they should not be concerned. "I will not allow anyone to
control the outcome of my study or when, where, or how I report the data,"