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Q&A: Dairy Foods And Weight Loss

source: Flickr, by tongi.franco

Question: is having yogurt three times a day will enable us to lose more weight? and specifically fat?

Answer:

Maybe.

Before I go on with the answer, let me first distinguish between two types of research that give us information about how food can affect health. One type that is commonly performed is called observational studies. These studies look at a group of people, evaluate their diet, and try to find a common factor that seems to be associated with a specific condition. The key word here is associated. For example, people who eat 3 servings of dairy tend to weight x number of pounds less than those who don’t.

The second type of studies is randomized controlled. In this type, study participants are randomly divided into the study groups, given a certain treatment, and followed to see how this treatment affects their health. The second type of studies are the only ones that tell us if one thing–eating yogurt for example–causes another–weight loss.

The research on dairy foods is mixed. Both types of studies either find an effect on weight and fat loss or no effect at all. Important to note though, that when a link was found between dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) and having a lower body weight, they were low-fat products.

Researchers then became interested in this relation and wondered if calcium supplements would have any benefit. Again, with both types of studies, research was mixed. In one study that measured participants’ weights in a certain point in time, looked at how much calcium from food and supplement calcium they took, then measured their weight again in 10 years, found that women who took calcium supplements gained less weight than those who didn’t.

So what?

Low-fat dairy foods might help with weight loss, but there’s no guarantee. You can’t eat 3 yogurt cups a day, do nothing else, and expect the weight to shed off by itself. Even when the Dairy Council markets milk, cheese, and yogurt to help maintain body weight, they always include a sentence that looks like that: “as part of a low-calorie diet.”

Calcium supplements might help, but again, there’s no guarantee. In the study I mentioned, the calcium supplement dose was more than 500 mg a day. It might be worth it though, to assess your calcium intake and determine if you need a supplement to fill in the gaps in your diet. (caution: talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. This is not a recommendation to take calcium supplements.)

Now beyond weight, dairy products are essential to the diet, as long as you can tolerate them. They are an excellent source of calcium, and women who eat/drink less dairy are more likely to have osteoporosis. So eat up that yogurt!

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Choose non-fat or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt
  2. Aim for three servings a day. A serving is an 8-ounce cup of milk, 6-ounce cup of yogurt, and one ounce of cheese.
  3. Choose real cheese as opposed to processed cheese. Processed cheese has less calcium
  4. For weight loss, combine low fat dairy with a healthy diet. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains and lean sources of protein, and limit sugary drinks and calorie-concentrated foods that offer no nutrition (such as cookies or candy bars).
  5. On a side note, all weight loss plans lead to loss in fat and muscles as well. To minimize muscle loss, add resistance training, or weight lifting, to your plan.
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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kristen (swanky dietitian) May 5, 2010, 6:18 pm

    Great post!
    I am curious to see more studies in regards to this. I definitely agree that we can’t eat 3 servings of dairy and just expect the weight to just melt off..which, unfortunately, is what some might think when hearing about this study.

  • rebecca subbiah May 5, 2010, 10:19 pm

    great post and wow love the ST Petes seafood so pleased you had a good holiday lol Rebecca

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD May 7, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Kristen: thanks! I think that what RD have to work on with patients/client/and the public: change the quick fix, easy, pain-free weight loss attitude!

    Thanks Rebecca: the food was great!