Milk and cheese have always been on the weight loss don't do list for as long as I can remember. Every time I've read someone in the know describing almost any diet program, the weight (fat) gain perils of dairy always comes up. In fact, I've heard this advice more from the fat-trimming body builders and fashion model community than anyone else, and they should know. Right?
Well, maybe not. A few years ago, I started seeing articles in the health and fitness press sounding the alarm to put a hold on the milk and cheese ban for dieters, and not only that, suggesting that these dairy products might actually promote weight loss. For milk junkies like me, this was tasty news indeed.
A study conducted by Michael Zemel, Ph.D., is an example of the shot heard 'round the dairy world. Dr. Zemel set about to test the weight loss diet benefits of milk, cheese, and yogurt in a study including 25 obese men and women over a period of 24 weeks. All of the participants were placed on weight loss diet, with their daily calorie intake reduced by 500. (Zemel also published a book on the subject.)
One third consumed an average mix of foods that met the calorie requirements, and provided about 500 mg. of calcium per day. Another group ate the same diet, but also took approx. 1100 mg. of calcium supplements. The third group added dairy foods to their diet to also give them about 1100 mg. of calcium each day, but their overall calorie intake was adjusted to match the other groups.
Each of the groups lost weight thanks to the universal 500 calorie per day reduction. But here's the shocker: the third "milk and cheese" group lost the most weight! They lost about 6 pounds more on average than the second group, who took the 1100 mg. of calcium per day, and who lost about 4 pounds more than the first. (The first group lost an average of 14.5 pounds.)
But that's not the most significant result. The big news is this: while groups 1 and 2 lost about 8 percent of their fat from the belly, the dairy group lost 66 percent! Have you seen the warnings lately in the news about belly fat? It's been directly linked to diabetes, various metabolic disorders, and also cardiovascular illnesses. Most recently, belly fat in middle age has been linked to dementia later in life.
So how does dairy do it? The questions are always better than the answers, but it seems that milk, cheese, and yogurt may slow the process of fat cell formation, while at the same time speeding up metabolism, which burns calories faster. This process does not have fast-weight-loss, crank up the heat diet-pill effect, but is thought to be rather a steady-as-she-goes way to burn calories over the long term.
Assuming this study holds for practically everyone, and there are more studies that indicate that the results are repeatable, then adding daily dairy to the diet is a good thing for long-term weight management. But as sure as someone suggests this, people will run out and start consuming dairy products on a more-is-better basis, and will then of course gain weight rather than lose it.
It has to be stressed that a person should only consume just so many calories in a given day, and anything beyond that point is stored as fat. The trick is to add dairy to the diet, but remove something else to keep one's daily calorie intake in balance. Overeating with dairy products, which is very easy to do, will only result in added pounds, and the blame will be incorrectly placed. (The yogurt should be plain nonfat, or at least low-fat. Sugar content doubles and even triples in flavored varieties.)
If you're not lactose intolerant, and you enjoy dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt, try working them into your diet while keeping your calorie consumption unchanged. Keeping the rest of your diet and exercise routines unchanged, check your weight at the end of 30 days, and see if dairy may be the weight loss diet supplement you've been looking for.