Last updated on: 4/8/2008 2:35:00 PM PST
Do Milk and Dairy Products Help People Lose Weight?

PRO (yes)

The National Dairy Council wrote in its 2005 website article "Dairy and Weight Management: A Look at the Science":

"Dairy foods may also play a role in improving body weight and/or composition, according to a growing body of scientific research...

Studies suggest that for people who do not consume recommended amounts of dairy products, they can enhance their weight loss efforts by including 3 servings of dairy products each day in a reduced-calorie weight loss plan. In several controlled clinical trials of overweight and obese adults following reduced-calorie diets, increasing dairy intake to 3 servings a day of milk, yogurt, or cheese resulted in greater weight loss compared to adults who only cut calories...

The current body of research includes randomized clinical trials (considered the 'gold standard' of science), observational, animal and cellular studies conducted by leading research institutions throughout the country. This intriguing connection is being studied worldwide - with positive results reported in Denmark, Greece, Italy and other countries."

2005 - National Dairy Council (NDC) 

The Dairy Council of California explained in its 2004 pamphlet "Calcium and Dairy Products: New Weapons in the War on Obesity":

"Mounting research indicates that consuming more calcium in the diet - particularly from calcium-rich dairy foods - can speed up weight loss and reduce body fat, particularly abdominal fat. Consuming dairy products appears to help prevent body weight and fat gain in children and adults, Caucasians and African-Americans, males and females. In addition, dairy foods have proven to be more effective than calcium alone in moderating body weight/fat gain and accelerating weight/fat loss...

The mix of essential nutrients in dairy foods, including calcium and protein, appears to speed up metabolism and improve the body's ability to burn fat, especially abdominal fat."

2004 - Dairy Council of California 

Michael Zemel, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, et al., reported in their Apr. 2004 Obesity Research article "Calcium and Dairy Acceleration of Weight and Fat Loss During Energy Restriction in Obese Adults":

"All participants lost body weight and body fat due to the daily energy deficit of 500kcal/d [Calories per day]. However, both weight and fat loss were markedly increased on the high-dairy diet, with intermediate, but still significant effects on the high-[non-dairy] calcium diet...

Participants on the low-calcium control diet lost 6.4 +/- 2.5% of their body weight [an average loss of 6.60 +/- 2.58 kg]. This was increased by 26% [an average loss of 8.58 +/- 1.60 kg] on the high-calcium diet and by 70% [an average loss of 11.07 +/- 1.63 kg] on the high-dairy diet.

Fat loss followed a similar trend. Patients lost 8.1 +/- 2.3% of their body fat [an average loss of 4.81 +/- 1.22 kg] on the low-calcium control diet. This was increased to 11.6 +/- 2.2% [an average loss of 5.61 +/- 0.98 kg] on the high-calcium diet and to 14.1 +/- 2.4% fat loss [an average loss of 7.16 +/- 1.22 kg] on the high-dairy diet."

Apr. 2004 - Michael Zemel, PhD 

Dorothy Teegarden, PhD, Professor of Food and Nutrition at Purdue University, wrote in her Dec. 2005 paper "The Influence of Dairy Product Consumption on Body Composition," published Dec. 2005 in the Journal of Nutrition:

"Substantial evidence exists for an association between dietary calcium or dairy product intakes and lower body fat or waist circumference...

The results of randomized clinical weight loss trials demonstrate predominantly that dairy products enhance weight and fat mass loss, but the results for dietary calcium are contradictory. The number of conflicting results suggests that if there is an effect, multiple factors, such as total energy intake, protein amount and source, and/or vitamin D status, may act synergistically to regulate energy balance to promote reduction or prevent gain of body fat."

Dec. 2005 - Dorothy Teegarden, PhD 

CON (no)

David Schardt, Senior Nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote in his Sep. 2005 article in Nutrition Action Healthletter titled "Milking the Data: Does Dairy Burn More Fat? Don't Bet Your Bottom on It":

"Nearly half of American women say that they have heard that dairy foods help people lose weight. If only there were sufficient evidence to back up the claim...

In 2002 the U.S. Patent Office issued Patent # 6,384,087 to Michael Zemel, his wife, and another researcher, giving them exclusive rights to the claim that calcium or dairy products can prevent or treat obesity... Zemel's published studies looked at a total of just 46 people who consumed extra calcium from dairy foods... None of the [dairy industry's] ads mention that dairy 'burns more fat' only in people who get too little calcium...

There's no evidence to support the milk industry's claim that 'more than a dozen research studies now support the finding that drinking 24 ounces of milk every 24 hours will help people lose more weight than just reducing their caloric intake.' None of Zemel's studies instructed people to drink 24 ounces of milk a day. And MilkPEP, the industry's non-profit Milk Processors Education Program couldn't point us to a single study in which people did...

The dairy industry's ads don't explain that Zemel's research only applies to people who are overweight... He has no published research on dairy foods and normal-weight people."

Sep. 2005 - David Schardt 

Catherine S. Berkey, ScD, Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, et al., wrote in their June 2005 paper in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, "Milk, Dairy Fat, Dietary Calcium, and Weight Gain":

"Contrary to our hypotheses, we found that (1) children who reported higher total milk intake experienced larger weight gains; (2) children who drank more 1% and skim milk had larger weight gains than those who drank smaller amounts of 1% and skim milk; (3) dietary calcium intake was positively correlated with weight gain...

Our findings did not support theories that greater milk intake will contribute to the control of overweight."

June 2005 - Catherine Berkey, ScD 

Carolyn Gunther, PhD, Assistant Director of Human Nutrition at Ohio State University, et al., wrote in their article "Dairy Products Do Not Lead to Alterations in Body Weight or Fat Mass in Young Women in a 1-Y[ear] Intervention," published Apr. 2005 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

"The purpose of this study was to determine whether long-term increases in consumption of dairy calcium alter body weight and fat mass in young, healthy women... The main outcome measures were 1-y[ear] changes in body weight (in kg) and fat mass (in kg)...

No significant differences were observed in the mean 1-y change in body weight between the control, medium-dairy, and high-dairy groups (0.8 +/- 2.8 kg change, 0.7 +/- 3.0 kg change, 1.5 +/- 4.1 kg change, respectively). No significant difference were observed in the mean 1-y change in fat mass between the the control, medium-dairy, and high-dairy groups (-0.5 +/- 2.5 kg change, 0.3 +/- 2.7 kg change, 0.5 +/- 3.5 kg change, respectively)...

A 1-y intervention for dairy calcium did not increase or decrease body weight or fat mass... Young, healthy normal-weight women who increase their dairy calcium over a prolonged period, while controlling for total energy [Calorie] intake, will not experience a change in body weight or fat mass."

Apr. 2005 - Carolyn Gunther, PhD 

Swapnil Rajpathak, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, et al., wrote in their paper "Calcium and Dairy Intakes in Relation to Long-Term Weight Gain in US Men," published Mar. 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

"We investigated the association between calcium and dairy intakes and 12-y[ear] weight change in US men... Dietary, dairy, and supplemental calcium intakes were not significantly associated with weight change in multivariate analyses. The men with the largest increase in total dairy intake gained more weight than did the men who decreased intake the most (3.14 compared with 2.57 kg)...

Twelve years is a long time period to evaluate weight change with respect to calcium intake. Therefore, we conducted secondary analyses to evaluate 4- and 8-y weight changes, but did not detect any benefits of calcium or dairy intake... A higher intake of dairy products was not associated with less weight gain during the 12-y follow-up."

Mar. 2006 - Swapnil Rajpathak, MD, DrPH