Study shows dairy consumption helps burn fat and calories

by Eric Schroeder
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ROSEMONT, ILL. — A new clinical trial, published Dec. 7 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers at Purdue University, found that women burned more fat and more calories after a meal when their diets included 3 to 4 servings of dairy daily.

"From the results of this study, we put together a rough calculation based on the increased fat burned from a meal that suggests a high dairy diet followed over a year could potentially result in the loss of 10 lbs of fat a year," said Dorothy Teegarden, lead investigator and professor of nutrition at Purdue University.

The purpose of the study was to investigate the mechanism by which dairy and calcium may impact body composition through the body’s ability to burn fat and use calories. The study was not designed to induce weight loss, researchers said.

During the year-long study, researchers compared the effects of a prolonged low dairy (1 to 2 servings) diet to a prolonged high dairy (3 to 4 servings) diet among 19 normal-weight women (aged 18 to 30 years old).

The study participants’ ability to burn fat and calories after a meal was measured at the beginning and end of the trial to determine the impact of increasing dairy and calcium consumption during the one year trial. The researchers found that women who consumed 3 servings of dairy each day during the course of a year burned more fat and calories from a meal compared with women who fell short of government recommendations, consuming less than three servings of dairy per day. The subjects who consumed more dairy over the year burned more fat and calories after a meal.

According to the National Dairy Council, results from the new study "add further support to the body of research on dairy’s role in weight management providing insight into the mechanism of fat metabolism."

"Increased calcium decreases parathyroid hormone (P.T.H.) and Dr. Teegarden discovered that the decreased P.T.H. that occurs with increased dairy consumption increases fat burning," the N.D.C. said. "Dr. Teegarden’s discovery builds on other research demonstrating the role of calcium regulating hormones as potential mediators of the relationship between an increase in dietary calcium and greater fat burning."

The Council noted that other studies have found that overweight people on a reduced- calorie diet who consumed 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day lost significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories alone while consuming little or no dairy. Clinical studies also have shown that dairy foods exert a significantly greater effect on body weight and fat loss than calcium supplements — suggesting that the mix of nutrients in dairy beyond calcium contributes to dairy’s superior effect.

"Over the course of the past several decades, milk consumption has declined, while rates of obesity have skyrocketed," the N.D.C. said. "The researchers point out that obesity currently affects more than 40 million adults in America and is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Weight loss and diet play a significant role in disease risk reduction. In addition, research shows that consuming at least 3 servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt every day enables people to meet their calcium recommendations and may help reduce the risk of chronic health problems such as osteoporosis and hypertension."

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