A popular weight loss myth is to cut down on dairy products. Let’s see why it is only a myth.
Dairy products are essential components of healthy diet. Yet most of us don’t make this a regular item of daily diet.
Dairy products are primary source of calcium.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient provided by dairy products. Dairy products are also a good source of proteins.
Certain milk products contain saturated fats which are not healthy, but now low fat milk products are available.
How Do Dairy Products Help in Weight Loss?
Calcium present in dairy products assists in weight loss. Calcium is an essential component of fat metabolism and storage in the body.
Low calcium diets support fat storage whereas high calcium diets inhibit fat formation and promote break down of fats.
High calcium diets prevent diet-induced obesity.
Various studies and clinical trials have proven that consuming 3 servings of dairy products daily can lead to significant reduction in body weight and when combined with a low-calorie diet they can hasten the process of weight loss.
A study investigated the effects of a low and high dairy diet with or without calorie restriction on body weight of obese individuals.
Without calorie restriction, high dairy diet caused a significant reduction in total fat and fat in the trunk region.
It also led to an increase in lean mass and improved blood pressure and insulin levels.
The low dairy group didn’t experience significant changes. With calorie restriction, both groups experienced weight loss but the fat loss in a high dairy diet was twice that of low dairy diet.
Research proves that dairy products exert a significant effect on weight loss than high calcium diets.
Individuals were given a calorie-restricted diet or a high calcium diet or high dairy diet.
Subjects lost around 6 % of their weight with standard diet, 26% loss on calcium diet and 70% loss on the high dairy diet.
Total fat loss was higher in high calcium and high dairy diet.
Role of Dairy Products in Weight Loss?
We will now go through research studies and clinical trials that recommend dairy products as weight loss aids.
1. Dairy Fat does not cause weight gain
One of the popular reasons why everyone shuns dairy products when it comes to weight loss is the dread of gaining weight with dairy fat. But research no longer backs that idea.
A Swedish study reports that high intake of dairy fat is associated with lower risk of central obesity while low dairy fat intake can lead to weight gain in the abdomen and stomach region.
Low dairy fat intake included consumption of low-fat milk, no butter and seldom or no consumption of whipped cream whereas high dairy fat included consumption of butter as a spread, high-fat milk, and whipped cream.
19.9% of them who did not have central obesity developed central obesity during the follow up despite low dairy fat intake.
In a literature review of previous studies regarding high dairy fat intake and obesity, inverse or no association between the two was observed. 1
1 out of 16 studies reported an inverse relationship between high dairy fat intake and weight gain.
Review of the cumulative scientific evidence proved that the consumption of high dairy fat is not associated with obesity or cardiovascular and metabolic risk.
What does this mean? Recent research debunks the old myth that dairy fat can lead to weight gain.
2. Milk consumption controls appetite
As kids, we all have tried to escape that glass of milk but guess what!? Milk can help with weight loss.
Milk consumption did cause weight loss by causing fullness and decrease of hunger.
However, the ratings did not match predicted values. Researchers concluded that milk does control appetite which can be of use in weight loss.
A comparison was made between the effects of replacing certain food items in the diet with soy-based items or milk based items.
Subjects belonging to the soy group lost 9% of their body weight while those belonging to milk group lost 7.9% of their initial weight.
Also, improvement in cholesterol levels was observed. Soy meal replacements caused similar weight loss outcomes as milk-based products.
Most people recommend milk for weight gain for children.
And indeed research proves that children who consume more than 3 servings of milk gain weight in comparison to those who consume 1-2 glasses.
However, it was found that this weight gain is not due to dairy fat. As per the study weight gain was associated with dietary calcium and even skim milk.
What does this mean? Milk can aid in controlling appetite and favouring weight loss. And this property is not limited to skim milk. Still it is important to keep a check on the serving size irrespective of skim milk or whole milk.
3. Whey protein burns fat
Whey is a by-product of cheese production. It is a popular bodybuilding supplement.
Different dietary proteins were assessed for their impact on appetite. Whey, tuna, turkey, and egg were the protein sources that were tested.
Hunger ratings were lowest with whey meal. Further meal energy intake was lower with whey meal than with other protein meals.
Whey also influenced post-meal glucose and insulin levels. It was concluded that whey protein mediates weight loss by suppressing appetite and reducing intake in a subsequent meal.
Whey protein can also be used as a dietary supplement for weight loss. A clinical trial reported the effect of a commercial specialized whey product on weight loss.
Both the experimental and control groups lost significant weight as a result of the low-calorie diet.
However, the group consuming the whey beverage lost a significant proportion of body fat and lean mass was preserved in this group.
What does this mean? Whey consumption can promote healthy weight loss as it helps in reducing fat and preserves muscle mass.
4. Yogurt helps you lose belly fat
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium which makes it a good option for weight loss.
In a study investigating the effects of dietary calcium on weight loss, yogurt was used as a source of calcium.
Individuals who consumed the low-calorie diet with yogurt lost more weight than those who were prescribed only a low-calorie diet.
Preservation of lean mass and loss of fat from trunk region was increased with yogurt diet.
Yogurt consumption also led to a greater reduction in waist circumference.
High protein food items facilitate weight loss by promoting satiety and controlling appetite. Greek-style yogurt has higher protein content than regular yogurt.
In a study comparing the effects of consuming regular yogurt or Greek-style yogurt on appetite, results showed no significant differences in either of the group in terms of post-meal satisfaction, controlling appetite or reduction in subsequent food intake.
What does this mean? Feel free to snack on yogurt if you want to lose weight.
5. Low-fat Dairy products are good for weight loss
Low fat or fat-free dairy products are regular dairy products void of their saturated fats.
A comparison between the effects of drinking skim milk versus fruit juice at breakfast on post-meal satisfaction was made. Milk proteins are more satiating than drinks high in sugar.
Lower energy intake at lunch was observed with skim milk consumption when compared to fruit juice consumption.
Satisfaction ratings were higher throughout the morning after consuming skim milk.
The effect of low fat cow‘s milk, calcium supplemented soy milk, calcium supplemented diet on weight loss outcomes was compared.
Weight loss was observed in all groups, but the most significant weight reduction was seen in the low-fat dairy group.
Results suggested that consuming at least 3 servings of low-fat dairy with a low-calorie meal can enhance the effect of energy-restricted diet on weight loss.
Fortified low-fat milk causes significant weight loss.
In the study, subjects were given a low-calorie diet and low-fat milk or low-fat milk with micronutrients or no milk.
Fortified milk group lost around 5 kg while low-fat milk and no milk group lost around 3 kg.
Significant reduction in body fat and BMI was seen in fortified milk group in comparison to other groups.
Fortified low-fat milk also brought about significant improvement in bone mineral content.
What does this mean? Low fat dairy products can help with weight loss without the side effects of saturated fat present in regular dairy products.
6. Probiotic dairy products boost metabolic health
Probiotic dairy products are supplemented with healthy bacteria and yeast which promote a healthy digestive system.
Some bacteria are essential for our body to improve the functioning of our intestines and thereby controlling metabolic parameters.
The research was carried out upon the effect of probiotic cheese with a low-calorie diet on obesity and hypertension.
Subjects were randomly assigned to a probiotic cheese group or control cheese group.
It was observed that probiotic cheese reduced BMI and also reduced high blood pressure in obese individuals.
Research suggests that probiotic yogurt can add to the benefits of low-calorie diet in terms of weight loss.
Subjects in the study were asked to consume either probiotic yogurt or regular yogurt with a low-calorie diet.
Probiotic yogurt was effective in reducing BMI and fat percentage in obese individuals. It also reduced the leptin levels (a hormone that influences appetite and fat deposition) and inflammation.
What does this mean? Very limited evidence is available about weight loss mediated by probiotic products. But it is healthy to consume them without even having a weight loss goal.
7. Dairy products are a rich source of protein
Research has been carried out to evaluate the effect of dairy products along with other options that favor weight loss.
High dairy and high fibre diets are said to promote weight loss.
The research was carried out to examine the effect of a high dairy diet and a diet high in dairy and fibre on body weight and fat.
High calcium, moderate calcium and calorie restricted diets were followed.
Significant fat and weight loss was observed with all three diets.
The diet rich in calcium and high in fibre brought about similar weight loss and fat loss as moderate calcium diet.
It was concluded that diets high in calcium and fibre do not result in any better weight loss outcome than calorie restricted diet.
An experimental study focussed on how diets differing in protein and calcium source can affect body weight and other metabolic parameters were conducted.
Two high protein diets were designed where one diet dairy as a source of protein and the other had mixed sources.
Also, one diet had high calcium content while the other had moderate levels of calcium.
Weight and fat loss was observed in both groups. Significant improvements in metabolic parameters such as blood pressure, insulin levels etc. were observed.
It was concluded that the inclusion of high calcium/dairy items does not enhance the effect of high protein diets on weight loss.
Exercise in combination with a diet rich in protein and dairy can mediate a healthy weight loss outcome.
A study focused on this objective verified the effects of diets varying in protein and dairy along with exercise on obese individuals.
Results indicated that high protein and increased dairy consumption can favour diet or exercise-induced weight loss by causing a reduction in fat mass without loss of muscle mass.
What does this mean? Scientific evidence suggests that dairy products do not accelerate the effect of other weight loss dietary interventions. However they do enhance the effect of a low calorie diet on weight loss outcome.
Additional health benefits that you can enjoy while consuming dairy products are:
- Dairy products can promote weight loss and reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases in individuals suffering from diabetes.
- Dairy products can improve bone health and reduce risk of osteoporosis.
- They can help reduce high blood pressure.
- They are an excellent source of Vitamin D and beneficial for those who have reduced sun exposure.
Dairy products should be consumed in moderate quantities. They can also lead to weight gain due to their rich fat content.
Research Study – Dairy Calcium and Weight Loss
Scientists say that dietary calcium and Vitamin D in dairy products can help in weight loss.
And before you jump with joy and order a pizza overloaded with cheese, we would like to warn you that there must be a clause attached to this.
A randomized trial was conducted to investigate the effect of calcium on weight loss. (full text here>)
What happened in the study?
32 obese adults were recruited in the study and were asked to follow a calorie restricted diet for 6 months.
Then they were randomly assigned to the following groups which received either:
- Standard diet: 400 to 500 mg of dietary calcium/d
- High-calcium diet: standard diet supplemented with 800 mg of calcium/d
- High-dairy diet: 1200 to 1300 mg of dietary calcium/d
What was the outcome?
Loss of body weight was the highest in the group receiving a high dairy diet, followed by high calcium diet and lastly in the standard diet.
Loss of fat from the trunk region also followed the same trend. Total fat loss was increased by high calcium and high dairy diet.
How did this occur?
Dairy or dietary calcium regulates appetite and influences genes involved in metabolism.
It enhances the excretion of fat from the body. When subjected to caloric restriction dietary calcium suppresses fat formation, increases the breakdown of fats and even prevents deposition of fat in fat cells.
Proteins present in dairy products such as whey and casein increase satiety by influencing hormones that regulate appetite and in turn reduce energy intake.
What does this mean?
According to the study increasing dietary calcium can bring about weight loss and loss of fat from trunk region only if a calorie restricted diet is followed.
Dairy products can exert a greater effect on weight loss.
So, yes, dairy products do help in losing weight but only in combination with a diet low on calories. One can always opt for low-fat dairy products so as to cut down on fat but receive adequate amounts of calcium.
Consuming dairy products with a low-calorie diet can aid in weight loss.
Dieticians recommend low-fat dairy products but scientific evidence reports no adverse effects on weight with consumption of products rich in dairy fat.
But the serving size does matter.
Dairy products can supplement your daily requirements of calcium and protein. Probiotic dairy products are beneficial for a healthy gut and weight management.
So go ahead and enjoy milkshakes, flavoured yogurts, and probiotic cheese and shed a few kilos while you are at it!
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