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KNOXVILLE — Most people don’t realize when you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle, but new University of Tennessee research indicates dairy foods may actually help African-American dieters keep the muscle and lose even more fat.

Two separate clinical trials of obese African-American adults on reduced calorie diets, led by UT nutritionist Dr. Michael Zemel and published today in the journal “Obesity Research,” reveal that including 3 servings of dairy daily results in greater fat loss and in either maintaining or increasing lean mass.

Participants lost nearly twice as much weight and fat when consuming more dairy, compared with those who ate little or no dairy foods.

In the first study, 29 African-American adults were placed on reduced-calorie diets and randomly assigned to either a low dairy (0-1 servings/day) or high dairy (3 servings/day) diet. The average weight loss for the group eating 3 servings of dairy was nearly twice that of the group eating less dairy (24.2 pounds vs. 13.1 pounds). Average body fat loss in the high dairy group was more than twice that of the low dairy group (20 pounds vs. 8.7 pounds).

“After 24 weeks, we found that participants eating 3 daily servings of dairy preserved lean mass, which includes muscle, while losing about twice as much weight and fat compared to those eating 1 daily serving,” Zemel said.

In the second study, 34 African-American adults were placed on a diet to maintain their current weight and assigned to one of two groups – low dairy or high dairy intake. After 24 weeks, participants eating 3 daily servings of dairy had noticeable body fat loss and lean mass gain, versus the group eating 0-1 servings of dairy, which saw virtually no change.

African-Americans in this trial who consumed 3 servings a day of dairy also had significant decreases in blood pressure and circulating levels of insulin, suggesting an association between dairy intake and reduced risk for high blood pressure and insulin resistance, respectively.

The studies involved African-Americans, but the results are applicable to the general population, Zemel said.

“This research by Dr. Zemel indicates adults consuming three servings of dairy daily as part of a healthy diet may help reduce the risk for some obesity-related chronic diseases that disproportionately affect the African-American population, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” said National Medical Association president Winston Price, M.D.

Recently, the National Medical Association issued a Consensus Report that recommended African-Americans consume 3-4 servings of dairy foods each day to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Disease Risk Snapshot for African-Americans

– More than 60 percent of African-Americans are overweight
– Twenty-seven percent of men and nearly 50 percent of women are obese
– One in three African-Americans suffers from high blood pressure
– 2.7 million or 11.4 percent of all African-Americans age 20 years or older have type 1 or 2 diabetes

For more information on the studies, visit the North American Association for the Study of Obesity Web site at http://www.obesityresearch.org.

Contact: Dr. Michael Zemel (865-974-6238)