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KNOXVILLE — Recent University of Tennessee research continues to show that consuming dairy products positively impacts weight loss efforts. But the study’s authors caution that people should not overlook two key elements of a healthy lifestyle – exercise and calorie intake.

Dr. Michael Zemel, UT professor of nutrition and medicine and director of UT’s Nutrition Institute, carried out the study in partnership with Dr. W.G. Thompson of the Mayo Clinic. They found that obese adults who included four servings a day of dairy foods in a reduced-calorie diet lost a significant amount of weight and body fat. The yearlong study is the subject of an article released today in the August edition of Obesity Research, co-authored by Zemel and Thompson.

Seventy two obese adults followed three different reduced calorie diets for the randomized clinical trial. The diets were a “high dairy” diet that included four servings of dairy foods a day; a “high dairy/high fiber/low glycemic index” diet that included four servings of dairy; and a “moderate dairy” diet that included two servings of dairy foods each day. After 48 weeks, the participants in all three groups experienced significant weight and body fat loss.

While all groups lost similar amounts of weight, the participants in the “high dairy” group, who consumed four servings a day, were able to consume 100 to 150 more calories each day and still lose the same amount of weight as the dieters who consumed two servings of dairy a day.

Zemel said previously published clinical trials have found that overweight and obese adults who consumed three servings of dairy each day were able to lose twice as much weight and fat as those on low dairy, or inadequate amounts of dairy, diets (one serving or less) when the groups had similar reductions in calories.

“Although dairy products clearly help dieters achieve their goals, there have always been two key points to remember. The first is that calories count – they always have and they always will. Second is that the largest weight loss benefits of dairy consumption occur when it is used to correct inadequate intakes,” said Zemel. “For those who are already consuming adequate levels of dairy and calcium, no additional benefit is expected to result from consuming even more.”

Zemel pointed out that subjects who entered the study consuming the lowest level of dairy were really not on a low dairy/low calcium diet – as the subjects in previous studies were.

“It’s not surprising that the weight-loss benefit of dairy was less apparent in this study, since the methodology explored ‘moderate’ vs. ‘high’ dairy consumption instead of ‘inadequate’ vs. ‘adequate’ dairy consumption,” he said.

Numerous population-based studies have confirmed the connection between a diet adequate in dairy and lower obesity risk, he said.

Click here to read the Obesity Research article.

Michael Zemel (865-974-6238)
Tom Milligan (865-974-9438)