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Milk, Calcium and Weight Loss

New research shows that calcium, in particular milk and dairy products can be an aid to weight loss.

The Right Stuff

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

It’s good news that milk is finally starting to recover from the bad press it’s had over the years. Most negative information about the white stuff has been unjustified and its package of important nutrients has been overlooked.

In particular, milk is a good source of protein, zinc and some B vitamins. But it’s also one of the main providers of calcium, a mineral that not only helps to keep bones strong, but according to recent research, may also help us lose weight.

Sadly, many slimmers avoid milk and dairy products because they think they’re ‘fattening’. In fact, a pint of skimmed milk contains just 190 calories and 0.6g fat, while a pint of semi-skimmed milk contains 260 calories and 9g fat – that’s less than most small chocolate bars!

But by ditching dairy, slimmers are not only missing out on bone-building calcium. They’re also missing out on a potentially important fat fighter! Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana found that young, normal weight women who had 1,000mg of calcium every day – the amount of calcium found in about 1½ pints of semi-skimmed milk – lost about 6lb over two years.

Similar results have been found in other studies, too. Leading calcium expert, Dr Michael Zemel and colleagues, analysed the diets of 32 obese adults and discovered that those people eating three servings of low-fat dairy products a day lost more than 10% of their body weight. In contrast, those taking calcium supplements or those who had little calcium or dairy in their diet lost only 8% and 6% of their body weight, respectively.

All the research suggests that calcium alone can help weight loss, but the effects seems to be more dramatic when it’s taken in the form of dairy products.

More work needs to be carried out to confirm the findings of these studies, but so far, results look promising. Consequently, don’t be tempted to ditch the dairy and instead make sure you include low-fat products in your diet – aim for three servings daily such as a glass of milk, 1 small pot of low-fat yoghurt and a matchbox-sized piece of cheese. Your taste buds, bones and waistline will love you for it, and it could be better for your health than you think.

Milk and Health

Milk became a headline topper in June when a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health revealed that a diet rich in milk doesn’t actually increase the risk of heart disease and stroke – and may even help to prevent them! In the study, men who drank the most milk every day (more than a pint) were found to have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who drank the least (less than half a pint). Meanwhile, cholesterol and blood pressure readings were similar in high and low milk consumers. The authors concluded by saying, “The present perception of milk as harmful in increasing cardiovascular risk should be challenged and every effort should be made to restore it to its rightful place in a healthy diet.”

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