NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Downing lots of dairy food appears to do little in the short term for young women’s waistlines, despite earlier reports that eating dairy products can help people lose weight, new study findings show.
After following women for one year, Indiana researchers found that those who ate the most dairy — equivalent to 3 to 4 glasses of milk per day — were no more likely to gain or lose weight than people who took in no more than the equivalent of 1 glass of milk per day.
These findings suggest that if dairy products have any effect on body weight, it may take longer than a year to make a noticeable difference, study author Dr. Dorothy Teegarden of Purdue University in West Lafayette told Reuters Health.
“It is likely that the effect of calcium or dairy products on preventing gain of body fat is relatively small, and therefore it will take a long time to see the changes,” she said.
“However, a small difference, potentially by consuming calcium or dairy, may make a big difference over several years,” she added.
Now that obesity has become a major public health concern, researchers are looking for ways to shrink the nation’s growing waistline. An increasing amount of evidence has suggested that the more calcium people get, the more likely they are to lose weight.
For instance, in one study that followed 54 young women for 2 years, investigators found that the more calcium women consumed, the more weight and body fat they lost.
However, not all studies have linked calcium to weight loss, with some showing that it appears to have no effect on body fat or weight. To investigate further, Teegarden and her colleagues followed 155 women between the ages of 18 and 30 for one year, noting their intake of calcium and whether their weight changed.
Women’s preference for calcium appeared to have no effect on their body fat or weight, the authors report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Teegarden explained that it was “not surprising” that women didn’t lose weight, given that they were all young, active, and already at a healthy weight. “We expected women of this age to gain weight,” she said. She noted that the original purpose of the study was to determine if calcium helps stop women from gaining weight. However, since none of the women – even low-calcium consumers – appeared to gain weight, this study sheds little light on whether calcium has any impact on weight gain, she noted.
“We can definitely say that adding dairy to your diet does not increase weight or body fat,” Teegarden said.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2005.