Media alert: New study finds dairy is not associated with weight gain

Full body of evidence remains positive for dairy's role in weight loss

Calcium intake was not associated with weight gain in men over a 12-year period, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1. The study included more than 19,000 healthy men aged 40-75 years who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers evaluated the relationship between total calcium intake from diet and supplements and changes in body weight based on self reported weight at the beginning and end of the 12-year study period. Study participants followed their normal diets, not calorie-restricted diets.

This research is consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommend 3 servings of low-fat dairy foods each day and recognize that intake of dairy foods does not contribute to extra weight gain.

In addition to research that demonstrates dairy foods do not contribute to extra weight gain, dozens of studies provide compelling evidence that consuming 3 servings a day of milk, cheese and yogurt as part of a reduced-calorie weight loss plan may help adults achieve better results than just cutting calories with little or no dairy, according to Greg Miller, PhD, executive vice president, National Dairy Council.

The current body of evidence includes randomized clinical trials (considered the "gold standard" of science), observational, animal and cellular studies conducted by leading research institutions throughout the country. This intriguing connection also is being studied worldwide – with positive results reported in Denmark, Greece, Italy and other countries.

"The good news for the public is that you can follow the MyPyramid recommendation for 3 servings of dairy foods each day and get the nutrition benefits without concern of extra weight gain," Miller said. "If you're cutting calories to lose weight, it's important to get your 3 servings of dairy foods each day for good health and to enhance your weight loss efforts."

Though more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between dairy and weight, experts suggest this emerging role for dairy foods is another good reason for people to meet current Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 3 servings a day of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.


For a review of this extensive research visit:

Key Facts:

Additional benefits to dairy consumption noted by this study include findings that dairy eaters were less likely to have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels and tended to have a higher intake of cereal fiber and vitamin D.

The authors of this observational study acknowledge that the results regarding calcium and weight gain are not conclusive, noting that "whether calcium supplementation or increased dairy intake is beneficial in preventing weight gain needs to be further studied in long-term randomized trials."

Studies published in Obesity Research showed that adults on a reduced-calorie diet who consumed 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day lost significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories and consumed little or no dairy2,3,4.

Numerous observational studies exploring dietary intake patterns and body weight in various population groups have suggested that getting adequate amounts of dairy not only promotes an overall healthy diet, but may also promote a healthy weight.

Rajpathak SN, Rimm EB, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hu FB. Calcium and dairy intakes in relation to long-term weight gain in US men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;83:559-566.
2 Zemel MB, Thompson W, Milstead A, Morris K, Campbell P. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obesity Research. 2004. 12(4): 582-590.
3 Zemel MB, Richards J, Milstead A, Campbell P. Effects of calcium and dairy on body composition and weight loss in African-American adults. Obesity Research. 2005 13(7): 1218-1225.
4 Thompson WG, Holdman NR, Janzow DJ, Slezak JM, Morris KL, Zemel MB. Effect of energy-reduced diets high in dairy products and fiber on weight loss in obese adults. Obesity Research. 2005; 13:1344-1353.

To discuss dairy's role in healthy weight, we can connect you with any of the following experts:

Michael Zemel, PhD – Michael Zemel is a professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Medicine and Director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Zemel researches the role of calcium and dairy foods on weight and cellular calcium regulation in relation to obesity. He has published more than 135 research papers in prestigious journals and authored the book "The Calcium Key."

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD – Keith-Thomas Ayoob is an Associate Clinical Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City where he has maintained a clinical practice for over 20 years. Dr. Ayoob has worked extensively in the area of obesity, heart health and family dynamics and specializes in motivational counseling. He is the author of the new book "The Uncle Sam Diet."

Greg D. Miller, PhD – Greg is executive vice president of nutrition and scientific affairs for the National Dairy Council and serves as a national media spokesperson for the dairy industry. An expert in health and nutrition, he has published more than 130 research papers, reviews, articles, and abstracts on various nutrition topics. He is co-author of the Handbook of Dairy Foods and Nutrition, which is distributed by the National Dairy Council.

The National Dairy Council® (NDC) is managed by Dairy Management Inc., the nonprofit domestic and international marketing, planning and management organization for U.S.-produced dairy products on behalf of America's dairy farmers.

IDFA is the Washington, DC–based organization representing the nation's dairy processing and manufacturing industries and their suppliers. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). Its 500–plus members range from large multinational corporations to single–plant operations, and represent more than 85% of the total volume of milk, cultured products, cheese, and ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States -- an estimated $90–billion a year industry. IDFA can be found online at

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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