Lose fat, gain muscle

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Most people don’t realize when a person loses weight, they lose fat and muscle, but new research indicates dairy foods may actually help dieters keep the muscle and lose even more fat.

Two separate clinical trials of obese African-American adults published recently in Obesity Research(1) reveal that including three servings of dairy daily results in greater fat loss and in either keeping or increasing lean mass. When following a reduced-calorie diet, participants lost twice as much weight and fat when consuming more dairy.

Weight loss study

In the first study, 29 African-American adults were placed on reduced-calorie diets, and randomly assigned to either a low dairy (zero to one servings/day) or high dairy (three servings/day) diet. The average weight loss for the group eating three 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 three daily servings of dairy preserved lean mass, which includes muscle, while losing about twice as much weight and fat compared to those eating one daily serving,” said lead researcher Michael Zemel, Ph.D., professor of nutrition, director of the Nutrition Institute, University of Tennessee.

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 three daily servings of dairy had noticeable body fat loss and lean mass gain, versus the group eating zero to one servings of dairy, which saw virtually no change.

African Americans in this trial who consumed three 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.

“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 the Consensus Report that recommends African Americans consume three to four servings of dairy foods each day to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.(2)

Disease risk snapshot for African Americans

More than 60 percent of African Americans are overweight (3)

Twenty-seven percent of men and nearly 50 percent of women are obese (3)

One in three African Americans suffer from high blood pressure (3)

2.7 million or 11.4 percent of all African Americans age 20 years or older have type 1 or 2 diabetes (4)

Additional information “Dairy and Weight Management—A Look at the Science” can be found at www.nationaldairycouncil.org and www.midwestdairy.com. In addition, delicious recipes and tips on how to get 3-A-Day of Dairy are available at www.3aday.org.


1. Zemel, M, et al. Effects of calcium and dairy on body composition and weight loss in African-American adults. Obesity Research. 2005 13(7): 1218-1225.

2. Wooten, W., et al. The Role of Dairy and Dairy Nutrients in the Diet of African-Americans. Journal of National Medication Association. 2004. 96(12):20S-24S.

3. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004. With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. Hyattsville, Md. 2004. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus04trend.pdf#069

4. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diaabetes.org/about-diabetes.jsp

From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue

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