The Dairy Myth

January 21, 2015

Doesn’t it seem that for most of us we often have weight loss on our minds? We’ve been told that milk and other dairy products can be helpful in the battle of the bulge.

But is it true?

Just as they successfully sold pork to us as ‘the other white meat,’ marketers are hoping to sell us on the notion that milk and dairy products are the ‘second coming’ of weight loss. You may have thought this fight was over, but read one women’s magazine and you will find a celebrity endorsement of milk as a way to achieve your ideal weight.

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an activist physicians group has waged this battle for some time now, filing lawsuits that accuse the dairy industry of fraudulently claiming that people can shed pounds by consuming more dairy products.

The lawsuits contend the industry has promoted the weight-loss notion through a “massive, deceptive advertising campaign.” The committee says overwhelming scientific evidence shows that dairy products cause weight gain (simply because their addition in a dish doubles the calories in many instances) or have no effect on weight.  The dairy industry strongly defends its contention that consuming dairy products helps with weight loss…when coupled with calorie restriction. Really?

So what’s going on?  The dairy industry’s contention is based solely on studies conducted by Michael B. Zemel, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Tennessee back in 2010.  And his objectivity may have been compromised because his research was funded by the dairy industry (to the tune of $1.7 million, plus royalties from General Mills and Dairy Management, Inc).  This, however unappealing, is not the crux of the problem. 

It’s all about calcium.  Studies show that when a person consumes adequate calcium in their diet, they tend to lose weight more quickly than someone not consuming adequate calcium.  In studies done at University of Vermont, the results were completely opposite to Dr. Zemel’s findings.  After one year, the women in the study who ate lots of dairy did not lose as much weight as the group eating little or no dairy.

Confused yet? You have to read the ‘fine print.’ Dr. Zemel’s studies do not say that simply chugging more milk will help shed pounds. His research has been done on people eating 500 fewer calories a day than they would normally and his conclusion was that dairy can aid in weight loss and body fat reduction if someone is already cutting calories.  But ads show slim models, actresses and athletes eating dairy products, conveying the message that milk is keeping them slim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While dairy products contain lots of valuable calcium, a large percentage of it is unusable by the human body (creating the market for enriched dairy products that can aid in absorption). Better sources for our calcium needs come from dark, green leafy vegetables, like kale, collards and broccoli and dark beans, like black beans and kidney beans. Why, as humans, are we not as smart as cows? They eat grass and other greens and they have all the calcium they need!

Additionally, studies show (even Dr. Zemel’s) that if you are already getting enough calcium, anywhere from 900 to 1,200 milligrams, adding more dairy will probably not do anything for weight loss.

“Our message has always been very conservative — that three servings a day as part of a reduced-calorie diet may help promote weight loss,” said Isabel Maples, a dietician speaking for the dairy council. 

I believe this statement says it all…

It’s time for us to stand up and demand that they stop lying, by omission, subversion of facts or spin. If we are to regain our collective health, we need to stop looking for permission to continue to eat the foods that are making us fat and sick. It’s important to remember that Papa John, Wendy and the Laughing Cow have no concern for anyone’s health except that of their bottom lines. It’s time to wake up and take our health back from the pirates who are selling us poison and calling it food.

Try these calcium-rich recipes that will do more for your health than dairy products ever could.