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New Scientific Review Shows Milk Does Not Aid in Weight Loss

Milk-mustache ads featuring top celebrities claiming that milk helps them stay slim are ubiquitous in U.S. magazines, despite an ongoing controversy over the campaign’s scientific validity. But a comprehensive new review paper published this month in Nutrition Reviews shows just how little science is behind the ads. The review offers detailed scientific proof that dairy products do not reliably help people lose weight or body fat and can, in fact, cause weight gain.

PCRM senior nutrition scientist Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., and PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., carefully reviewed every study conducted from 1966 through August 2007 (and published in English) that examined whether dairy or calcium supplementation impacts weight loss or body fat. Some of the studies looked at children and adolescents, some at adults. Some of the studies restricted calories; others did not.

Of the 49 studies that Drs. Lanou and Barnard analyzed, 41 showed absolutely no effect on weight loss. Two showed that dairy products increased body weight. The only studies that showed any weight or body fat loss were funded by the dairy industry. None of the 18 studies investigating whether dairy or calcium supplementation help children or adolescents keep off weight showed any effect at all.

Last year, PCRM won a victory against the dairy industry when the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and two national dairy industry organizations agreed to stop a long-running weight-loss campaign because existing research did not support their claims. Rather than honor this agreement, the dairy industry simply reworded its claims, toning down the message only slightly.  

Recently, the industry unveiled a revamped ad campaign featuring Brooke Shields, Glenn Close, and other stars claiming that milk helps them maintain a healthy weight. With the publication of this conclusive Nutrition Reviews analysis, PCRM will step up its campaign to counteract the dairy industry’s weight-loss claims.

Dr. Lanou, an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, has lectured and published widely on the topic.


PCRM Online, May 2008

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