With obesity rates on the rise, the relationship between dairy and weight management has come under scrutiny. The high fat content in cheese, cream and other dairy products have prompted some nutritionists to link dairy to weight gain. However, some recent studies have indicated otherwise.
Susanne Eriksson, a researcher based at University of Gothenburg, investigated, for her PhD research thesis, the nutritional intake, bone mineralization and metabolism markers in a group of healthy eight-year-olds, relating these parameters to body composition, growth, socio-economic variables, physical activity and health.
She said that the study’s results showed an inverse association between consumption of full fat milk and BMI in the study cohort, with no similar association being seen for the intake of medium or low fat milk.
"This is an interesting observation, but we don't know why it is so. It may be the case that children who drink full-fat milk tend also to eat other things that affect their weight. Another possible explanation is that children who do not drink full-fat milk drink more soft drinks instead," said Eriksson.
The study population was representative of that in Sweden except that more parents held a university degree, and 17 per cent of the children were overweight, she added.
Questionnaires on food choice, health, physical activity and socioeconomic variables were used and blood samples were obtained for analysis of metabolic markers, stated Eriksson.
Moreover, she said, the results showed a difference between overweight children who drink full-fat milk every day and those who do not. Children who often drink milk with a fat content of three per cent are less overweight.
Eriksson said that the thesis further demonstrated that the children eat more saturated fat than recommended, but those children who have a high intake of fat have a lower BMI than the children with a lower intake of fat.
And another recently published study suggests that increasing dairy consumption from three to five servings a day in the context of a reduced calorie diet can help fight obesity.
Researchers at the New Curtin University of Technology in Australia conducted a 12-week trial to study the impact of eating more cheese, yoghurt and low fat milk on weight levels.
Those eating more dairy products benefited from higher mean levels of weight loss, high mean levels of fat mass loss, greater drop of fat mass loss, and greater total percentage abdominal fat loss.
Dr Wendy Chan She Ping Delfos, who conducted the study with associate professor Mario Soares, identified the nutrients in dairy products responsible for the positive health effects.
“Increasing dairy intake to five serves per day as part of a reduced calorie diet has never been studied before, and such diets containing high levels of protein, calcium and vitamin D, among other bioactive nutrients, can be an important part of a prudent weight loss or weight maintenance diet,” said Delfos.