Milk May Help Dieters Maintain Weight Loss

Including milk and other milk products as part of a healthy weight management plan may help women keep off the weight they've lost. In a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that higher calcium intakes, mostly from milk and other milk products and not supplements, was linked to less weight gain 18 months after a significant weight loss.

A 100 milligram-increase in daily calcium intake from food -- the amount in just 1/3 cup of lowfat or fat free milk -- was associated with nearly 3.5 pounds less weight regain at 18 months, when holding calories constant. The same effect was not found with calcium supplements.

Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia tracked the weight maintenance habits of more than 100 overweight or obese women who lost an average of 21 pounds. Participants regained an average of 10 pounds at 18 months.

Calcium (averaging about 700 mg to 850 mg/day throughout the duration of the study) was the only nutrient studied that predicted weight regain, despite the fact that higher calcium intakes were also accompanied by higher calorie intakes. Researchers also looked at fat, protein carbohydrate and fiber, finding no link.

For many Americans, losing weight is an ongoing battle. Research suggests that only about 20% of overweight individuals are successful at long-term weight loss, making strategies to maintain a healthy weight or prevent weight regain equally as important as weight loss.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of lowfat or fat free milk each day, providing 90% of the 1,000 mg of recommended daily calcium. Lowfat and fat free milk is packed with nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein and potassium, especially important for dieters who may be missing out on important nutrients.

Ochner CN, Lowe MR. Self-reported changes in dietary calcium and energy intake predict weight regain following a weight loss diet in obese women. Journal of Nutrition. 2007;137:2324-2328.