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Does Eating More Dairy Help you Lose Weight?

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Diet is a massive part of any successful weight loss strategy, and its important that you choose the best foods to help you achieve your goals.

Whilst dairy foods can be high in fat, it appears that emerging research suggests that by including this food group int your eating plan, you may well be able to increase your weight and fat loss.

In this article we’ll let you know all there is to know about this type of food, and whether it can help you with your weight loss goals.

Read on to find out:

  • What is dairy?
  • The importance of calcium for weight loss
  • Can more of this food source help with weight loss?
  • Summary

What is dairy?

Dairy foods are made from the milk of mammals and include products such milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and whey.

These foods are a good source of protein and fats, as well as iodine to help your thyroid gland control your metabolism and B vitamins to control energy. They also contain vitamin D, magnesium and calcium – which is a mineral with many important functions linked to weight loss.

Intolerances to lactose – the sugar in these foods, is relatively common so it goes without saying that if you think you might have an intolerance then it would be wise to look for alternatives that will not cause an inflammatory response.

The importance of calcium for weight loss

Calcium is an important mineral as it supports the skeleton by keeping bones and teeth healthy and strong. Not only that but calcium is also important in regulating muscle contraction, vascular health and ensuring that your cells and enzymes function effectively.

Dietary calcium also appears to play an important role in the regulation of energy and weight loss, with many studies showing that high levels of the mineral decrease body fat and weight gain during periods of over-consumption.

They have also been shown to increase fat breakdown and preserve metabolism during caloric restriction, thereby markedly accelerating weight and fat loss.

One position statement suggests that calcium and milk-based food intake can influence many components of energy and fat balance, indicating that inadequate intake may increase the risk of positive energy balance and of other health problems [1].

Read on to look at the studies…


Key Point: Dairy foods come from the milk of mammals and contain protein, fats, and a number of vitamins and minerals including calcium.

Does dairy help with weight loss?

There are a surprising number of studies that link this common farm product to successful weight loss regimes. Here is a breakdown of the best ones:

#Study 1: Zemel et al [2]

32 obese adults were placed on a deficit diet for 24 weeks – they had to eat 500kcal lower than what was required to maintain body weight. The volunteers were placed into one of three groups

  • Group 1: standard diet – around 400 to 500 mg of dietary calcium per day
  • Group 2: high calcium diet – standard diet supplemented with 800 mg of calcium per day
  • Group 3: high dairy diet – 1200 to 1300 mg of dietary calcium per day

The investigators wanted to look at any differences between groups on weight loss as well as fat loss.

Group 1 lost on average 6.4% of their body weight, and group 2 lost 8.6% which clearly shows the importance of calcium for weight management. Group 3 though lost even more weight – 10.9% of body weight, which is 70% more than group 1. Results were similar for fat loss too with group 3 losing 64% more fat than group 1.

Moreover, fat loss from the trunk region represented 19% of total fat loss in group 1, and this fraction was increased to 50.1% in group 2 and a staggering 66.2% in group 3!

#Study 2: Zemel et al [3]

In this study, 34 African-American volunteers were given diets with the same amount of calories in them, but assigned into one of two groups –

  • Group 1: Low dairy and calcium diet – 500 mg per day, 1 serving)
  • Group 2: High dairy and calcium diet – 1200 mg per day, 3 servings)

The amount of calories in each diet wasn’t only the same, but purposely chosen to so that it didn’t restrict energy – it was based on weight maintenance.

The results found that neither group lost weight, however group 2 did lose 2.16kg of fat mass, 1.03kg of which was from the abdominal area. 

So far, the two studies discussed used obese individuals and you could argue that any intervention would result in weight loss. So what about healthy, trained volunteers?

#Study 3: Hartman et al [4]

This study from McMaster University, used 3 groups of young men, and provided them with a 12-week resistance exercise program of five-days-per-week. After each workout, and again 1 hour later, the volunteers drank either

  • Skimmed milk
  • A soy drink
  • A carbohydrate drink.

The results of the study showed that the milk group lost twice as much as the carbohydrate group – 2lb. The soy group lost no fat mass at all.

Additionally, the reviewers of the study suggested that milk had also been shown to give rise to a positive muscle protein balance – so the increase in lean muscle would also help to boost the metabolism of the group.

So there is definitely enough evidence to show you that foods rich in this nutrient should be a part of your diet if you intend to lose weight or fat. What is worth noting though is that you need to aim for calcium-rich sources and where possible keep an eye on fat content – as fat has 9kcal per gram it is quite energy dense.


Key Point: Evidence suggests that diets rich in calcium from dairy foods can help you lose weight and fat mass, as well as increase lean tissue levels.

Summary – does dairy help with weight loss?

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and why provide us with energy and are a great source of protein and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals such as calcium.

Research suggests that when calcium is implemented into a diet – particularly when provided via foods such as milk and cheese, it is useful in boosting weight and fat loss. The protein element of this nutrient is also useful in elevating muscle protein synthesis, which will in turn help you to add muscle and increase your metabolic rate.

It is clear that this nutrient has the potential to help you lose fat, but this isn’t free reign to eat as much as you want– it is still important to aim for a slight calorie restriction when looking to accelerate weight loss – and with many of the successful studies using 500kcal per day deficit, that seems like a good place to start.

As dairy, particularly full fat, can be quite calorific, you need to be aware that eating or drinking too much will contribute toward a positive energy balance which may add weight in the long term.


  1. Major GC et al. Recent developments in calcium-related obesity research. Obes Rev. 2008; 9(5): 428-45
  2. Zemel, MB et al. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obes Res. 2004; 12(4): 582-90.
  3. Zemel, MB et al. Effects of calcium and dairy on body composition and weight loss in African-American adults Obes Res. 2005; 13(7): 1218-25.
  4. Hartman, JW et al. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86(2): 373-381