By Morgan Roan
University of Georgia
In a study published in "Lipids" in 2003, Michael Zemel, director of the University of Tennessee Nutrition Institute, found that "low-calcium diets impede body fat loss, whereas high-calcium diets markedly accelerate fat loss."
Zemel, author of a new diet book, "The Calcium Factor," said the calcium effect in slowing weight and fat gain and speeding fat loss is greater when the source is milk and other dairy products.
Another study by Zemel and others, to be published in the April "Obesity Research," had similar findings.
Good for youMilk has about 12 grams of carbs per cup and 8 grams of protein, said Connie Crawley, a nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Adults and children both should drink or eat at least three servings of fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products a day, she said.
"The longer a person goes without healthy carbs such as milk, fruits, vegetables and whole grains," she said, "the more damage it could cause the body."
Reduces disease riskCrawley said research has consistently shown that "people who eat significant amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products on a regular basis have a lower risk for developing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers."
Milk is a key source of Vitamin D, which helps grow strong bones. It has a lot of Vitamin A and riboflavin, too.
"If you cut out milk from your diet, not many other food sources contain a considerable amount of fortified Vitamin D," Crawley said. "Neither cheese nor yogurt contains a lot of Vitamin D."
High in proteinMany Atkins dieters avoid drinking milk because it's high in carbs. The diet calls for high-protein foods with few carbs. While milk does contain carbohydrates, the protein in one cup of skim milk is also equal to that in 1 ounce of meat.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, "dietary calcium intake can help promote this loss," said Cheryl Hayn, nutritional program manager for the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association.
When a person loses weight, Hayn said, muscle is usually burned first, then fat. Studies have shown, however, that calcium may also help preserve muscle mass during weight loss.
(Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. CAES news editor Dan Rahn also contributed to this article.)