Diet & Nutrition

Myths & facts about dairy

Studies show dairy foods help rather than hinder weight loss, although scientists don’t yet understand why.

If you choose to swap dairy for other sources of calcium, protein and nutrients because you’re worried about weight gain, asthma, mucus, acne or cancer, you’d be wise not to.

According to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, research hasn’t identified any links between breast cancer and dairy. What’s more, numerous studies show milk does not cause mucus production, is rarely a trigger for asthma and isn’t linked to acne.

As for weight gain, studies show dairy foods help rather than hinder weight loss, although scientists don’t yet understand why.

Recent Australian research by the CSIRO searched five global databases of scientific journals to find the results of all studies into the effects of dairy during energy restriction on body weight and composition in 18 to 50-year-olds, of which 90 per cent were women. The studies showed consuming dairy as part of an energy-restricted diet resulted in around 1.5kg greater fat loss compared to consuming a diet low in dairy, and female participants retained 75 per cent more lean muscle mass compared to those on low dairy diets.

Further research in online journal Nutrients found dairy consumption was associated with improved body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and waist circumference. The same goes for gaining weight.

“Saying that eating too much dairy is going to make you gain weight would be the same as saying eating too much meat or eating too many chips is going to make you gain weight,” says Wall.

“If it’s part of a balanced diet and you’re eating it within your total energy requirements for the day, then it’s not going to make you, on its own, gain more weight.”

When it comes to heart health, the Heart Foundation recommends low-fat dairy be consumed as part of a varied, healthy diet.

“A heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to include dairy, but we don’t recommend people remove any food group unless there is a specific medically diagnosed reason to do so,” says Monro.

Words: Angela Tufvesson

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