from Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, December, 2011

The Journal of Nutrition reports that combining calorie restriction and daily exercise with high dairy and protein intake builds more muscle and trims more dangerous belly fat than a low-dairy, low-protein diet.

Researchers at McMaster University divided 90 obese but otherwise healthy women into three groups and studied them for four months.  Each group ate either low, medium or high amounts of dairy foods, protein, and carbohydrates.  Each group exercised seven days per week.

At the end of four months, the weight loss for each group was identical.  But the high-dairy and high-protein group had greater whole-body fat and abdominal fat losses, greater lean mass gains and greater increases in strength.

The low-protein, low-dairy group lost about a pound and half of muscle, whereas the high-protein, high-dairy group gained a pound and a half of muscle—a three-pound difference between the two diets.

“One hundred percent of the weight lost in the higher-protein, high-dairy group was fat.  And the participants gained muscle mass, which is a major change in body composition,” says Andrea Josse, lead author of the study.  “The preservation or even gain of muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be (a) major problem for many seeking to lose weight.

“Fat in the abdomen is thought to be especially bad for cardiovascular and metabolic health, and it seems—according to what we found in this study—increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body.”

This study was sponsored in part by the dairy industry.

          How much dairy do you need?

The USDA’s MyPlate website, based on the latest federal Dietary Guidelines, advises all adults to consume three cups of dairy foods daily.  One cup of milk or calcium–fortified soymilk, 8 fluid ounces of yogurt, 2 cups of cottage cheese, ½ cup of ricotta cheese, 1½ cups of ice cream, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese and 1½ ounces of hard cheese all count as “one cup” toward your daily dairy goal.

Not all dairy choices are equally healthy, however:  The guidelines emphasize the importance of switching to fat-free or low-fat (1%) dairy products.  If you usually drink whole milk, try changing gradually:  First switch to reduced fat (2%), then low-fat (1%), and finally fat-free (skim).

For guidelines for proteins and other food groups, go to

To stay abreast of Lake County Battles Obesity, visit Ron Graham’s blog for the Lake County General Health District at   Visit often.  The life and limb you save may be your own.

2 responses to “BYE-BYE, BEER BELLY

  1. Many sources that I have consulted discourage a steady seven day a week exercise regimen. Six days with one rest day is recommended to allow the body to rebuild. Alternate heavy and light workouts.

  2. I do agree. Diet & exercise experts frequently seem to contradict each other and even themselves. Remember when deep knee squats were advocated?

    It’s important to keep advice in context. The 90 women were in a closely supervised study. I would never set out to exercise 7 days in a row on my own. But I would give it a chance if I were under close supervision in a legitimate research study.

    Thanks for the comment.

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