Including dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt in a weight loss diet can help accelerate fat loss, according to a new scientific review published in the International Journal of Obesity .
Researchers identified 16 studies which looked at the effect of dairy consumption on weight, body fat mass, waist circumference and lean muscle mass in adults.
After reviewing the studies, they concluded that consumption of 3-4 serves of dairy foods, as part of a calorie-restricted diet led to greater weight and fat loss compared to a standard calorie-restricted diet.
The increased dairy diets also led to a greater loss of fat from around the tummy.
Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Zucco said the research showed including dairy in your weight loss diet not only helps you to lose fat, but also maintain or gain lean muscle mass.
"Preserving or gaining muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be a major problem for people wanting to lose weight," she said.
While the mechanisms for dairy’s weight loss benefits are not certain, the study authors suggested important nutrients found in dairy such as calcium, protein and certain fatty acids may be involved.
Earlier research suggested dairy calcium may accelerate weight loss by decreasing the amount of fat absorbed from foods.
Dairy foods are also naturally high in quality proteins such as whey protein, which has been shown to boost lean muscle development.
Recent evidence suggests dairy’s affect on appetite regulation may also play a role in weight loss benefits.
“Dairy protein and calcium are thought to help control hunger, particularly in a calorie-restricted diet,” Ms Zucco said.
“More research is needed to understand how dairy foods increase weight loss when dieting, but in the meantime, enjoying three servings of dairy foods each day as part of a nutrient-rich, balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight.”
A serve of dairy is equal to 250ml of milk, 200g of yogurt or 40g of cheese.
Abargouei, E.S. et, al. (2012) ‘Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.’ International Journal of Obesity (2012) 1 -9
Shahar D.R. 2010 “Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D, and successful weight loss”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29355