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Calcium a key to beating Christmas bulge

14 December 2005
Media Release

Calcium a key to beating Christmas bulge

Adding dairy to your diet could be a great way for Kiwis to counter the effects on their waistlines of traditional Christmas over-indulgence, according to recent scientific studies.

Clinical trials have shown a strong correlation between increased calcium intake and reduced body weight, body fat percentage and waist size.

Furthermore, the research shows that eating or drinking calcium-rich dairy foods appears to produce substantially better benefits than taking calcium supplements.

With news last week that New Zealand is ranked the seventh fattest nation in the OECD, with around 21 percent of the population clinically obese, the results couldn’t have come at a better time.

Beverly Watson, Nutrition Manager for Fonterra Brands, says at this time of year people are torn between the desire to get in shape for summer, and the temptations of the Christmas table.

“Unfortunately, due to misconceptions around the fat content of dairy products, many people trying to lose weight cut back or even cut out the dairy in their diet. Now we are realising that this approach to weight management may be counterproductive, Ms Watson says.

“Eating at least three daily servings of dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese is a dietary behaviour that has the potential to help prevent weight gain and treat obesity. This new benefit of dairy comes in addition to those that are already well known such as helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and hypertension.”

One of the earliest observations that dairy may help in the management of body fat occurred in a 1980s hypertension study sponsored by the US National Dairy Council. The subjects were given two cups of yoghurt per day for a year which resulted in a significant reduction in blood pressure and, unexpectedly, an average 4.9kg reduction in body weight.

Since then a number of other studies have confirmed these results. In 2004 a six-month clinical trial of 32 obese young adults showed that those who went on a high dairy diet lost 70 percent more weight and 64 percent more body fat than those on a standard calorie-reduced diet. Results of a study published this year showed obese adults who consumed three servings of dairy per day as part of a balanced, modestly-reduced calorie diet lost twice as much fat as those who consumed one serving.

The authors of the 2004 report found that a high calcium diet suppresses the active form of vitamin D which decreases fat formation and increases fat breakdown. They also found that dairy sources of calcium are twice as effective as calcium alone for weight maintenance, and concluded this was probably because of the rich collection of bioactive components that act together in dairy to reduce weight.


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