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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Debunking the Dairy Myth

There's a new magazine, from the publishers of Runner's World and Men's Health, called Women's Health. What a great idea for a magazine!

The lead headline on the cover reads:

Your Most Stubborn BELLY FAT GONE! The Secret? Eat This Food To Lose 81 Percent More Belly Fat.

Really? I have some stubborn belly fat. Don't many of us? Do tell me more!

Women who added this food to their daily diet lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more stomach fat than people who ignored it!! ... A University of Tennessee study found that people who ate three servings of yogurt a day lost astounding amounts of body fat when compared to those who didn't eat any.

I think the trial they're talking about is this:
Zemel MB. et al. Effects of calcium and dairy on body composition and weight loss in African-American adults. Obesity Research. 13(7):1218-25, 2005 Jul.

First off, this isn't new information -- it's from almost two years ago!! It was also, as you can see from the title, a study of African-Americans. Most importantly, no other researcher has published a study corroborating that consuming dairy leads to weight loss.

I wrote a letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

I am a physician and a subscriber to Runner's World. My interest was piqued by the glossy sample of your new magazine, Women's Health. However, I was very disappointed by the suggestion to your readers to consume three servings of yogurt daily to lose weight.

Three studies, all by one researcher, Dr. Michael Zemel, and including fewer than a combined total of seventy patients, show any link between dairy and weight loss. No other study has found a link between dairy and weight loss; in fact, no researcher has corroborated Dr. Zemel's findings. In fact, Dr. Zemel's research is funded by the dairy industry and he has patented the claim of consuming dairy to lose weight.

I provide you the following references that would contradict your statement that women should have three servings of yogurt per day:

Thompson WG. Rostad Holdman N. Janzow DJ. Slezak JM. Morris KL. Zemel MB. Effect of energy-reduced diets high in dairy products and fiber on weight loss in obese adults. Obesity Research. 13(8):1344-53, 2005 Aug.

Bowen J. Noakes M. Clifton PM. Effect of calcium and dairy foods in high protein, energy-restricted diets on weight loss and metabolic parameters in overweight adults. International Journal of Obesity. 29(8):957-65, 2005 Aug.

Harvey-Berino J. Gold BC. Lauber R. Starinski A. The impact of calcium and dairy product consumption on weight loss. Obesity Research. 13(10):1720-6, 2005 Oct.

Lanou AJ. Data do not support recommending dairy products for weight loss. Obesity Research. 13(1):191, 2005 Jan

I would also suggest you go to, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

This story reflects one of two possibilities: First, your writer may not have done his or her research on the topic beyond the claims of the dairy industry. Or, worse yet, the editorial influence of certain researchers or organizations such as the dairy industry are greatly biasing the content of your magazine. Either way, this is not the type of magazine that I would wish to read, nor would I recommend it to my patients.



Ellen said...

Dear VeganDoc,

1. Kudos to you for debunking the myth. Those powerful lobbies are deluding so many people. We have to counter their false claims whenever possible. Milk. It does a body good. Yeah, right.
2. You sent me a comment at my blog about the tofutti sour cream. I've been looking at the different WF's I go to (mostly Framingham, Bellingham) and at Trader Joe's. No luck. If you could recommend a particular WF in the Boston area where I might find it, I would appreciate it.
3. Like you, I've been suffering from plantar fasciitis (spelling, oy?). Tried everything and I mean everything. Yesterday, my chiro did her voodoo on my soles. My left sole, which has been REALLY bad lately, was 50% better when I awoke this morning. Of course, I'm going for a full recovery, but for now, I'll take 50%!

Gluten FreeVegan said...

You GO GIRL! You tell them...the "big" industries try to tell us what we need so they can sell more of it, not necessary to "do our body good"!

I love it when other write letters speaking up...someone has to!

Brenda W. said...


Would you let us know if Women's Health publishes your letter or not?

Unfortunately, my guess is that they will not, but I'd like to know if they do!


bazu said...

Thank you so much for writing that letter! As a doctor, you did it in a much more powerful way than I could have, but I'm so tired of hearing the dairy/weight loss crap, based on a few studies, that should have been debunked a long time ago instead of receiving so much publicity that it becomes accepted knowlege. Sigh!

Urban Vegan said...

You go, Vegan Doc! The pull of the dairy and meat lobbies are absolutely shameful.

KathyF said...

"show any link between dairy and weight loss."

Did you mean "do not show any link"?

Great letter! And thanks for the references; I'll look those up on PubMed.

Melissa said...

A good magazine publishes the good with the hopefully they do publish your letter! Or at least respond to it.
Good for you for speaking up about this...many people don't read things very critically and will just accept it because its attached to a "study".
Being a science student, they try and teach us to think critically, but becoming vegan has done just as much, haha.

Melody said...

I'm so glad you wrote this to them...

maybe they will be inclined to do a little more research before they just print something with so little scientific backing.. I swear, it drives me CRAZY to see how many studies are funding by those who will benefit.. big time corporations and business.

Veg-a-Nut said...

You go Doc! I am so glad you let them have it and with supporting documentation to boot! Awesome! Thanks!