Got Controversy? The Milk Industry and the Weight Loss Band Wagon

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You’ve probably seen the yogurt ads that promise to help you fit into an ‘itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow dot bikini’ or read posters with the slogan “Milk your diet. Lose weight!” (campaign from National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board). Well, no more!  According to a recent ruling by the Federal Trade commission, the dairy industry can no longer make any such claims.

Several years ago, soon after studies touted milk as a possible metabolism booster were published worldwide the dairy industry (ahem) ‘milked it’ for all they could.

April 17, 2000 — Got milk? New research suggests you should if you want to lose weight. The study shows that calcium — three or four daily servings of low-fat dairy products — can help adjust your body’s fat-burning machinery.  (WebMD.com)

But the good (and profitable) times that were once rolling have finally come to a screeching halt.  Recently, following a 2005-filed petition from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the nation’s dairy industry will no longer make claims in their advertisements that dairy products encourage weight loss.

“Only one researcher – who has a financial stake in the outcome – showed a statistically significant effect of dairy product consumption on weight loss and only when paired with a strict caloric restriction,” argued PCRM in the petition.

According to PCRM, the two most-published clinical trials cited by the dairy industry involved small sample sizes and were both funded by the dairy council or General Mills (which makes Yoplait). Michael B. Zemel, MD, director of the University of Tennessee’s Nutrition Institute, led both studies.

PCRM asserts that because Dr. Zemel has a patent on his findings, dairy companies must pay him directly to cite his studies in their ads, and that makes his results suspect. In addition, other research, such as the recent Purdue University study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have found no significant association between dairy consumption and weight or body fat changes.

Personally, I’m not crying over any spilled milk (sorry, couldn’t resist). What does concern me, however, is that because of this ruling in PCRM’s favor (a pro-vegetarian group), consumers may start to see milk as a ‘bad’ food and and begin to wean themselves off a source of many health benefits such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Most disturbing is Dan Kinburn’s (PCRM’s general counsel) accusation that the dairy industry is treating milk “as a health food, when really it is high in saturated cholesterol and sugar.” WHAT? Is milk UNhealthy now?

What about other studies that suggest dairy foods may also protect against insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), also known as metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and and Type 2 diabetes?

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association 2002, the Cardia study found that each additional daily serving of dairy was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), also known as metabolic syndrome.

Milk may be white, but I hope consumers won’t think in terms of black and white.  OK, maybe dairy did jump on the weight loss bandwagon, but my beef is that all this controversy makes milk look guilty – not just the industry.  Sadly, an all too common occurrence when food is put in context of ‘weight loss’ rather than ‘healthy eating.’


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One response to “Got Controversy? The Milk Industry and the Weight Loss Band Wagon”

  1. Eat Less Workout More says:

    Does Milk Do a Body Good?

    Laura over at A Weight Lifted gives the skinny on Milk advertising weight loss.

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