Dairy foods can be equated to high fat, calorie dense foods that add to weight gain. Cutting them out may seem like a logical solution for weight loss and to reduce calorie intake.

However, several studies have shown a beneficial link with dairy products and weight loss.

As with any food group, dairy products range in calorie and fat content. Things like ice cream, whole milk and full fat cheeses are high in calories.

However, some milk and yogurts may actually be beneficial for weight loss.

Should you avoid dairy products when trying to lose weight?

What does research say about dairy foods and weight loss

In a 2004 study in the Obesity Research journal, obese subjects ate a reduced calorie diet for 24 weeks. During this time, they were divided into three groups:

  1. Low calcium intake
  2. Diet plus a calcium supplement
  3. Diet with high dairy foods providing the most calcium

Results showed a significantly higher overall weight loss, fat loss and fat loss in the trunk region with the high dairy food intake group compared to the other 2 groups.

What is the cause of the added benefit of calcium foods?

One of calcium’s roles in the body is to help regulate energy metabolism. High calcium diets have been shown to slow fat accumulation in fat cells and increase metabolizing fat as a fuel.

Dairy sources of calcium have been shown in other research studies help decrease fat stores to a greater degree than calcium supplements, according to a 2005 review of “The Role of Dairy Foods in Weight Management”.

Dietary Recommendations

From research findings and what the general health field knows of the benefits of dairy foods, incorporating dairy in the diet regularly is recommended for overall health and as an addition to weight loss and maintenance.

The USDA recommends the equivalent of 3 cups of dairy for an average adult and an RDA for calcium at 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium per day for an average adult. Diet claims that cut out dairy products should be avoided.

What if I am lactose intolerant?

If you are lactose intolerant or can’t eat dairy products, other calcium rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables should be eaten in a higher amount.

Calcium supplements

Calcium supplements may be beneficial for other health reasons if you don’t get adequate calcium in your diet, but it appears from research that they do not affect the body the same for benefit of calcium rich foods and losing weight.

Does dairy help with weight loss?

Dairy plays a part in a healthy, balanced diet and may have an advantage to shed fat stores. However, the basic concepts of a calorie reduced diet and a variety of foods can’t be over looked.

Choose low fat dairy options as part of a diet that includes other lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains for a balanced diet.


  1. Zemel MB, Thompson W, Milstead A, Morris K, Campbell P (2004). Calcium and Dairy Acceleration of Weight and Fat Loss during Energy Restriction in Obese Adults. Obesity Research, volume 12,582–590.
  2. Zemel MB (2005). The Role of Dairy Foods in Weight Management. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, volume 24,537S-546S.

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