Food & Fitness

More Reasons to Love Milk

My final assignment for my nutrition class was to research a nutrient or supplement and determine whether or not the claim being made about it is legitimate and true, according to scientific studies. I chose the topic of calcium and its claim to aid in weight loss (that is, a decrease in fat mass, as well as helping to preserve lean muscle mass).

Did you know that the calcium in milk can help with weight loss? Find out why the calcium in milk (not supplements or even other foods!) can help you on your weight loss journey in this article.

This is what I’ve found on the topic, from scientific journal articles written within the past couple years discussing numerous case studies:

A high-calcium diet (between 1100 and 1400 mg of calcium per day) that consists of low-fat dairy products as the source of calcium is a safe and effective way to reduce the amount of fat mass in your body as well as lower your waist-to-hip ratio!

All of the research stresses that the calcium needs to be from the diet and not from supplements, and that dairy products in particular were the most effective. This has something to do with the other nutrients in dairy products, like whey protein, and their combination with the calcium to produce maximum benefits.

The concept also emphasizes that simply adding a few glasses of milk to the way you eat now won’t have the desired effect; those glasses of milk need to replace some other source of nutrition in your diet (otherwise, you’re just consuming a bunch of extra calories and it’ll be a case of over-nutrition).

I’d like to take this moment to say how much I adore calcium. It does so much for the body—among other things, it regulates blood pressure, aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction, and builds and maintains strong bones.

Something important to take into consideration, though, is the absorption of calcium. Calcium in milk is absorbed into the body really well; however, other foods that claim to be high in calcium (such as spinach) don’t get absorbed very well into the body at all, due to substances like oxalates which binds the calcium and inhibits absorption.

So it’s not really how much of a nutrient is in a food, but how well it gets absorbed, that is the important thing to think about. And interestingly enough, combining certain foods enhances the absorption as well. Drinking tea with a meal hinders the absorption of most nutrients, so it’s better to have your tea on its own and wait an hour or two before you eat—that way, you can get the most out of your meal. And that’s why nutritional supplements aren’t going to do as much for your body as the nutrients will when they’re coming from your diet.

In case anyone’s interested, the scientific journals that I researched are: Obesity, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, and Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Anyone can access them from the PubMed homepage.

I’ve never taken any kind of supplements—no multivitamins or omega 3’s or any of that. So I’m interested, do you take any supplements (of any variety; including those ones advertised as “Exercise In A Bottle”)? And has it had the effect that it claims on the bottle?

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  1. Gena

    Very interesting post! I kind of always thought the “eat dairy lose weight” idea was just propaganda from the dairy companies. Interesting to know that diet and not supplements is what’s important in this case.

    I’ve very recently started taking a calcium supplement for no real reason. I’m also starting a B-complex vitamin today (a ‘scrip I’ve just been put on can block absorption of B vits). The Bs, B-12 in particular, are supposed to increase energy levels. I will report back if I find this to be true!

  2. MizFit

    I do a handful of tums each morning with my vitamins precisely because I DONT LOVE MILK (I do get other dairy)

    not sure it’s the best calcium—but it’s some additional!


  3. Pingback: Poll: The Milk Debate « Living Healthy in the Real World

  4. Carla

    Thanks for this post! I just found your page today and was scrolling through your past posts and came across this. I have been mixed for a couple years now on almond milk (or now cashew milk too) vs regular milk and which to use. I like the almond/cashew for the lower carb (I’m type 1 diabetic and I don’t do super low carb, but any carbs require insulin so it’s always on my radar) and calorie reasons when I add it to coffees or use in smoothies but I question the ‘healthiness’ of it vs milk. I go back and forth but this might convince me to try to stick with real organic milk, albeit expensive ;).

    What are your thoughts on skim, 2% or whole milk? I feel like there is a lot of debate out there about non-fat, low fat and whole fat dairy products and which is better for you. I focus on a well balanced diet of macros so I’m not concerned about having too much or too little of any one macro because I make it balance out properly by the end of the day, but I would prefer not whole milk, so non-fat, 1% or 2% would be my options.


    1. Sagan Morrow

      My thoughts have definitely changed over the years on that. And you’re right–there’s a lot of debate about it all!

      Honestly, I think one of the most important factors is taste, and what you like the most. Not a bad idea to switch it up, too, for a little variety. Personally I’ve always preferred the taste of skim milk or 1% milk, so these days those are what I drink (although I tend to have more yogurt and cheese than milk these days when it comes t dairy).

      And when it comes to almond / cashew milk or other non-dairy milks, it’s really about checking the rest of the ingredients on the list to see what else is in there! Those options CAN be very healthy but they can also contain artificial ingredients–just a matter of checking the ingredients.

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