October 3, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 21  

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Dairy slims while pop makes you fat: study

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Remember that clever 1980s tag line "milk - it does a body good"? New research suggests this was more than a marketing ploy. It actually does "beat the real thing."

A preliminary study presented by Rachel Novotny, professor and department head of human nutrition, food and animal sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, at an obesity conference sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, revealed girls between ages nine and 14 who drank merely half of the recommended intake of milk, instead of an average intake of soft drinks, show a decrease in the size of their waistlines.

"The study was originally concerned with osteoporosis," Novotny said, adding it focused on collecting enough information from girls with different body compositions to make better recommendations for healthier eating.

Helen Bishop MacDonald, director of nutrition with the Dairy Farmers of Canada, attended the conference in Toronto last week. "What surprised [researchers] most was that girls who were milk drinkers had healthier body weights," she said

Of 323 Hawaiian girls studied, those who added one cup of milk and a thumb-sized piece of cheese to their diet showed a reduction of abdominal fat by 0.9 millimetres but girls who continued drinking soft drinks retained the same amount of fat.

Elizabeth Bright-See, a professor of nutrition at Brescia University College, said she had some concerns about the study. "I would think there is a lot of speculation in the article without adequate justification - especially the statement that 'boys should have similar benefits,'" she said.

While Novotny acknowledged there needs to be another study, since, among other things, there may be hormonal factors at play, she defended the study's findings. "Based on the variables that we're measuring, we would expect the results to be similar," she said.

"I think the conclusion should be that milk and milk products should be part of any diet - especially for the calcium," Bright-See added.

Incidentally, Novotny said the study found no reduced abdominal fat among girls who were consuming non-dairy calcium. "[The subjects'] fat stayed leaner if they consumed dairy products," she added.

Both Bright-See and Bishop MacDonald noted 250 ml of skim milk and regular cola beverages have the same energy content. Bishop MacDonald called any subsequent choice of a lower-calorie diet soda over milk "specious," adding such choices would deprive one of nutrients in favour of sugar.

"None of these studies were funded by the dairy industry," Bishop MacDonald clarified. "The dairy industry likes to hear this, but I'm a nutritionist - my chief interest is to determine what's contributing to this epidemic of over-weightness."



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