It should be no surprise that the National Dairy Council would tout the calcium contents and other benefits in dairy. At the same time we might expect the council would be very selective about which sources it references: the randomized clinical trials, the observational studies, the animal and in vitro studies, the research reviews, and the studies of children and adolescents. Yet it is clear that the studies cited come from a diverse mix of credible researchers, and with no conflicts of interest in sight. It is gratifying to read through the works that the council has summarized.
We would expect that an entity such as WebMD would have no vested interest in recommending dairy so reading through some of their reports might make for a little less pleasurable read. Yet in a summary of various studies on calcium intake and body fat the evidence suggests a strong inverse correlation, i.e. the high-calcium diet can reduce body fat.
According to Michael Zemel, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Institute, studies have shown that the more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat it will burn. In their research various trials were conducted, some with calcium supplements and others with dairy. According to Dr. Zemel, “The magnitude of the findings was shocking.” Body fat storage was markedly reduced by all high-calcium diets…however calcium from dairy products produced the best results.
My favorite line from the WebMD article was this one: Too many dieters tend to immediately jettison dairy foods from their diet, because they’re just sure they’re going to make them fat. In fact, they’re shooting themselves in the foot, because they subject themselves to more empty-calorie sources.
This goes to the point: cheese is a “near-complete” food.
One of least favorite lines immediately follows: They would be better off if they would substitute high-fat dairy products with low-fat fairy.
This is a point with which I disagree, even without my own PhD to back me up.
Later in the same article, Pamela Meyers, PhD, a clinical nutritionist and assistant professor at Kennesaw State University states: “Also, there are people who are lactose intolerant who can’t consume dairy products. That’s why we need to look at other food sources…using calcium supplements, it’s important to choose those with added vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium, which help the body to better absorb calcium…”
A couple points here: Dr. Meyers, like so many other health professionals, seems not to know that cheese is lactose-reduced; up to 90% of lactose is eliminated in cheese making, and in most aged cheeses that reduction is even greater. One reason why the dairy products were more effective than supplements in reducing body fat storage is because dairy already contains the vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, as well as many other components which work synergistically to enhance the calcium absorption and overall well-being.
You may be familiar with the little graph in DK Publishing’s French Cheese that compares some of the nutritive values in an egg with those in different types of cheeses. The most dramatic difference in relative values is the calcium amounts. Nearly twenty times the calcium is offered in a cooked pressed cow milk cheese than is offered in an egg of equivalent weight.
The best source of bio-available calcium is cheese, especially those that are crafted from uncompromised milk (not pasteurized) for they have their full complement of vitamin D, zinc, and other nutrients.
- Max McCalman