How is dairy really affecting my weight?

There is plenty of confusion about how big a difference dairy can make for those hoping to achieve and maintain

There is plenty of confusion about how big a difference dairy can make for those hoping to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

The simple truth is that dairy can absolutely help and is an important part of a balanced diet.

But what does this really mean? How much dairy do we really need? And how can the average over-60 Australian achieve this on a practical, day-by-day basis?

What does this mean for my weight?

Only 1 in 1000 women over 50 meet their daily recommendations for the dairy food group.[i] One significant barrier is the long-held belief that dairy foods will lead to weight gain.

Thankfully, the evidence says otherwise. A review of the evidence by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines found no link between eating milk, yoghurt or cheese and weight gain.[ii]

In fact, including adequate amounts of milk, cheese or yoghurt as part of calorie-controlled diet (compared to diets with inadequate dairy) has been shown to result in:[iii],[iv]

  • greater weight loss
  • increased muscle mass
  • reduced fat mass
  • reduced waist circumference.

This means that women can feel confident that enjoying dairy foods will not lead to weight gain. In fact, scientific evidence shows if they incorporate dairy foods into their diet and exercise program as part of a weight loss effort, they can potentially see greater results.

What does this mean for my diet?

Dairy foods are one of the five food groups recommended for good health according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

However, Lucinda Hancock, CEO of Nutrition Australia’s Victorian Division, says Australians are only consuming around half the recommended servings of dairy products and nutritious vegetables each day – and relying on far less nutritious sources of energy.

“Having a healthy diet is all about balance,” she says, “but unfortunately the average Australian gets over 1/3 of their daily energy (kilojoules) from unhealthy foods and drinks like sweets, baked goods and fried foods”.

“And alcohol tops the list as the biggest contributor of excess energy for people over 50!”

By cutting down on these unnecessary foods and drinks, your calorie intake will leave more room for dairy in your diet – and with it, the many nutrients that can help you the most.

These nutrients are extremely important to the weight loss process. The beneficial effects of dairy foods within weight-loss diets are thought to be explained by the following:

  • Dairy calcium may reduce the amount of dietary fat absorbed by the body.
  • Some studies suggest dairy foods may help to reduce feelings of hunger and the desire to eat.
  • Dairy foods are a source of protein – a macronutrient with a well-known positive role in weight loss.

How much dairy do I really need?

More than most of us might think. As we get older, our dairy requirements increase drastically – and it’s far more than our weight at stake.

“One reason to have more dairy and calcium as we get older is to maintain bone strength,” says Ms. Hancock.

“Changes in the body after menopause can accelerate a woman’s rate of bone loss, which is why women over 50 are advised to have 4 serves of dairy a day, and men over 70 should aim for 3 ½.”

 It’s easy to boost your dairy intake. A glass of milk, two slices of cheese and a tub of yoghurt is 3 serves already.

“But dairy is also a great accompaniment food and small amounts add up, like a dollop of yoghurt on cereal, cheese sprinkled on an omelette or the milk in your latte.”

Upping your dairy intake is a great start to better health along with regular exercise. The Department of Health recommends older Australians aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day. If in doubt, please speak with your doctor about the best activities for your unique needs.

Ready to work more dairy into your diet? Follow the links below for more information – and some great recipes to get you started!

dairy-recipes-button dairy-button-serves

This post is sponsored by Dairy Australia. For more information, please visit the Legendairy website.

[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics [Internet]. Canberra: ABS; 2016. Australian Health Survey: Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12. Cat 4364.0.55.012. Available:

[ii] National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra, Australia

[iii] Chen, M, Pan, A, Malik, VS and Hu, FB (2012) Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Am J Clin Nutr 96(4):735-47

[iv] Abargouei AS, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A., (2012) Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes. 36(12):1485-93

  1. Hans  

    Milk contains plenty of calories, growth hormones, fat, and cholesterol. The most powerful growth hormone in the human body is identical to the most powerful growth hormone in a cow’s body. That hormone instructs every cell in the human body to grow.
    Children are becoming overweight at an early age. By eating growth hormones in combination with animal fat, the body has a way of listening to the signals of those chemical messengers: GROW!
    Like the baby calf drinking her mother’s milk, the average Australian female body, more and more, is resembling that of a bovine.
    Charles Attwood, MD, wrote:
    “Dietary fat during childhood may be more life-threatening than was originally suspected… Overweight children are
    usually the victims of the dietary habits of the adult members of the family…Reducing dietary fat to levels necessary to the control of cholesterol cannot be achieved if a child drinks whole milk or eats cheese.”

    In July of 2000, the Archive of Disabled Children (Volume 83) wrote:
    “From 1965 to 1996, a considerable shift in the adolescent diet occurred…increases occurred in the consumption of
    higher fat potatoes and mixed dishes (pizza, macaroni cheese)… These trends, far greater than for adults, may
    compromise health of the future population.”
    It is easy to gain weight by eating pizza, ice cream, yogurt, and milk. It is also easy to slim down from size 14
    to size 8 again. The dietary answer: No dairy, no potato.

  2. Carol  

    It seems we are the only species to continue suckling and never wean. We are continually told to be bottle fed into old age. Our hospitals are overflowing, our medical system is stressed to or beyond the limit and we are still suckling. Something is wrong here!
    The strongest of our animals, mules, horses, bullocks, elephants, and others, are vegetarians and are not lacking in protein or calcium although they live on grasses only. We can follow their example in order to loose weight We need to live on complex carbohydrates (vegetables) until we reach the weight we want to be on, and then slowly re-introduce simple carbohydrates and proteins in minimal amounts to maintain our new weight. And avoid allergens. As the body does not digest and utilize anything you are allergic to it tends to convert it into fats to be stored in adipose tissue, usually around the hips and belly due to the force of gravity. Avoidance of allergens is essential in attempting to loose weight.. If you want to loose weight and are not sure what you are allergic to, avoid all dairy products, and anything that contains dairy, and anything you suspect of containing dairy in any form or shape, avoid potatoes, (use sweet potato instead) onions (use leek or shallots), food colouring, M.S.G and anything else you suspect of not belonging in the “food” classification. These are the most common allergens and responsible for piling on weight. Avoid all foods in boxes, packaged, sealed in plastics, bagged, or dehydrated, and buy only fresh food. It’s the only diet that works!

  3. Jodoco  

    If milk does not increase weight how come babies double their weight in less than a year on milk alone? All milk contain growth hormones meant to make offspring grow. After weaning there is no further need for milk. The dairy industry and the Medical profession have taught us that we need at least a glass of milk a day as long as we live. We are never to be weaned but are to remain sucklings all our lives. This is a commercial program and expresses no human need.

  4. George  

    Does this mean that mother’s milk does not work? It is supposed to increase the weight of the baby! It seems natural to assume that it (milk) continues to do what it is supposed to be doing. Increase your weight! But the Australian Dietary Guidelines found no link between eating milk, yoghurt or cheese and weight gain. Seems a bit sus. Wonder who paid for the research!

  5. hans  

    A study by D.B, Cater, B,E Holmes and L.K.Mee, of the Department of Pathology and Radiotherapeutics, University of Cambridge Found that; “The effects of growth hormones was to increase the rate of cell division after partial hepatectomy. In rats treated with growth hormones mitosis had begun within 24 hours and was significantly greater than in the controls and between 24 hours and 26 hours the growth hormone treated rats showed more than twice as many cells in mitosis as did the controls. At 30 hours 3 times as many. No more confusion!
    Growth hormones do have an effect on cell division. Want to lose weight? Avoid dairy!

  6. Kathy  

    I think this article is very misleading, I haven’t had any meat or dairy for the last 3 years, (I am 67) and I can say I have never been healthier all my blood tests results are good and my weight is very stable. My diet is full of healthy plant protein, very colourful and varied, I really recommend it.

  7. There is sufficent unbiased, peer reviewed evidence to show that dairy products are not good for our health, quite apart from maintaining weight. A report provided by the Dairy industry is obviously going to come out in favour of their product.

  8. Cynthia Power  

    Couldn’t care less. I love a banana milkshake. Preferably with double flavouring and double scoops of ice cream Alternatively what’s better than an iced coffee on a hot day Yum !

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