Weight loss is an ongoing battle for many Americans. A recent UT study

revealed a new ally in this struggle: lowfat dairy foods. These lowfat

dairy products include skim milk, yogurt and cheese.

Calcium from these foods elicits a hormonal response that both inhibits the

body's fat cell production and increases the breakdown of fat, said Michael

Zemel, head of UT's nutrition department.

"We have found that a diet rich in lowfat dairy foods affects the way human

fat cells do their job," Zemel said. "This is good news for all Americans,

especially the 97 million who are overweight and struggling to lose extra

pounds."

Information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

supports the UT study. The survey tracks the eating habits of thousands of

U.S. residents and found that women were 80 percent less likely to be obese

if they consumed lowfat dairy foods.

Zemel demonstrated how calcium from dairy products decreased the number of

fat cells grown in a tissue culture. Another study placed four groups of

mice on diets equal in calories, protein and fat, but with varied amounts

of lowfat dairy foods.

Mice on a diet with half the calories from lowfat milk had a 39 percent

body fat reduction, while those with no dairy foods had a 24 percent

increase in fat. Zemel said calcium from dairy foods worked better than a

calcium supplement alone; the cause behind this effect is uncertain. High

fat dairy foods do not provide the same benefits because of the additional

fat calories in those foods, he said.

Zemel's findings were presented this week at the North American Association

for the Study of Obesity Annual Meeting in Charleston, S.C.

The National Dairy Council funded the study. Council Vice President Jean

Ragalie said dieters should think twice before cutting milk, yogurt and

cheese when trying to lose weight.

"We've known for some time that lowfat dairy foods may help reduce the risk

of osteoporosis, high blood pressure and possibly even colon cancer,"

Ragalie said. "Now we can add to that list the important role lowfat dairy

plays in a healthy weight loss plan."