Since research focusing on dairy food consumption and the risk for obesity is inconsistent, and only a few studies have even examined specific dairy products, in regards to type of food and fat content, in relation to obesity risk, this cross-sectional study investigated whether dairy food consumption is associated with the prevalence of global and abdominal obesity. Data were analyzed from 1352 participants in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) survey. We hypothesized that higher total dairy food consumption would be independently associated with reduced prevalence of obesity. A validated food frequency questionnaire was used to measure intakes of dairy foods. Odds for global obesity (body mass index≥30kg/m2) and abdominal obesity (waist circumference >102cm for men and >88cm for women) were determined based on total dairy food intake as well as individual low- and whole-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese) intakes. Total dairy food intake was inversely associated with the likelihood of global obesity (OR=0.51, 95% CI=0.30, 0.89, P<0.05) and abdominal obesity (OR=0.51, 95% CI=0.32, 0.83, P<0.01). Participants in the highest tertile of whole-fat dairy intakes (milk, cheese, yogurt) had significantly lower odds for being obese (global obesity: OR=0.45, 95% CI=0.29, 0.72, P<0.01; abdominal obesity: OR=0.35, 95% CI=0.23, 0.54, P<0.001), compared to those in the lowest intake tertile. This was discovered after full adjustment for demographic, lifestyle, dietary, and cardiovascular risk factor variables. After considering the data, we determined that increasing the consumption of dairy foods may have the potential to lower the prevalence of global and abdominal obesity.
Alex’s Notes: Yes, yes, more milky goodness. I have previous written about the nutritional role of milk’s individual components, as well as how dairy is a main player in the fight against metabolic syndrome. One thing that has not been touched on yet is how low-fat and regular dairy fare against one another. The present study, although epidemiologic, will change that. They do an excellent job of focusing in on the consumption of the three main types of dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese), as well as differentiating between low-fat and whole-fat intakes, and comparing this to global obesity (BMI) and abdominal obesity (waist circumference) in just over 1350 people. Fortunately, this excluded milk-based deserts such as pudding, ice-cream, and frozen yogurt. Additionally, one serving of each product was as follows: 250mL milk; 125g yogurt; 50g of cheese.
Amusingly, those consuming more than 2 servings of dairy daily were more likely to be female non-smokers with a higher level of education. Getting straight to the stinger,
“With full adjustment for demographic, lifestyle, dietary, and cardiovascular confounding factors, those with the highest intakes of total dairy food had significantly reduced odds (nearly 50%) for global obesity… and abdominal obesity… compared to those with the lowest intakes.”
The above shouldn’t be surprising, and it should be noted that the average daily dairy intake for the lowest, middle, and highest groups were 0.7, 1.6, and 3.5 servings, respectively. What is surprising is that the highest consuming group also consumed significantly more calories (2709 kcal) than the lowest (2172 kcal) and middle (2376 kcal) groups. This was in the form of all macronutrients. There was also a significant trend for increased consumption of fiber and cholesterol, and a reduction in alcohol intake as consumption of dairy increased. Oh, and HDL-C increased significantly with increasing dairy intake as well.
So what about fat content?
“After adjusting for all potential confounding variables, intakes of total whole-fat dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) were significantly associated with a lower prevalence of global obesity (OR = 0.45, 95% CI = 0.29, 0.72, P < 0.01), and abdominal obesity (OR = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.23, 0.54, P < 0.001). While high intakes of total low-fat dairy food were associated with a higher prevalence of abdominal obesity (OR = 1.64, 95% CI = 1.08, 2.48, P < 0.05), after adjusting for potential confounding variables.”
So whole-fat dairy was associated with reduced waist circumference and BMI, while low-fat dairy didn’t impact BMI but did grant a 64% increased prevalence of abdominal obesity. Given the trends observed between total dairy intake and lifestyle habits, it is likely that those consuming whole-fat dairy are more health conscious. Although adjustments were made, it is impossible to rule out every confounding variable. Additionally, it is possible that those individuals who were already fat and sick replaced the whole-fat dairy with low-fat in response to flawed mainstream recommendations, causing reverse casualty. However, the authors did remove these persons and found the results unchanged.
The bottom line is that the epidemiological nature of the study precludes causal relations. But it definitely suggests there is something about dairy fat that adds an extra edge.