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Milk products may help teen girls lose weight

abril 2, 2006

MONTREAL — Weight-conscious adolescent girls have a better chance of losing their flabby midriffs if they ditch soft drinks in favour of milk, suggests a preliminary U.S. study presented at an obesity conference Tuesday.A study of 323 Hawaiian girls aged nine to 14 found they lost weight and abdominal girth by consuming just half the U.S. Food Guide's daily recommendation of three dairy servings.

"It suggests that consuming more dairy would help you have a slimmer middle and that it can also help you with maintaining weight,'' said Rachel Novotny, chairman of the nutrition department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"But you need to watch the soda intake.''

She outlined the findings at a symposium sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Researchers found that an increase of one cup of milk or a small piece of cheese resulted in 0.9 mm less of abdominal fat and as much as one kilogram less body weight. The benefits were offset by drinking soft drinks.

Only girls participated in the study but Novotny said boys would have shown similar benefits.

Over the past few decades, consumption of dairy products has decreased while the number of obese adolescents has surged.

"Everything is kind of pointing in the wrong direction,'' Novotny said in an interview.

"Our weight problems are going to get worse unless we do more to control it and start younger.

While the results appear to buttress dairy industry arguments about the health benefits of milk, Novotny said her research wasn't funded by the dairy industry.

In fact, she said it came as an offshoot of studying the impact of reduced calcium consumption on bones and first menstruations of young Caucasian and Asian girls.

The results are believed to be the first involving girls of Asian ethnicity. But they mirror previous findings about the weight benefits of calcium consumption.

A Quebec study released in July said women who avoid calcium have bigger waist sizes than those who consume moderate or elevated amounts of calcium.

Quebec researchers found that women who consumed 600 milligrams of calcium a day had a significantly different body mass, fat percentage and waist size than women who consumed less.

Robert Gibson, director of the Child Nutrition Research Center in Adelaide, Australia, said his studies suggest that dairy consumption is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are among the requirements for helping young girls build bone mass needed to ward off osteoporosis in later life.

"The big message is don't be frightened of dairy fat because along with dairy fat comes the other good things that come with dairy food.''

Recent scientific evidence suggests an overhaul of the dietary message passed along to consumers, Gibson said. Eating less fat is now viewed as wrong, as is replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturates found in such products as corn oil.

Claude Bouchard, executive director of the Pennington Biomedical Center in Baton Rouge, La., said tackling obesity is crucial before costs explode from treating diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

A person of average build is considered obese if he or she is between 16 and 18 kilograms overweight.

There are 1.05 billion overweight or obese people in the world, an increase of 200 million in 10 years, he said.

"If this goes unabated, in 50 years from now, the health-care system in this country and around the world will be so overwhelmed they cannot cope with it and they will go bankrupt,'' he said.

Bouchard said Canada and the rest of the world can see its future by watching the American landscape where people eat more than they need and are less active as they use modern conveniences.

"I'm very pessimistic,'' said the Quebec City native. "It's going to take hundreds of small things to make it less convenient without making us mad.'' (CTV.ca)

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