Dairy Consumption and Fat Loss

Milk and dairy products are ubiquitous in our modern diet. Since we were children and even long before that, the government and many health professionals have sworn by the health benefits that a glass of milk a day can give you. Dairy products like yogurt are known to aid digestion, while cottage cheese, skim milk, and low-fat milk are all known as great alternatives to their more high-calorie counterparts. 

But perhaps there is a place for dairy products even in a diet for weight loss. Dairy products, after all, are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Dairy variants, healthy or otherwise are readily available in any supermarket. And with moderation, they may play a role in a healthy weight loss.

Whey and Casein protein powder are milk byproducts that are used by athletes, bodybuilders, and those who try to live healthier and more active lifestyles in order to build muscle. 

Dairy is a huge category of foods, and any grocery store or supermarket would contain an entire aisle of assorted dairy products. 

Dairy contains good nutrients and, with its protein and fat content, can contribute to satiety—that feeling of fullness that lasts a while. If you eat dairy in moderation and consume mostly low-fat dairy, you can enjoy it while also watching your waistline. (1)

The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk. (2)

As a cooking ingredient, dairy is very versatile. Different dairy products like milk, cream, cheeses, yogurt, and others can be used in savory and sweet dishes. Milk and cream can be added to some types of stews, soups, or even as a marinade to meat; cheese can be served on its own with fruit or used to top off pasta and other dishes. At the same time, these dairy products can just as easily be used in desserts, ice cream, pastries, cakes, and other sweet confections that often have a dairy component. And butter, butter can be used on nearly anything to make it taste better, as a cooking ingredient it is considered a staple. 

Indeed these foods that dairy is typically associated with, rich, creamy foods, sweet and delightful pastries, and desserts are often associated with high fat, high-calorie content which leads to weight gain. Because of these associations, people have tended to avoid milk and dairy products. The thing is, the more often we deprive ourselves of something we want, instead of satiating that craving, we tend to develop and make those cravings stronger. Which leads to great consumption down the road.

However, some studies suggest that this may not be the case. (3)

studies have linked dairy consumption to obesity. Some evidence seems to suggest that dairy consumption has a suggestive but no consistent effect on the risk of overweight and obesity. (4) While others have conducted a systematic literature review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease.  The research found that in a meta-analysis of  11 of 16 studies, high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated with measures of obesity. Studies examining the relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and metabolic health reported either an inverse or showed no association. Studies investigating the connection between high-fat dairy intake and diabetes or cardiovascular disease incidence were inconsistent. (5

Can dairy foods help burn fat?  Calcium, which is a mineral that milk and other dairy products have in abundance has been shown to be is a critical factor in controlling what your body does with calories, and dairy is an even more critical factor. Without changing how many calories we take away, we can alter how much weight and fat we lose. A professor and chair of the department of human nutrition, food, and animal sciences at the University of Hawaii  believes that "Dairy for some reason, yet unexplained, has a greater effect on fat loss and specifically trunk fat loss than does calcium alone.” (6)

Effect of Dairy on Weight

Consumption of Dairy was found to be related to weight loss. A study found that Increased dairy consumption without energy restriction might not lead to a significant change in weight or body composition; whereas the inclusion of dairy products in energy-restricted weight loss diets significantly affects weight compared with that in the usual weight-loss diets. (7 A 2012 study found that the substitution of calcium-rich foods in isocaloric diets reduced adiposity and improved metabolic profiles in obese African Americans without energy restriction or weight loss and augmented weight and fat loss secondary to energy restriction.

Calcium and Dairy on Weight Loss

Another study’s findings support the idea that supports the role of dietary calcium and dairy foods in controlling obesity and weight gain. Observational studies suggest an inverse relationship between dietary calcium and/or dairy intake and either body weight or body fat in various populations. (8) With the benefits of dairy and its usefulness for weight loss relatively studied, let's go through some of the most popular dairy products and how they may be incorporated into a healthier, more balanced pursuit of weight loss. 

Full Cream Milk 

It is often made of cow milk whose layer of cream has not been removed. It has over 3.5% of fat and is widely known to be nutritious. We have used it to substitute breast milk so It's also often praised for providing all nutrients that are required for growth and development. Full Cream Milk is still pasteurized. It's also called whole milk due to its fat content. It is thick, creamy, and rich which makes it the perfect partner for a bowl of breakfast cereal in the morning. It's pasteurized and homogenized so that the ratio of fat and milk is the same as raw milk. After that, a glass of whole milk is supposed to have about 150 calories and about eight grams of fat. Full cream milk can be used to make yogurt and cottage cheese as well so it is flexible in case you ever run out of that in your pantry.

In cooking, full cream milk is essential in pasta sauces or some milk and cream-based sauces. Full cream milk adds a layer of richness to savory meals and sweet desserts. Its fat content makes it difficult for other substitutes to step in and perfectly take its place.

Reduced Fat Milk 

is more commonly known as 2% milk because of the fat content in the total weight of the milk. An eight-ounce glass will have about five grams of fat and the same essential nutrients that every other type of milk has. This type of milk is not as thick as whole milk but it does have a milder flavor to it. Two percent milk is considered to be a good source of calcium and vitamin D among other nutrients without the added fat. It still brings a nice texture to any beverage and adds a fair bit of protein. Reduced-fat milk can easily be used as a substitute for milk in overnight oats, protein shakes, fruit smoothies, or even frozen coffee drinks as a way to reduce the caloric content while keeping the flavor alive.

Low Fat Milk 

It has only 1% fat content and is preferred by those who are trying to lose weight. It's often confused with reduced-fat milk which has a 2% fat content. Low-fat milk also has fewer saturated fats in it which helps keep cholesterol under control.

Low-fat milk is popularly combined with skimmed milk to boost the amount of protein and calcium in it and make it more creamy. It's put through a process called centrifugation that removes the creamy fat layer and makes it thinner. It's used in making cakes and their types of frosting, puddings, desserts, and low-calorie milkshakes.

Skim Milk 

This is a popular choice for calorie and fat-conscious types. A glass of skimmed milk has only about 80 calories. Some skim milk comes in the form of a powder and water is added to reconstitute it. This kind of milk has the essential nutrients that milk would usually have. It's also called fat-free milk and is chosen by those who are health conscious The lack of fat may make it seem thinner but it is just as healthy without the fat. The milk itself tastes a bit watery but you can make up for it by adding milk powder or an additive for taste if you choose to do so.


Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of churned cream. It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature, consisting of approximately 80% butterfat. It is used at room temperature as a spread, melted as a condiment, and used as a fat in baking, sauce-making, pan frying, and other cooking procedures.

Butter when used with a low carbohydrate diet may be a component of weight loss, it can be a healthy part of your diet. It is rich in calcium and contains compounds linked to lower chances of obesity. It has beta-carotene which may help with eyesight. Most frequently made from cow's milk, butter can also be manufactured from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks.


Yogurt is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. It is a staple in many pantries from different cuisines all over the world, it is used both as a cooking ingredient and mixed in with fruit, as a dessert on its own. (9)

Whey and Casein Protein Powder 

While still being technically dairy products as byproducts of the dairy process, Whey, and Casein powder has carved a niche for itself as a protein supplement. Protein Powder is a healthy way to add more protein to your diet. It’s a quality protein source that is absorbed and utilized efficiently by the human body. Protein powder is also used to fortify foods with proteins and thus increase their overall nutritional value. (10) Protein powder has been shown to be beneficial not only for those who are trying to build mass but also for those trying to lose weight and stay healthy. (11) It is not uncommon to find recipes for muffins, pastries, pancakes, or even ice cream mixed in with a little protein powder in order to fortify it with protein. Many people add it to shakes and smoothies in order to meet their protein needs as well. Whey and casein protein powder is very easy to incorporate in a healthy diet even among the elderly, and even though the taste may sometimes leave something to be desired, the health benefits seem to outweigh the negatives.

Regular Yogurt

Yogurt helps turn up your body's fat burn. Both low-fat and regular-fat yogurts contain probiotics. That's the friendly bacteria that may help reduce how much fat your body absorbs. Probiotics aid in digestion and in maintaining a healthy gut biome. (12) Cells containing calcium also burn off more fat than those that don't have it. For a refreshing snack, try combining your choice of fruit with a serving of regular yogurt in a popsicle maker to make a refreshing afternoon snack.

Greek Yogurt

Delicious and creamy Greek yogurt increases levels of hormones that promote fullness. It's made by removing whey and other liquids, creating a creamier and richer yogurt. Regular yogurt, especially flavored varieties, contain hidden sugar and additives. It is rich in potassium and b12 as well as protein and calcium. (13)

Greek yogurt has seen an increase in popularity in health circles, nearly substituting all other forms of yogurt due to its higher protein content and flavor. It can be used in fruit shakes and smoothies to add creaminess and flavor, it can be added to overnight oats, or together with spinach used as a dip for snacks. Of course, it can be used for the Greek dip Tzatziki. Some people use it the way they might use ranch dressing, adding some dill and livening it up with their preferred spices and flavors. Some people even use it in desserts as a substitute for cream when making a savory mac and cheese or sweet pies or cheesecake. And it all works great. Just because you are watching your weight, doesn’t mean you have to eat bland flavorless food. Greek yogurt almost feels like cheating with how much flavor and creaminess it brings to the dinner table. 

Cottage Cheese

You may think you have to give up cheese to lose weight. However, studies suggest that the calcium in cheese can help ward off fat. It prevents cellular changes in your body that cause fat stores. (14)  Cottage cheese may be well-regarded for its high calcium content, but this is just one of several nutrients that make it worth adding to your diet. It is also a great source of vitamin B12, which plays an important role in preventing anemia.

Other nutrients in cottage cheese include Potassium, Phosphorus, Selenium, and Vitamin A. (15) Cottage cheese is often used as a substitute for any other cheese. Add it to a mac and cheese or use it in an eggplant lasagna, top your avocado toast with cottage cheese. It is as versatile and as flavorful as any dairy product out there.

Low-fat Chocolate Milk

It is just a simple alternative to the more calorie-rich dessert. Many kids love the taste of chocolate milk and some adults do not outgrow that craving for the comforting chocolate drink. Your childhood beverage of choice may do your waistline some good after a hard and long workout. A report found that chocolate milk is a great post-exercise recovery drink. It contains twice as much protein and carbs compared to regular milk or popular sports drinks. The combination of carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes in the milk helps your muscles recover faster. Because chocolate milk is high in sugar, stick with unsweetened milk at other times. (16)


The studies mentioned earlier suggest that the best way to keep incorporating and using dairy products is of course not to use it in excess. People under caloric restrictions that had dairy in their diet lost more weight than those without. (17) (18) Research found that diets that include at least 3 daily servings of dairy products result in significant reductions in adipose tissue mass in obese humans in the absence of caloric restriction and markedly accelerate weight and body fat loss secondary to caloric restriction compared with diets low in dairy products. These data indicate an important role of dairy products in both the prevention and treatment of obesity. (19) Estimates of the relationship indicate that a 1000-mg calcium intake difference is associated with an 8-kg difference in mean body weight and that calcium intake explains ∼3% of the variance in body weight. (20

What we know for sure is that depriving ourselves of flavorful meals would lead to lower adherence to whatever weight-loss diet we have going on. This is the entire rationale for why people have “cheat days” which when not taken rigorously, often become the reason why people relapse into unhealthy eating habits. Depriving ourselves isn’t always the best way to go about weight loss and with these Dairy products that easily be incorporated into a variety of meals, we can still enjoy the taste of the food we love while sticking to our weight loss plans.


  1. https://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/best-dairy-weight-loss
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22810464/
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00011-015-0902-1
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00881.x
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-012-0418-1?rel=outbound&error=cookies_not_supported&code=0224b9d3-acf2-45ba-b312-ed2df4609e00
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20040416/dairy-foods-fat-weight-loss
  7. https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2011269
  8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2005.144
  9. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=131.200
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996998000982
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286303000305
  12. https://www.yogurtinnutrition.com/do-all-yogurts-have-probiotics/
  13. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-greek-yogurt
  14. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/85/12/4635/2853952?login=true
  15. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cottage-cheese#1
  16. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-chocolate-milk#1
  17. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2004.67
  18. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2005.144
  19. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/79/5/907S/4690225?login=true
  20. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/85/12/4635/2853952?login=true

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