Finally, something you should eat more of when trying to lose weight.

A new study, reported in the April issue of Obesity Research, shows that adults on a reduced calorie diet who consumed three to four servings of dairy each day lost more weight than those on a reduced-calorie diet who took calcium supplements or those who consumed little or no dairy. In fact, participants who consumed the three to four servings of dairy products each day lost on average, 24 pounds, and much of that fat was lost from the abdominal region.

During the study obese adults were placed in one of three groups: one low in calcium and dairy, one high in calcium supplements but low in dairy, and one high in dairy — at least three to four servings of milk, cheese or yogurt every day. Each person, regardless of their calcium/dairy group, consumed a diet that was 500 calories lower than their normal caloric intake. Participants were able to choose from fat-free, low-fat and regular dairy products.

After 24 weeks those on the high-dairy diet lost the greatest percentage of total body weight at 11 percent That was significantly more than those in the high-calcium supplemented group who lost 9 percent and those in the low-calcium/low-dairy group lost just 6 percent of body weight. Fat loss followed a similar trend, with people on the high-dairy diet lost significantly more body fat than those in the other two groups, specifically in the abdominal region.

"The practical significance of this research is simple — people lose more weight on diets that include three servings of dairy than on diets that don't," said lead researcher Michael Zemel, professor of nutrition, director of the Nutrition Institute, University of Tennessee. "By reducing body fat in the abdominal region, people may also reduce their risk of developing several chronic diseases, including heart disease and hypertension."

"It's clear from our research that the unique combination of essential nutrients in dairy foods has a powerful, positive impact on metabolism and weight loss," adds Zemel.

Obesity Research is the official journal of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

National Dairy Council