Young women who consume at least three servings of dairy a day over a long-term period may gain less body fat than those who consume fewer than three servings a day, according to a new study in the journal Obesity.

The PurdueUniversity study found that young, normal-weight women who consumed at least 1,000 to 1,400 milligrams of dairy calcium per day had decreased fat mass compared to women who consumed low dairy/calcium diets. The researchers concluded that increasing dietary calcium through dairy products for a longer period of time may prevent fat mass accumulation in young, healthy, normal-weight women.

“This scientific research helps build public awareness of the need to consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt a day as part of a healthy diet,” said Anne Marie Krautheim, a registered dietitian and senior vice president of nutrition and health promotion for the National Dairy Council.

The study also contains important information on dietary behavior changes and young women’s ability to sustain a healthy change long term. Results indicate that the women continued to eat higher amounts of mainly fat-free and low-fat calcium-rich dairy foods for at least six months once they had established this dietary habit during the previous year.

 Dairy Management Inc.