Researchers at Harvard Medical School have come up with research that questions the weight-loss claims made by the dairy industry.

For the past couple of years, the dairy industry has claimed that milk can help people lose weight. But the recently released Harvard study, which appeared in the June 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, shows that children who drink the most milk also gain the most weight.

The study followed the milk-drinking habits and subsequent growth of 12,829 adolescent children (aged 9 to 14) over a four-year period. It was among children who drank more than three servings of milk per day that researchers noted a significant increase in weight (or actually an adjusted ratio of weight to height known as the body mass index).

Twenty-three percent of the boys and 15 percent of the girls were in the group that drank more than three servings of milk per day. Their body mass indexes were significantly higher than children who drank two to three servings of milk per day. But researchers did not establish a true linear relationship. The body-mass-index scores of children who drank two to three servings per day were not significantly higher from children who drank less than one serving per day.

Dairy industry officials and the Harvard researchers do agree on one thing: Higher caloric intake from any food ― whether it is milk or something else ― will result in higher body-mass-index scores.