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Should I avoid dairy products if I have celiac disease?
There is some research that indicates many celiac patients may be intolerant of diary products. There is, however, more than one explanation for this.
Dairy and Weight
Although the dairy council no longer advertises that drinking milk or eating yogurt will help you lose weight, I still have the occasional patient who will ask me about it. Usually I tell them about the two studies I've reported on, first way back in 2006 and then another in 2009, that essentially concluded that dairy products by themselves would have no impact on weight: the gold standard for weight loss is still calories in versus calories out.
Is the casein in dairy products causing flare-ups of my psoriasis?
I checked with a number of sources and looked long and hard at the medical literature. There's no evidence of casein being "inflammatory" or that it provokes psoriasis.
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The dairy council would have you believe that eating more dairy products like milk, cheese and butter will help you lose weight. The research they point to, however, looked at people who were already on a low calorie diet who included three servings of dairy products in their diet. But if you're not reducing your calories and you eat more dairy, what happens? Do you lose weight anyway?
Researchers in Norway, Sweden and Finland recruited 37 men and 76 women between the ages of 30 and 65 to participate in a six-month study of the effects of eating more dairy (Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90(4):960-8). The participants had an average Body Mass Index of 30 (which is clinically obese), and had at least two of the following conditions: elevated glucose, triglycerides, or HDL cholesterol; high blood pressure or a waist circumference of over 94 centimeters (for men) or 88 centimeters (for women). Taken together, these conditions are what is known as metabolic syndrome, which significantly increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and overall mortality.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group acted as the control group, as they were instructed to maintain their usual diet without making any changes in their eating habits or how much they exercised. The second group was instructed to include 3 to 5 portions of dairy products in their diet on a daily basis while otherwise maintaining their usual habits.
Over the six months the test subjects kept a diary of what they ate and how much. Those in the dairy product group received their dairy products at no cost, but had complete freedom to choose whatever type of dairy products they wanted to eat.
At the end of the six months, both groups received blood tests and were weighed, just as they were at the beginning of the study. There were essentially no differences between the control group and the dairy products group: body weight, Body Mass Index, waist circumference and proportion of body fat did not change.
Their blood pressures did not change, either, except for one portion of the dairy products group. Those people from Sweden tended to choose full-fat dairy products, while those from Finland and Norway tended to choose low-fat dairy products. The Swedish in the dairy products group saw an increase in their total cholesterol – clearly the result of the increased fat intake from their choice of full-fat dairy products.
Quite simply: eating more dairy products is not, by itself, going to help you lose weight, and your best choice of dairy products are the reduced-fat versions. The most important criteria for weight loss continues to be the number of calories you eat.
First posted: October 28, 2009