There is some evidence that consuming more milk and other dairy products may help with weight loss. Milk isn't a weight loss miracle food, however, and it shouldn't be the only food you consume. Simply adding milk to your current diet isn't likely to cause significant weight loss. For this, you need to create a calorie deficit by eating less and exercising more.
Benefits of Milk for Weight Loss
Milk may help people control their appetite and feel full, which may help with weight loss, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010. This may be especially true with milk that has added micronutrients, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2011. The added micronutrients can help limit increased fat deposits that are associated with micronutrient deficiencies.
Although whey or casein are sometimes credited with having the potential weight-loss benefits of milk, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 found that drinking skim milk was more beneficial for weight loss than other beverages that have the same number of calories and that contain either just whey or just casein. People who drank the milk ate less at subsequent meals than those who drank the other beverages. This means that it is likely that casein or whey alone are not responsible for the potential success in weight loss from drinking milk.
Calcium and Weight Loss
Milk serves as an excellent source of calcium, and provides roughly 30 percent of the daily value of calcium in each cup. In addition to keeping your bones healthy and strong, calcium might help with weight loss. An animal study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2010 found that a high-calcium skim milk powder was more effective for decreasing body fat than casein, soy protein or a low-calcium diet. These results suggest the calcium in milk may play a role in weight loss.
Eating more calcium-rich foods, including dairy products, may help people lose body fat, even if they don't reduce their calories or lose weight; in fact, eating more calcium-rich foods may even increase both weight loss and fat loss when people do reduce their calories, notes a study published in Obesity Research in 2005. This is backed up by another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, which found that a reduced-calorie diet that was high in dairy products and that provided about 1,400 milligrams of calcium per day was more effective for weight loss than a diet that had a similar calorie reduction but contained low quantities of dairy, with about 700 milligrams of calcium per day.
Calcium isn't the only important factor in milk's weight-loss effects, however. A study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases in 2011 found that a diet high in milk led to greater weight loss than taking a calcium supplement or drinking fortified soy milk. It is most likely a combination of the various nutrients in milk that improves weight loss.
Type of Milk and Weight Loss
Women who had at least one serving a day of whole milk had a lower risk of gaining weight than those who drank less whole milk, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006. There wasn't a significant association for either reduced-fat or skim milk, so drinking either of these may not be as helpful for maintaining a healthy weight. The study authors note that this increased weight loss may be due to the conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, found in milk fat. Just keep in mind that whole milk has more calories per cup -- 149 calories a cup for whole milk -- compared to skim milk, which has just 83 calories per cup. You'll need to make room for the whole milk in your calorie-controlled diet, since overeating any number of calories -- even healthy calories from milk -- will sabotage your weight loss.
The Weight Loss Benefits of Adding Exercise
A high-protein, high-dairy diet was more effective for losing weight by diet and exercise while maintaining muscle than an adequate-protein, medium-dairy diet or a low-protein, low-dairy diet in the study, according to an article published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2011. The study found that both protein and calcium appeared to be associated with reductions in abdominal fat. Getting at least 300 minutes of moderate intensity cardio per week helps you burn more calories to increase weight loss, while adding at least two strength-training sessions helps you build muscle to increase your metabolism and to help you maintain your lean body mass while losing weight.
Other Beneficial Dietary Changes for Weight Loss
Regardless of how much milk you do or don't drink, you'll need to reduce the number of calories you consume for you to lose a significant amount of weight. A 3,500-calorie deficit will result in 1 pound of weight loss, so to lose 1 pound per week, you need to cut 500 calories per day from your diet. This is easier to do if you concentrate on eating filling, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein foods. Both protein and fiber help increase satiety, so be sure to include them with each meal. Limit your intake of foods that contain refined grains and those that are high in sugar or fat, including most highly processed foods, as these tend to be high in calories, low in nutrients and are not particularly filling.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Effect of Milk Proteins on Appetite Regulation and Diet-Induced Thermogenesis
- The Journal of Nutrition: A High Calcium, Skim Milk Powder Diet Results in a Lower Fat Mass in Male, Energy-Restricted, Obese Rats More Than a Low Calcium, Casein, or Soy Protein Diet
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of a Dairy and Calcium Rich Diet on Weight Loss and Appetite During Energy Restriction in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized Trial
- The Journal of Nutrition: Increased Consumption of Dairy Foods and Protein During Diet- and Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Promotes Fat Mass Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Overweight and Obese Premenopausal Women
- Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases: Comparison of the Effects of Cows' Milk, Fortified Soy Milk, and Calcium Supplement on Weight and Fat Loss in Premenopausal Overweight and Obese Women
- British Journal of Nutrition: Milk Supplementation Facilitates Appetite Control in Obese Women During Weight Loss: A Randomised, Single-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Intake of Milk With Added Micronutrients Increases the Effectiveness of an Energy-Restricted Diet to Reduce Body Weight: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial in Mexican Women
- Obesity Research: Effects of Calcium and Dairy on Body Composition and Weight Loss in African-American Adults
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Association Between Dairy Food Consumption and Weight Change Over 9 y in 19,352 Perimenopausal Women
- Drugs.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Milk