Lose dangerous belly fat with a diet high in protein and dairy: study

A new study suggests that a diet high in protein and dairy is an effective way to trim fat - specifically, belly fat.

The study, funded in part by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and published in the September issue of The Journal of Nutrition, compared three groups of overweight, premenopausal women who were put on different diets: low, medium and high amounts of dairy, coupled with high or low amounts of proteins and carbohydrates.

The women were also put on an exercise regimen that included aerobic exercise five days a week and weightlifting two days a week for four months.

While the groups experienced identical weight loss, researchers at McMaster University in Canada said the group that consumed a high protein, high dairy diet experienced greater "whole body" weight loss, particularly in the hard-to-lose area for women: the abs.

A hundred percent of the weight loss in this group, for instance, was fat. They also gained the most muscle mass of the three groups, adding a pound and a half to their bodies, compared to the low protein, low dairy group, which lost the same weight in muscle mass.

Adding that much muscle is a "major change in body composition," pointed out the study's lead author Andrea Josse - one that brings with it a host of other benefits.

"The preservation or even gain of muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be a major problem for many seeking to lose weight," she said in a statement.

The same group also lost twice as much belly fat than the low protein, low dairy group, the study found - an area that can foretell the risk for cardiovascular disease later on.

"Fat in the abdomen is thought to be especially bad for cardiovascular and metabolic health, and it seems - according to what we found in this study - increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body," she said.

A 2010 study out of Israel published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that a diet high in dairy coupled with increased vitamin D intake led to greater weight loss compared to participants who consumed a diet low in dairy products. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium.

The McMaster study can be found at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/9/1626.full .

For dairy recipe ideas, visit Epicurious.com.