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NEW YORK – The National Dairy Council has teamed with WebMD Weight Loss Clinic to sponsor a new weight-loss program that touts eating three daily servings of dairy products as part of a reduced-calorie diet. The campaign, which launches next week, builds upon a study published in "Obesity Research" showing that the inclusion of three servings of dairy products as part of a reduced-calorie diet can help adults lose weight and burn more fat in the abdominal region.
At a Wednesday press conference here, National Dairy Council officials unveiled a new "3-A-Day Milk Cheese Yogurt -- Burn more fat, lose weight" logo that will begin appearing on dairy packages in supermarkets next month; the logo is already sported on bottles of fast-food chain Wendy's 2 percent and chocolate milk varieties.
"There is a strong relationship between dairy intake and calcium intake and body fat and weight," said Gregory D. Miller, Ph.D., s.v.p., nutrition & product innovation at the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Dairy Council. "Those people who are better dairy and calcium consumers are less likely to be overweight and obese and have usually lower body fat." There is an 86 percent lower risk of being in the highest obesity category if one consumes three or more servings of dairy a day as part of one's diet, he added.
Unlike other diets, dairy helps the body lose weight as body fat and preserve muscle mass. "That's important because muscle is the main way that we burn fat in our bodies," said Miller, noting that more of the fat cells are lost in the abdominal region. "Losing that weight in the abdominal region is critically important because that's the fat mass that is most often associated with health risks such as high blood pressure and diabetes."
Research also shows that if people are put on a 3-A-Day dairy diet without a cut in calories, body composition is shifted so that they build up their muscle mass and reduce body fat, added Miller.
When asked by Progressive Grocer if it mattered whether consumers ate low-fat or traditional full-fat products, Miller said, "In our testing we had a mixture of low-fat and traditional products. What we found was that people were willing to trade down with milk and yogurt, but with cheese they really love the traditional cheese. The whole thing is that there is a certain amount of calories and a certain amount of fat targeted."
Miller said the study didn't look into if it matters whether the three servings of dairy are eaten in one meal or spread throughout the day. "I would imagine that it really wouldn’t matter because it's all about getting the protein and the calcium in your diet, because that's what's triggering the fat cells to store less fat and the muscle cells to burn it," he told Progressive Grocer.
"The bottom line is that consuming at least three servings of dairy per day can help you burn more fat and lose more weight more effectively than calorie restriction itself," said Miller.
Television commercials will begin airing next week, touting the new "3-A-Day Burn more fat, lose weight" program on a variety of popular programs, including the "Today" Show, "Good Morning America," "Joan of Arcadia," "Cold Case," "Oprah," "Dr. Phil," and on cable networks including TV Food, USA Network, and Nick at Nite. Full-page "More Yummy. . .Less Tummy" ads will appear in a variety of general interest, epicurean, and women's health and shelter magazines.
"In the supermarkets we'll have point-of-sale materials," Miller told Progressive Grocer. "We'll be working with retailers, and they may be doing some advertising with the retailer as part of it. And there'll be co-promotion with WebMD for the free trial."
That's a free three-week trial membership to the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic (a $15 value) that begins in September. Consumers can register at www.3aday.webmd.com, where they'll be asked to fill out a questionnaire. "We don’t use the term 'personalized program' loosely," said Kathleen M. Zelman, director of nutrition at WebMD Weight Loss.
"Our members take a detailed questionnaire that evaluates their eating habits, activity, and lifestyle," continued Zelman. "This information is fed into our expert system and uses over 120,000 calculations to create an individualized, customized eating plan that takes their personal preferences and makes sure that we incorporate them into the plan. No two diets are the same on our program."
Elaine Magee, MPH/RD, and recipe doctor at WebMD Weight Loss, said dairy could be worked into a reduced-calorie diet, opening the way for cross-merchandising opportunities for retailers. For example, a Betty Crocker cake mix can be made with a container of low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt instead of the oil called for in the directions. "You'll not only cut calories, but also end up with a different flavor," she said, noting that adding coffee or raspberry yogurt to a chocolate cake mix will result in a mocha- or chocolate-raspberry-flavored product.