Meat and milk have been touted as key components of a healthy diet for as long as I can remember.
Furthermore, they are both foods which I believed had their place in a weight loss diet. Meat is a rich source of protein which is essential for building and repairing your body's cells. Milk is a fantastic source of essential vitamins and minerals including calcium which promotes strong and healthy bones.
However, in recent times both of these beneficial foods have come under increasing scrutiny.
Campaigns such as Not Milk are claiming that milk is a poision, not a health food and with the increasing popularity of the Atkins diet evidence is mounting up against the consumption of meat. In this article I plan to look at both sides of the argument and come to a conclusion as to whether meat and milk can help you lose weight.
1) Meat:- Although there are other dietary sources of protein available, meat protein has a very high biological value (BV). Proteins with a higher BV can be better utilised by the body and amongst other things promote the most lean muscle gains. Meat is also full of other important nutrients. For example, beef is a great source of Iron.
Apart from these general health benefits it has been suggested that diets high in meat can help you lose weight. This idea was largely popularised by the Atkins diet which claims that by reducing your intake of carbohydrates and increasing your intake of meats, you force your body into a state of ketosis where it burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. There are a number of studies backing up this claim including a March 2007 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which compared four weight loss diets (including Atkins) and found that after 12 months participants on the Atkins diet lost the most weight and experienced the most favourable metabolic effects.
However, critics suggest that by eating too much meat you are putting your health at risk. Some of the criticisms include that you will not be getting enough nutritional value from this type of diet, that you will be consuming too much fat, that it can promote heart disease and that it can be dangerous to your health. Critics also state that no long term studies have been conducted to monitor the effects of the Atkins diet over an extended period (at the time of writing this article none have studied the diet for longer than one year).
2) Milk:- Milk is a rich source of calcium, protein (which again has a high BV) and also contains seven other essential nutrients. It is believed to help prevent oseoperosis (reduced bone density), diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, a wealth of studies are available which back up the health claims made by milk.
Like meat, milk has also been linked with weight loss. Research performed by Dr. Michael Semel in the Nutrition Research and Metabolic Clinic at the University of Tennessee found that low levels of calcium in the diet led to your body producing hormones which tell your fat cells to produce more fat, increasing overall body fat accumulation. High levels of calcium in the diet led to these hormones being suppressed and resulted in overall body fat loss. More interestingly this study suggested that calcium from dairy products (such as milk) was twice as effective at promoting this fat loss compared with other calcium sources.
However, milk also has a large selection of critics. Many campaigners suggest that all the good press milk has received is the result of a highly effective marketing campaign. They also suggest that many of milk's health claims are false and there are a number of studies which back their claims. In particular, many people believe milk is fattening and this is supported by a study from Catherine S. Berkey of Harvard Medical School which suggests that drinking too much milk can lead to weight gain in children.
So what conclusions can be drawn from the above information regarding meat and milk as weight loss foods?
First, let's look at the facts. It is largely agreed and supported by research that protein has a satiating effect (makes you feel fuller quicker) and that it also has an increased thermic effect (burns more calories whilst being processed) compared with fats and carbohydrates. More and more research is also becoming available which supports the notion that calcium can help you lose weight.
Finally, it is universally agreed that many of the nutrients found in meat and milk (such as Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and Potassium) are good for your body and should be present in a healthy diet. Whichever way you look at it meat and milk do contain a lot of nutrients which are proven to help you lose weight.
Many of the criticisms levelled at meat and milk refer to excessive consumption.
Meat and milk do contain saturated fats and eating or drinking too much of either can lead to health problems and also deprive you of important nutrients. However, as part of a balanced diet I believe meat and milk can help you lose weight and also help you maintain a healthy body.