The effect of increasing dairy calcium intake of adolescent girls on changes in body fat and weight

Joan M. Lappe, Donald J. McMahon, Ann Laughlin, Corrine Hanson, Jean Claude Desmangles, Margaret Begley, Misty Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Overweight is epidemic in adolescents and is a major concern because it tracks into adulthood. Evidence supports the efficacy of high-calcium, high-dairy diets in achieving healthy weight in adults. However, no randomized controlled trials of the effect of dairy food on weight and body fat in adolescents have been reported to our knowledge. Objective: The aim was to determine whether increasing calcium intake to recommended amounts with dairy foods in adolescent girls with habitually low calcium intakes would decrease body fat gain compared with girls who continued their low calcium intake. Participants had above-the-median body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2). Design: We enrolled 274 healthy postmenarcheal 13- to 14-y-old overweight girls who had calcium intakes of ≥600 mg/d in a 12-mo randomized controlled trial. Girls were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to 1 of 2 groups within each of 3 BMI percentiles: 50th to ,70th, 70th to ,85th, and 85th to ,98th. The assignments were 1) dairy, which included low-fat milk or yogurt servings providing ≥1200 mg Ca/d or 2) control, which included the usual diet of ≥600 mg Ca/d. Results: We failed to detect a statistically significant difference between groups in percentage of body fat gain over 12 mo (mean ± SEM: dairy 0.40% ± 0.53% . control; P , 0.45). The effect of the intervention did not differ by BMI percentile stratum. There was no difference in weight change between the 2 groups. Conclusion: Our findings that the dairy group gained body fat similar to the control group provide no support for dairy food as a stratagem to decrease body fat or weight gain in overweight adolescent girls. This trial was registered at as NCT01066806.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1053
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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