Is “Wine and Milk” Better than “Wine and Cheese”?

Milk Bottle

Another guest post from the National Obesity Summit today, this one from Martin Sénéchal, currently PhD Candidate at l’Université de Sherbrooke.  In this post Martin describes a presentation by Dr Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen, which focused on the impact of dairy and calcium on hunger and body weight.  I wasn’t at the talk myself, but I’ve heard from several others that it was an excellent presentation.

While I wasn’t at the talk I have read several of Dr Astrup’s papers on the link between milk and body weight, and I should say that I personally remain skeptical about the impact of calcium/dairy on body weight, at least when it comes to public health recommendations.  My comprehensive exam in the fall dealt with potential causes of the childhood obesity epidemic, and in writing my exam I found the calcium-related evidence interesting, but I’m not convinced that it plays much of a role for the vast majority of individuals.

Here is what I wrote in my comprehensive exam:

Along with the changes in fat and sugar sweetened beverage intake in recent decades, there has also been a well-documented reduction in the intake of dietary calcium [55, 65].  For example, between 1965 and 1996, Cavadini et al. report that the milk consumption of American youth decreased by 36%, while total calcium intake dropped by roughly 13% [55].  Further, it has been suggested that high calcium intake may influence body weight through increases in fecal fat excretion, fat oxidation and thermogenesis [66-67]. However, a recent meta-analysis of childhood calcium supplementation studies reports no significant association between supplementation and any measure of weight or body composition [68], which is supported by the findings of a similar review in adults [69].  Thus, while there is some evidence for plausible mechanisms linking reduced calcium with increased adiposity, the lack of evidence linking calcium intake with changes in actual measures of body composition suggests that reductions in calcium intake do not represent an important cause of the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic.

While I find it interesting that calcium has an impact on both hunger and fecal fat excretion (consuming milk seems to make you poop out slightly more fat), I worry that some people may inadvertently increase their caloric consumption in an attempt to consume more dairy products, in the mistaken belief that those dairy calories somehow don’t count.  I don’t think that is the message that Dr Astrup or anyone else is espousing (I think the message they are espousing is “eat less food, but don’t cut all the dairy”), but I still worry about how it will be picked up by the public.

Hopefully Dr Astrup’s talk will be placed online in the near future, at which point I will post it here for general discussion.  In the meantime, please enjoy Martin’s excellent description.  And for more from Martin please check out his blog, PhD Obesité.



Ce matin c’est la conférence du Dr. Astrup qui a attiré mon attention. En effet, il a commencé  sa présentation en nous disant « Don’t put away the cheese because it is not so bad for you ». En effet, on a recommandé pendant plusieurs années de consommer avec modération les produits laitiers tels que le fromage, etc. parce qu’ils contiennent beaucoup de gras saturés et qu’ils sont caloriques. Cependant, il semble que l’apport en calcium et en protéines soit relativement bénéfique pour régulariser le poids corporel. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est qu’on voit finalement les premières pistes mécanistiques permettant d’expliquer cette association. Il semble que l’apport protéique des produits laitiers favorise la thermogénèse et le rassasiement alors que le calcium induit une diminution de l’absorption des lipides et une excrétion fécale des lipides. Ainsi lorsque le Dr. Astrup dit « don’t put away the cheese » cela ne veut pas dire de manger plus, mais plutôt d’intégrer les produits laitiers à l’intérieur d’un apport énergétique équilibré. De plus, il semble que les individus qui consomment davantage de calcium ont une augmentation substantielle du cholestérol HDL et ce en dépit d’une consommation élevée en gras saturé. D’un point de vue clinique c’est résultats sont intéressant surtout lorsqu’on pense aux femmes ménopausées dont le cholestérol HDL diminue d’environ 25% après la ménopause.

Alors, dans la mesure où le bilan énergétique est adéquat selon l’individu et que l’apport en produit laitier est augmenté, cette stratégie semble intéressante pour aider à prévenir le gain pondéral.

Peut-être qu’on devrait désormais faire un Lait et fromage au lieu d’un vins et fromages.


UPDATE Dr Paul Boisvert has a nice interview with Dr Astrup on this topic as well, which I have embedded below.

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2 Responses to Is “Wine and Milk” Better than “Wine and Cheese”?

  1. Richard says:

    Interesting post! The mechanisms seem to support the idea that real dairy is a better option than calcium pills because of the protein (and perhaps the other nutrients as well).

    Personnally, I would rather keep the wine and cheese – and have the milk at breakfast :) And some exercise (or less sedentary time) to burn the extra calories…

  2. DJ Ney says:

    hell yeah. . .her milk is better! 😛