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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

November 1, 2004 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Dairy Industry Unleashes Calcium Key Diet

Lose weight. It's quite easy. Forget about the Zone, Atkins, or South Beach diets. Just hire an accountant and a secretary before you buy a copy of The Calcium Key (Wiley, 2004) by Michael Zemel, Ph.D. and Bill Gottlieb. Dr. Zemel, who is described on the cover of the book as "discoverer of the calcium-weight loss connection," is director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee. His co-author Bill Gottlieb was formerly editor-in-chief of health books at Rodale Press.

Why the accountant and the secretary? You'll need the accountant to do the math adding up and keeping track of the exchanges for the six different categories of food you'll be eating. For example, if you are following an 1800 calorie diet, you are entitled to 6 Bread/Grain exchanges, 4 Meat/Protein, 4 Vegetable, 5 Fruit, 3 Dairy, and 4 Fat. On a1200-calorie regimen you'll consume 3 Bread/Grain, 2 Meat/Protein, 3 Vegetable, 3 Fruit, 3 Dairy, and 3 Fat exchanges. No matter how many calories you eat in a day, you must have your 3 servings of dairy products.

The Calcium Key treats dieters as though they were diabetics. Diabetics are familiar with exchanges because it is a system developed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association to help keep blood sugar levels under control and to offer an effective eating plan for those with the disease. The authors have piggybacked onto the diabetic exchange plan to create CKES, the Calcium Key Exchange System.

Hire a staff to supervise your diet!
Keeping track of these numbers, you'll not only need the accountant, but you'll also require the assistance of a secretary to assist you in maintaining your "Food Diary." The diary must contain everything you eat during the day.

Calcium Key "We have found that when people begin keeping a food diary, they are surprised--even amazed--by how much they are eating," say the authors. They encourage dieters to subtotal their exchanges during the day to help spread their exchanges rather than consuming most of them during breakfast and lunch. Perhaps, a phone call to the accountant during mid afternoon will provide you with your exchange balance for the rest of the day.

Maintaining the food diary is a monumental challenge when you eat in restaurants. The authors offer a simple solution. Write down a description of each dish you eat and try to break down the types of ingredients and the quantities of each. "If you think through a restaurant meal and write down you observations, you will make accurate estimates of exchanges," the authors write. Realistically, how many people can look at a restaurant meal and tell what's in it and which exchanges and how many of each are involved? To the list of support personnel for this diet, better add a chef and a dietician to cope with the restaurant problem.

Before you begin this convoluted calcium journey, you need to wade through charts like Resting Metabolic Rate and Maintenance Calorie Level to determine how many calories you require to maintain your current weight. A 25 year-old man who weighs 150 lbs. would have an RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) of 1599 calories. If he were in a low activity group that would mean 2078 calories to maintain his weight. If he were moderately active, he could increase his calories to 2238. With strenuous activity he could increase his calorie intake to 2398.)

It's the calories, stupid.
If he wanted to lose weight, he would have to reduce his total calorie intake by 500. In fact, that's the diet. Read the chart and reduce your calorie intake by 500, but don't go below 1200 calories because that creates an unhealthy situation where you're burning more skeletal muscle than fat and working against long-term weight loss. Besides, a program less than 1200 calories will make you feel deprived. You're not likely to stay on this regimen very long, and when you quit, you'll probably reward yourself by overindulging. Incidentally, the authors say that if you ingest more than 1900 calories during the day, even three shots of dairy won't help. You just won't lose weight. It's the calories, stupid, not the dairy.!!!!!!!!!!

Your next question is "Why do I need the dairy?' Researcher Zemel responds with studies that show too little calcium in the diet leads to high blood pressure and weight gain. The irony is that low calcium in the diet can promotes more calcium in the smooth muscle cells of the arteries causing them to narrow and thus raise blood pressure. A high level of calcium in the diet causes the opposite effect. Because less calcium is in the smooth cells of the arteries, the arteries are relaxed and maintain normal blood pressure. Does that mean that less is more and more is less? Check out page 15 to see whether you can untangle the calcium paradox. To your list of people to help you decipher this information, you'll need a doctor or a physiologist.

Zemel also found that a high calcium diet could lead to weight loss because it caused burning off more fat and storing less of it. For humans that means 1200 to 1600 mg of calcium a day from dairy products or 3 to 4 servings. Zemel's findings just happen to echo the National Dairy Council's 3-a-Day marketing program featuring milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Cut the calories by 500
Doctors Zemel and Sharon Miller published their study titled "Dietary Calcium and Dairy Modulation of Adiposity and Obesity Risk" in Obesity Research, April 2004. The study conducted by researchers from the University of Tennessee placed 32 obese individuals on a restricted diet reducing their food consumption by 500 calories daily for 6 months. The participants were divided into three groups, all following the 500-calorie reduction.

The control group followed a low calcium diet with a daily total between 400 and 500 mg or no more than one serving of dairy a day. The second or high calcium group had the same diet with an 800 mg supplement of calcium bringing their daily total to between 1200 and1300 mg. The third or high-dairy group had 3 servings of low-fat dairy daily for a total of 1200 to 1300 mg.

As expected the results showed that everyone lost weight, but the high-calcium, high-dairy group yielded the best results. They lost the most weight and body fat. As Zemel has discovered in his studies, calcium supplements are not as effective as dairy products in meeting the body's calcium needs. Those who rely on supplements for their calcium just aren't consuming enough milk, cheese, and yogurt. According to the authors, dieters who cut back on dairy to lose weight are making a big mistake and need to jump back onto the milk wagon.

We would love to interview the participants in this study a year or two later to determine whether they continued their less-than-1900 calorie diets and maintained their weight loss. We're not gamblers, but we would be willing to wager they gained back the weight they lost. Not many would be willing to stay on this plan of deprivation as a permanent lifestyle change. Even the accountant will tell you if you reduce the standard American 2000-calorie diet by 500, you're down to a daily 1500 calories. If you eat 3 or 4 servings of dairy, you're using 300 to 500 calories for dairy products. That doesn't leave much room for non-dairy foods.

Who's paying the doctor, anyway?
When we read this study, we were neither shocked nor surprised to read the affiliations of both authors. Zemel has received grants from the National Dairy Council. Miller is with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Although the Calcium Key Weight-Loss Plan recommends no-fat, low-fat, and reduced fat dairy foods, it is not a low-fat diet. Their statement, "No food is off limits," is also the mantra of the meat and dairy industries. Eat what you normally eat, but 500 fewer calories of it. Anyone following the Calcium Key Exchange System will eat 35% calories from fat, 49% from carbohydrates, and 16% from protein. Keeping the fat low in the dairy products will allow a person to stay within the calorie limits. "As you know, it's too many calories, not too much fat, that is the problem with the North American diet," the authors write. What they neglected to say is that there is too much dairy fat in the North American diet.

More dairy for the lactose intolerant!
What about lactose intolerance? The authors say that 2/3 of the world's population almost completely loses (90% to 95%) the ability to produce the intestinal enzyme lactase between the ages of 3 and 5. This enzyme helps to digest lactose, a form of sugar in dairy products. If lactose is not digested in the small intestine, it proceeds to the large intestine where it ferments causing hydrogen gas and digestive distress.

Lactose intolerance affects 90% of Asian Americans, 90% of Native Americans, 80% of African Americans, and 53% of Hispanic Americans. Caucasians in the United States have the lowest rate of lactose intolerance, 6% to 22%.

What do the authors recommend for these people? Eat more dairy products. Your body will gradually adapt to the lactose. They even cite published studies that conclude, "People who identify themselves as severely lactose-intolerant may mistakenly attribute a variety of abdominal symptoms to lactose intolerance."

They continue to push dairy products to the lactose intolerant by suggesting that people eat dairy foods in small amounts. Having the dairy with meals will slow the rate that lactose leaves the stomach, giving whatever lactase is in the body the opportunity to break down the lactose.

Because yogurt is more like a food than a beverage, it moves through the intestine more slowly. The authors cite a study to show that lactose-intolerant people who used yogurt had much less gas because the yogurt only generated 1/3 of the amount of hydrogen than milk does, yet enough to announce your presence in a crowded room.

Other suggestions are to eat low-lactose hard cheeses, lactase free milk, milk containing lactobacillus acidophilus, chocolate milk, or take a lactase supplement.

Lose weight and body fat the dairy way.
Knowing that African Americans are likely to be lactose-intolerant, what would be a logical study for a nutrition researcher. Of course, involve them in a study that emphasized dairy products. Zemel and company accomplished their mission by persuading 34 overweight African American men and women to participate in a dairy diet study. One group consumed a low-calcium, low-dairy diet (less than 1 serving a day) while the other group ate a high-calcium, high-dairy diet (3 servings a day). Neither group cut calories or changed their level of fat, protein, or carbohydrates.

The members of the high-dairy group decreased their total body fat and abdominal fat and showed an increase in muscle mass. The low-dairy bunch did not show these results. The high-dairy subjects also reduced their insulin levels and blood pressure. No mention was made whether people in the high-dairy group showed any stomach distress or even lost weight.

Zemel and Gottlieb sum up the benefits of the Calcium Key in a chapter titled Gaining Health While Losing Weight. They show "how calcium can protect you from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, colon cancer, PMS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other health problems."

To those who have read studies that implicate dairy in breast and prostate cancer, the authors respond with contrary information. "There is very preliminary epidemiological evidence that dairy foods and calcium may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Intriguing studies but no definitive proof. What we can say in confidence, however, is that dairy products do not cause breast cancer--something they've been accused of in the low-fat mania that's seized the country for many years."

The authors also dispel recent news stories that revealed dairy products may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer. They say the only studies indicating this risk are epidemiological and many other studies show no risk. Evidently, epidemiological studies are valid when they support your claim (breast cancer) and are flawed when they disagree with you view (prostate cancer).

Dairy Council chortles with glee
The National Dairy Council must be chortling with glee. They have a researcher and his team who will go to great lengths to prove that dairy products are not only healthy but are also a key element in weight loss. Reading the Calcium Key is almost like a visit to the National Dairy Council website that provides similar information.

Since 1915 the National Dairy Council has done everything in its power to convince Americans that milk products are essential to good health. At times they have enlisted the aid of doctors and researchers to trumpet their cause. We wonder how many of the studies that announce the value of milk are financed by the dairy industry and can be relied on as sound scientific research.

The researchers are oblivious to the many plant sources of dietary calcium such as collards, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, sesame seeds, beans, almonds, figs, and tofu processed with calcium, as well as calcium fortified foods like soy milk, cereals, and orange juice. No one is paying scientists like Zemel to tout these foods.

Meanwhile, we don't need an accountant, a secretary, a chef, a dietician, and a doctor to monitor our diets. We have no need for exchanges or to lop 500 calories from our daily eating program. We'll just continue our low-fat vegan diet that seems effective in preventing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and other degenerative diseases. We'll just tell the dairy folks, "No, thanks!" Besides, we're lactose-intolerant and are not interested in a thinly disguised promotion for losing weight that will only lead us to stomach distress. Meanwhile, we'll wait for a legitimate study that compares a low-fat vegan diet with a high calcium, high dairy diet. The National Dairy Council may not want to announce the results of that one.

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