An increased intake of vitamin C and dairy could reduce the accumulation of weight around the abdomen, reported to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease, suggests a new study.
Over 900 Iranian women aged between 40 and 60 years were found to have more central fat accumulation if their intakes of vitamin C, calcium, and dairy are low.
Indeed, low vitamin C intake was associated with a 131 per cent increase in probability of central fat accumulation, while low calcium increased the probability by 30 per cent.
The study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, looks set to continue the debate about whether dairy foods can promote weight loss, and what the mechanism behind such an effect could be.
Leila Azadbakht and Ahmad Esmaillzadeh from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences used a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to evaluate dietary intakes.
They report that the possibility of being centrally obese was increased in women with low vitamin C intakes (less than 56 milligrams), low calcium intakes (less than 398 mg), and low dairy consumption.
Others factors found to adversely affect weight around the waist were depression, smoking and menopausal state.
In terms of the mechanism or mechanisms behind the apparent benefits of the nutrients, the researchers state that both the vitamin and calcium have been reported to reduce fat absorption and may reduce abdominal adiposity.
"The mechanism by which milk consumption affects obesity indices is not accurately known. Most studies have cited calcium as a responsible factor. So, an inverse relationship has been suggested between calcium intake and body weight and body fat mass in various ways. Its simple effect is the inhibition of fat and fatty acid absorption," they stated.
"However, this is not the major cause; it seems that the major effect of calcium on body weight is mediated by its effects on controlling intracellular calcium," they added.
A previous study from Purdue University claimed that young women could burn more calories if they ate three or four dairy servings per day. However another report, also from Purdue, reported that increased dairy consumption had no effect on weight gain or loss.
On the other hand, Dr. Michael Zemel from the University of Tennessee told attendees at last year's Paris Anti-Obesity Therapies 2006 conference that dairy can help reduce body fat and that calcium only accounts for about 40 per cent of the effect.
Dairy industries in Europe and the US have been promoting milk-based products for consumers who want to slim for some time but the new findings underline that further work needs to be done to support such claims.
A diet low in dairy foods has been linked to an increased risk of accumulating fat
Indeed, the results have been welcomed by the UK-based Dairy Council. The council's director Dr. Judith Bryans said: "These results are exciting, as a number of other scientific studies have also suggested a possible link between regular consumption of low fat dairy foods and weight loss, particularly from the waist area.
"This study simply highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle including plenty of physical and mental activity, and a diet that incorporates a good balance of all food groups, including dairy," she said.
Source: Public Health Nutrition
"Dietary and non-dietary determinants of central adiposity among Tehrani women"
Authors: L. Azadbakht and A. Esmaillzadeh