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Milk Is Not a Diet Food

The Federal Trade Commission has asked the dairy industry to remove its "Milk Your Diet" ads after research failed to support claims that milk can help people lose weight.
 
 
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After a yearlong marketing campaign, the Dairy Council has conceded what your uncle Harry could have told you in a minute. Milk is not a diet food.

Watch for the dairy industry to end its "Milk Your Diet," and "3-A-Day: Burn More Fat, Lose Weight" campaigns "until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss," says Lydia Parnes, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

While the industry stands by its allegations -- "There's a strong body of scientific evidence that demonstrates a connection between dairy and weight loss," says National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board spokesman Susan Ruland -- it will now claim that low-fat dairy products do not necessarily add weight and may have "certain nutrients that can help consumers meet dietary requirements." (Pretty much the definition of food.)

The Milk Your Diet campaign (also called BodyByMilk; Think About Your Drink; Why Milk?; 24oz/24hours; 3-A-Day; and Got Milk? as in -- one of these slogans has got to work!) did not start out so humble.

It shipped truck-size posters of 'stache-wearing David Beckham, Carrie Underwood and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez to 45,000 public middle and high schools and 60,000 public elementary schools last fall and conducted an online auction where students could use milk UPC codes as currency. ("It's an amazing experience," say the web promos, which were still up in May. "Did we mention you have a chance to win an iPod? And a Fender guitar? And cool clothes from Adidas and Baby Phat? All you have to do is drink milk to get it. Any size. Any flavor.")

The campaign offered $1,000 America's Healthiest Student Bodies Awards to schools with the "most active" students and saluted them with what? Got Milk recognitions.

And it exhorted Hispanic communities to Milk Their Diets, too, during its 75-city Great American Weight Loss Challenge tour in 2006.

"Given the high obesity rates among Hispanics and the reality that they are predisposed to certain diseases, it becomes more essential to educate them about good eating habits," said Claudia González, author of "Gordito Doesn't Mean Healthy," and a nutritionist who traveled with the Challenge.

The problem was the diet itself.

It advised you to drink 24 ounces of milk every 24 hours -- part of "your reduced-calorie diet" -- using modifications like:

"Sip on a cappuccino or latté instead of black coffee."

"Substitute milk for water in recipes."

"Make soups and chowders with milk."

"Add milk to risotto and rice dishes for a creamier texture."

"Order a milk-based soup like corn chowder, potato leek or cream of broccoli as a first course at dinner."

"Freeze strawberry or banana milk in popsicle containers for a tasty 'milksicle' treat." (Aren't we getting a little close to the "ice" word?)

"Make some old-fashioned oats with milk instead of water."

Not only did it sound like a diet for recovering anorexics, to lose weight you'd have to eliminate many other foods. (Precisely the point, the dairy industry would no doubt say.)

Or as a commentator on a nutrition website put it, if burning and reducing calories are doing the "heavy lifting" why not the "the apple diet? Cut calories, burn calories, eat an apple before every meal."

Of course the dairy industry has a lot more problems these days than milk not causing weight loss.

So far this year, milk consumption has been linked to prostate cancer in Cancer Causes & Control , Parkinson's in the American Journal of Epidemiology and acne in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology .

Standard dairy practices from rBST injections to veal calf and downer treatments have horrified consumers -- with milk from cloned animals sure to turn the public off further.

And communities are increasingly zoning out megadairy farms, called environmental crack houses by activists.

In fact, it seems one of the only good things you can say about milk these days is that it's not from China. At least as far as we know.

 
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