Doctors Fire Round Two against False Dairy/Weight-Loss Claims
Group Calls on FDA to Crack Down on Dannon, General Mills, and Maker of Lactaid
WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today, requesting it put an end to false and misleading claims by dairy product manufacturers that contend milk consumption promotes weight and fat loss.
PCRM is calling on the FDA to declare all dairy products labeled with these claims as “misbranded,” to institute a product recall, and to require the manufacturers to publish corrective ads and food labels.
“The vast majority of scientific studies show that milk either causes weight gain or else has no effect at all on weight or body fat,” says Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., senior nutrition scientist of PCRM. “Nonfat milk is 55 percent sugar, while whole milk is nearly 50 percent fat, as a percentage of calories. Neither one is a formula for weight loss.”
New research by the Harvard Medical School backs up PCRM. The study, published in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, analyzed milk intake data from more than 12,000 children from 1996-1999, and concluded that the more milk children drank, the more weight they gained. Children consuming three servings a day of milk—including low-fat milk—were 35 percent more likely to become overweight than those consuming even one or two servings daily.
The dairy industry’s weight-loss campaign is based solely on two small, poorly controlled studies conducted by Michael Zemel, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee whose funding comes from dairy industry sources.
Since 1998, Zemel has accepted $1.68 million in research grants from the National Dairy Council (NDC), a promotional arm of the American dairy industry, and $275,000 from General Mills. Among the industry manufacturers using Zemel’s research are international food giants Dannon Company, Inc.; General Mills, Inc., the nation’s second largest cereal maker and the manufacturer of Yoplait brand yogurt; and McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of Lactaid.
The FDA petition marks the second round in PCRM’s fight against false weight-loss claims by the dairy industry. In April, PCRM filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission asking it to put an immediate end to dairy weight-loss advertising by industry groups, including the IDFA, NDC, and Dairy Management, Inc., as well as by these same, and other dairy product manufacturers, including Lifeway, maker of the yogurt-based drink Kefir, and Kraft Foods.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.