Tom’s Thumb trail in Scottsdale, AZ
I vaguely recall a milk diet to treat stomach ulcers in the mid-20th century. Tagamet changed that!
I’ve been reading scientific articles on low-energy liquid diets for weight loss and diabetes remission, and ran across a reference to a milk diet. I found impressive results in a 16-week study.
This was a small randomized trial that enrolled 45 very fat folks — BMI 41-47, average weight 122 kg (268 lb), mostly women — and assigned them to one of three diets:
- Control: conventional balanced diet of normal foods providing about 800 calories/day and at least 36 grams of protein.
- Milk: “variable combination of full cream or semi-skimmed milk and unsweetened yoghurt,” about 800 calories/day. BTW, a cup (240 ml) of whole milk has 150 calories.
- Milk Plus: same as the milk diet plus “unlimited amount of a single food selected by the patient on each day of the week. Of these seven extra foods, three were a fruit or vegetable, two were a high protein food, and two were a “favourite” food. The seven foods were repeated on the same day of successive weeks.” (If you understand this, you’re smarter than me, which wouldn’t be unusual.) Average calories were 1,350/day.
The researchers figured these adults were eating about 2,500 calories/day at baseline. Diabetics were excluded.
The Milk group lost the most weight. Eleven of the 14 participants completed the 16-week study, with an average weight loss of 11.2 kg (24.6 lb). Constipation was the only “serious” side effect reported. The authors admitted that deficiencies in some vitamins and iron might be a problem, but cited a similar but longer trial (24 weeks) that found no such deficiencies.
Eleven of the 17 in the Milk Plus group persevered for the whole 16 weeks. Average weight loss was 8.2 kg (18 lb).
Nine of the 14 in the Control Group were able to put up with it for the duration. Average weight loss was only 2.6 kg (5.7 lb). I suspect they had a bit of a compliance problem. When you weigh 268 lb, a 5.7 lb loss isn’t much.
“Analysis of compliance (not reported) showed that it was similar for the two milk diets but much lower for the conventional diet.”
The researchers opine that…
- “Patients are more likely to respond to a simple diet which they have not tried before than to advice on conventional diets.”
- “Probably the best strategy is to rotate diets,…[to prevent compliance from falling].”
I wonder how well the Milk diet would work for someone who weighs 205 lb (93 kg) and just wants to lose 25 lb (11.4 kg).
I wonder how important are the exact proportions of “full cream or semi-skimmed milk and unsweetened yoghurt.”
I wonder if the Milk diet has ever been tested in overweight people with diabetes. The carbohydrate in milk shouldn’t be a problem since overall calories are so low. A cup of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrate.
As with all diets, weight regain will be a problem after the 16 weeks.
I’m skeptical about the nutritional adequacy of the Milk diet.
The Milk diet might be a good temporary option for someone who wants to lose more excess weight but has hit a weight-loss plateau in their current regimen.
The simplicity of the milk diet is very appealing to me.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Reference: Summerbell, C.D., et al. Randomised controlled trial of novel, simple, and well supervised weight reducing diets in outpatients. British Medical Journal, 317: 1487-1489. November 28, 1998.
Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, front cover