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J Nutr. 2013 Jan;143(1):46-52. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.166355. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

Dairy food consumption and meal-induced cortisol response interacted to influence weight loss in overweight women undergoing a 12-week, meal-controlled, weight loss intervention.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.


Dairy food enhances weight loss in animal models, possibly by modifying the metabolic effects of cortisol. This study determined in overweight women (ages 20.0-45.9 y; n = 51) whether including dairy food in an energy-restricted diet affects cortisol concentrations and whether differences in provoked cortisol explain the magnitude of weight loss. Women received either an adequate amount of dairy food (AD), the equivalent of ≥711 mL/d milk, or a low amount of dairy food (LD), the equivalent to ≤238 mL/d milk, in a 12-wk, energy-restricted dietary intervention. Participants were tested in a 12-h laboratory visit, which included 2 standard meals and a dinner buffet that was consumed ad libitum. Salivary cortisol was measured from waking to bedtime. Energy restriction increased (P ≤ 0.04) the minimum and decreased (P ≤ 0.02) the diurnal amplitude in the salivary cortisol concentration from baseline to postintervention. Energy restriction enhanced the dinner meal-stimulated salivary cortisol response (DMR) (P ≤ 0.02) but only in the LD group. Compared with the LD treatment, the AD treatment induced (P ≤ 0.04) greater reductions in body weight and fat, but only in women characterized as having a baseline DMR (responders) (n = 26); weight and fat lost in the AD and LD groups were similar in nonresponders (n = 25). Overall, energy restriction dampened diurnal salivary cortisol fluctuations [symptomatic of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction] and enhanced dinner meal-stimulated salivary cortisol concentrations. The AD treatment prevented the latter. Furthermore, certain phenotypic markers of HPA axis function may help to expose the weight-reducing effects of consuming dairy food.


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