Thursday, September 08, 2005

New USDA report supports controversial dairy weight loss advertisements

The July 1 report from USDA to Congress, which I have been seeking, finally appeared today without fuss on the website of the department's Agricultural Marketing Service. This report describes the activities of the fluid milk and dairy commodity promotion programs, known as "checkoff" programs. While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage increased consumption of lowfat milk and dairy products, they discourage excessive consumption of high-fat milk, cheese, ice cream and butter by recommending reduced consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol and total calories. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee specifically considered claims that dairy consumption accelerates weight loss, but rejected these claims as having insufficient scientific support so far (see this earlier post).

Because fad dairy weight loss diets have been a major part of the checkoff programs' promotions in the past year, I wondered how the new report would square the circle. The report's authors came out swinging in the first paragraph, proudly proclaiming the central role of dairy weight loss in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dairy promotions:
In 2004, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (Dairy Board) and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board (Fluid Milk Board) continued to develop and implement programs to expand the human consumption of fluid milk and dairy products. While each promotion program has many unique activities, both programs used the role of calcium-rich dairy products in successful weight loss as a central theme and focal point for its activities in 2004.
It simply makes no sense that these dairy weight loss promotions and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are both "government speech."

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