Another day, another diet and the Milk Diet is currently doing the diet rounds thanks to its promise of quick weight loss – especially belly fat loss. Extremely simple, all you need to do is drink 2L of reduced fat milk a day. That’s it. Not only is it uncomplicated but claims suggest that the high calcium content of milk helps to rid the body of fat stores, especially around the tummy.
So, what does the science say about drinking 2L of milk each day? And if you have a few kilos to lose, is this diet worth a try?
Nutritionally, 2L of reduced fat milk contains roughly 700 calories, 70g of protein, 100g of carbs via the sugar lactose and 25g of fat. Overall, this is a low calorie diet (the average adult needs 1200-2000 calories a day), similar in calorie load to a meal replacement program such as Optifast or Optislim.
The macronutrients are reasonable, too – 70g of protein and 100g of carbs will satisfy the daily protein requirement for most adults, while 100g of carbs is a moderate amount of carbs. This means the Milk Diet does not fall into the category of starvation diets the way that lemon water diets and juice cleanses do.
It is when we take a closer look at micronutrients that the Milk Diet starts to fall short. The amount of dietary fibre that you would consume on this diet is insignificant, meaning you’re your gut will take a beating with constipation likely. Vitamin C and A are likely to be too low, as is iron and zinc among other key nutrients we require regularly in our diet. It could be argued you could take a supplementary form of these nutrients via a simple multivitamin supplement, but remember nutrients are always better absorbed from real food.
Naturally when you drink 2L of milk a day, you get more than enough calcium. In fact, this much milk will give you a massive 2400mg of calcium, which is at the top end of the higher range recommended on a daily basis. In the case of calcium, while we need some, or roughly 800-1000mg a day, more is not necessarily better and a high calcium intake is associated with constipation and even more severe medical issues including kidney stones and even heart issues.
For this reason, the Milk Diet could even be contraindicated for some individuals, especially those who already suffer from gut issues, or who are at risk of developing kidney stones.
What has been outlined above are basically the nutritional pros and cons of an extremely restrictive diet. What we have not talked about are the potential psychological consequences of adopting such an extreme and restrictive diet that has no science backed evidence to support its use.
Any diet that promotes such extreme restriction is associated with psychological consequences – becoming obsessed with food and eating, and promoting a dieting mindset, which results in followers being constantly ‘on’ or ‘off’ a diet, with alternating periods of overeating and extreme restriction.
While the Milk Diet offers a better nutritional balance than some of the extreme regimes out there, it is by no means the best diet out there.
The difference between the Milk Diet and a meal replacement program is that a meal replacement program that uses supplementary shakes or bars to replace meals have been scientifically formulated to tick the box on all the essential nutrients we require, whilst maintaining a very low calorie intake. Such programs have been scientifically proven to support quick weight loss and while they are still rather extreme, at least they will ensure your overall nutrient intake is adequate whilst you are dieting.
These would be a much better option if your desire is to follow a relatively strict diet for a short period of time than the Milk Diet, and definitely much kinder to your gut.
Susie Burrell is a nutritionist. Continue the conversation on Twitter @SusieBDiet.