Public Release:  Community-intervention study links successful town makeover focused on boosting calcium and exercise

Weber Shandwick Worldwide

The battle against obesity in this country could be tackled one community at a time, according to a newly published study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Denver demonstrated the effectiveness of changing behaviors at a community level, suggesting that community-based interventions could be a viable option to address the nation's obesity epidemic. Adults in Calcium, New York, who increased calcium intake by drinking more lowfat milk and other milk products and walked more frequently successfully lost weight after a 16-week overhaul.

In this innovative "Calcium Weighs In" community intervention, researchers overhauled the health habits of 199 men and women in a small, rural community of Calcium, New York. The free program provided one-on-one nutrition counseling and group classes, urging participants to set reasonable health goals, choose lowfat dairy foods including milk, cheese and yogurt and exceed a 10,000 step per day goal to increase physical activity.

At the end of the 16-week program, the 116 participants who completed the program lost an average of 13.2 pounds. Total dairy intake increased to nearly 3 servings per day, on average, meeting the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended goal.

"The best way to tackle the obesity problem in this country is by changing one community at a time and we made a huge impact in Calcium, NY," said renowned obesity researcher and study co-author James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver. "We were able to improve overall health simply by getting adults moving and changing eating habits to include more lowfat or fat free milk and other milk products, a model that can certainly apply to other Americans."

Additional nutrition studies suggest that drinking the recommended three glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day can help maintain a healthy weight. And according to "Weighing in on the American Diet," a new comprehensive report on the weight management practices of Americans conducted by The NPD Group in collaboration with the Milk Processor Education Program, dieters who made drinking lowfat or fat free milk a daily habit were more likely to be at a healthy weight and have better quality diets, richer in essential nutrients, compared to those who didn't.

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Milk provides nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein and potassium--especially important for dieters who may be missing out on key nutrients.

Source: Wyatt HR, Jortberg BT, Babbel C, Garner S, Dong F, Grunwald GK, Hill JO. Weight loss in a community initiative that promotes decreased energy intake and increased physical activity and dairy consumption: Calcium Weighs-In. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2008;5:28-44.

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