I saw several lectures by a researcher out of Knoxville, Tennessee. He's found that consumption of calcium sets the body into lipolysis and out of lipogenesis and specifically that consumption of dairy products is superior to the consumption of calcium alone. There's something in milk that:
1) Spared muscle mass
2) Increases lipolysis
There was an upregulation of Uncoupling Protein 2 (UCP2) and an increase in body temperature observed in those on an increased calcium diet.
I think you'd be making a big mistake dropping milk entirely.
A surprising volume of scientific literature has cropped-up over the last several years that supports a surprising hypothesis: that dietary calcium, especially milk-source calcium, plays a big role in fat cell metabolism and bodyfat control. And not just any fat, but specifically trunk fat, which includes the abdominal fat that so many men struggle with, year after year. (And if you are affected, you know that it gets more difficult, year by year!)
In short, researchers have found that dietary calcium has an anti-fat, anti-obesity effect by suppressing active vitamin D action in adipocytes (fat cells). This results in increased fat-burning and decreased adipocyte fat synthesis. Very cool.
Dairy calcium (including low-fat milk products) is much more effective than other forms of calcium, which suggests that there is something in milk that promotes calcium absorption or retention.
The news on this front is getting better and better. Dr Michael Zemel and his group at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have just released a study titled "Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects". ("Central" refers to the trunk, or abdomen.) They found that, in subjects on calorie-restricted diets, modest increases in dietary calcium (in the form of yogurt) dramatically increased fat loss, while helping to preserve lean mass, relative to controls. Trunk fat loss (mostly abdominal) was increased by 81% in the yogurt calcium group, and the reduction in waist measurement was an astonishing 700% greater!
There's much more to tell about this, but for now just consider that the well-known fat-zapping and lean-mass-retaining effect of whey proteins (that you've read about here so often) may very well reflect the action of dairy proteins on calcium absorption and action. The bottom line for now is: Keep scarfing whey protein, pop some calcium, and stay tuned for more exciting details on the dairy/calcium/bodyfat connection.
Zemel and colleagues (2004) performed a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 32 obese adults. Participants followed a standard, high-calcium, or high-dairy diet where all three groups decreased consumption by 500 kcal per day (1).
Those on the standard diet lost 6.4 ± 2.5 % of their body weight, on the calcium diet lost 8.6 ± 1.1% of body weight (a 26% increase), and those on the high dairy diet lost 10.9 ± 1.6 % of body weight (a 70% increase) (1). In addition, fat loss from the trunk-region was 19.0± 7.9% of fat lost on the standard diet, 50.1±6.4% on the high calcium diet, and 66.2±3.0% on the high-dairy diet (1). Zemel concludes that dietary calcium and dairy products significantly helped weight loss after decrease in caloric intake while also increasing the percentage of fat lost from the trunk-area (1).
Effects of dietary calcium on adipocyte lipid metabolism and body weight regulation in energy-restricted aP2-agouti transgenic mice -- SHI et al. 15 (2): 291 -- The FASEB Journal