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Healthcare experts say milk and dairy should be protected by public health guidelines

Posted: 22 March 2017 | New Food | No comments yet

The majority of a room of healthcare and nutrition experts did not agree that milk and dairy foods should be targeted by public health recommendations to reduce population risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

The majority of a room of healthcare and nutrition experts did not agree that milk and dairy foods should be targeted by public health recommendations to reduce population risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.  

In the vote, 81% of healthcare professionals also agreed with the statement that milk and dairy foods were inversely linked to cardiometabolic disease, and 79% did not think or were not sure that dairy should be targeted in efforts to reduce the population risk of cardiometabolic disease.

Additionally, 76% of respondents felt that public health guidelines on what a portion of dairy is, and how many portions the average person should consume, should be clearer. 

The vote was cast at an event, held by The Dairy Council at the St Pancras Hotel in London, during a discussion on the latest scientific evidence on saturated fat, dairy, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, to clear up the confusion among healthcare professionals.

There has been a shift in the evidence base over the past decade and recent studies have shown no significant association between milk and dairy foods and the risk of developing heart disease and dairy type 2 diabetes. Some studies have even shown protective effects.

Dr Anne Mullen, Director of Nutrition at The Dairy Council, said “It is often thought that milk and dairy, due to their saturated fat content, can play a part in developing health problems such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but recent studies have shown that’s not the case.”

Foods are made up of many nutrients that interact with each other, affecting nutrient absorption and metabolism. Assessing saturated fat as a single nutrient, as opposed to looking at whole foods, means that milk and dairy foods are often misunderstood when assessing their impact on long term health.

Adding to the growing body of work, a study published last week from University College Dublin found that people who eat the greatest amount of cheese did not have higher cholesterol levels, one of the main risk factors for heart disease, compared to those who ate the lowest amount of cheese, despite suggestions that eating foods high in saturated fats like cheese can increase your risk.

Dr Mullen added “Milk and dairy foods are both delicious and nutritious, and their nutritional benefits can be hidden when a single nutrient approach to public health guidelines is taken.

“We hope that our new resource provides an easy to use point of reference for healthcare professionals and consumers which translates the science and debunks some of the nutritional myths about the foods we eat.”

The resource was written by registered health professionals at The Dairy Council as part of a project with AHDB Dairy.

Dr Sabita Soedamah-Muthu from Wageningen University, Netherlands, and Professor Julie Lovegrove from the University of Reading were the expert speakers who presented the latest research in saturated fat, dairy and cardiometabolic health during the event.

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