Health Benefits of Dairy Foods

There has been a great deal of research on dairy products to explore potential roles in promoting health and preventing disease.
Health Benefits of Dairy Foods

Dairy products are broadly defined as products derived from cow's milk such as fluid milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods are good sources of protein, calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Over the past few decades, there has been a great deal of research on dairy products that looks beyond their contribution of essential nutrients to explore potential roles in promoting health and preventing disease.1

Dairy products in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines1
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is a group of 13 experts who were charged with reviewing the strength of the science on a number of topics, including the role of dairy products in overall health. The Committee published its report in June 2010. The DGAC report served as the basis for the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Dairy products are among the top sources of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, three of the four “nutrients of concern” in the American diet. A nutrient of concern is one that is not consumed in adequate amounts by a majority of children and adults.

The DGAC utilized an evidence-based approach for evaluating the strength of relationships between nutrients and health. After reviewing the pool of science related to the role of dairy products in health promotion and disease prevention, the DGAC noted that moderate evidence shows the connection between intake of milk and milk products and improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents. The committee also indicated that the relationship between dairy products and lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes is supported by moderate evidence.

Dairy products in the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report2
In November 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued its report on the relationship between calcium and vitamin D and health. A panel of experts reviewed research evidence in order to update the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for these two nutrients. The panel concluded that calcium and vitamin D play a role in bone health but not in other health conditions.

Recommended Intake
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans3 recommend 3 cups of milk or its equivalent in other dairy products daily for people eating at least 1,600 calories per day and 2 1/2 cups or the equivalent for those eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories. The Guidelines call for increasing intake of fat-free or lowfat dairy products and replacing higher fat dairy products with alternatives that are lower in fat.

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The Weight Watchers Approach:

The role that milk products play in bone health and contributing essential nutrients during weight loss is recognized in the Good Health Guidelines. With respect to dairy products, Weight Watchers recommends two daily servings of low-fat or non-fat milk products and three daily servings for teens, nursing moms and anyone more than 50 years of age, and anyone weighing more than 250 pounds.


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