UK Dairy Council conference spreads health message

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dairy products Nutrition

UK's Dairy Council yesterday held a Diet & Health
conference geared at getting the message of the diverse
health-promoting properties of milk out to health professionals and
as such on to consumers.

The non-profit organization is jointly funded by UK farmers and processors and its mission is to promote awareness on scientifically based information on dairy. Thursday's conference at King's College London saw nutritional information presented to over 200 delegates including health professionals. The underlying motivation behind the conference was to combat misinformation surrounding diary and present research showing how it can enhance a healthy diet. "We want to give information on dairy as part of a healthy and well-balanced diet,"​ Dairy Council director Judith Bryans told NutraIngredients. "And that's why the theme of the conference was diet and health rather then diet and dairy."​ The dairy council wants to show consumers that dairy has a whole range of potential health supporting applications. "Dairy foods have a lot going for them, but people tend to think of only calcium and dairy,"​ said Bryan. "There's a lot more than that." ​ Topics were listed under the broad banners of diet and bone health, nutrition and colon cancer, trans fatty acids and health, and diet and dental health. However, dairy did surface within these topics because of its nutrient content. For instance, Creighton University's Professor Robert Heaney spoke on osteoporosis prevention and nutrients that can be derived from many sources, such as milk. "Calcium was the first to be recognized as critical, but it is now becoming clear that vitamin D, Protein, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper, and vitamins C and K, are also needed,"​ said Heaney. "Dairy foods are a principal dietary source for a host of these nutrients, which are needed for health."​ The presentation on diet and weight control looked at calcium's potential health-supporting role for weight loss. "Observational studies have found that individuals with a high intake of dairy products are less likely to develop obesity, the metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but plausible mechanisms to explain the associations are lacking,"​ said presenter Professor Arne Astrup, from the Royal Veterinary & Agricultural University, Denmark. This topic has proved controversial in the US, where the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the nation's dairy industry were recently obliged to stop making claims in their advertising that dairy products cause weight loss. The move was spurred by the Federal Trade Commission following a petition from an advocacy group with a reputation for pushing forth animal right issues, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Maria Pufulete, lecturer at King's College London Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, addressed attendees on the issue of colon cancer and nutritional support beyond just dietary fibre. According to Pufulete, dairy products contain many of the protective compounds against colon cancer, including: calcium, vitamin D, butyric acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), sphingolipids, and probiotics. "Dietary fibre has been one of the most investigated factors as having a protective effect against colorectal cancer,"​ said Pufulete. "Other dietary factors that may have a protective effect include dairy products."​ Critics of the dairy industry say the alleged health benefits of dairy products can actually be obtained from numerous other sources, and that the drawbacks of milk mean it should not be marketed as a healthy product. One frequently cited drawback is the relatively elevated fat content of dairy products. Dr Adam Lock, from the Department of Animal Science at the University of Vermont, spoke at the conference of the scientific evidence in fact pointing to the potentially beneficial effect of milk fat on human health. "There is a growing body of scientific evidence that some of the fatty acids uniquely present in milk fat may have beneficial effects on human health maintenance and disease prevention,"​ said Lock. "The recognition that not all saturated fatty acids and TFA have the same biological effects, may ultimately challenge the continued recommendations and current public perception of dairy fats in human diets."​ The Dairy Council in turn hopes conference attendees will now diffuse the message of the varied research links being made between dairy and numerous health applications. "The important thing for us was to engage with these health professionals so that they can take this information and the new messages back to their practices,"​ said Bryans.

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