Viewpoints presented in this blog reflect opinions of the author and National Dairy Council and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.
National Dairy Council
National Dairy Council recently hosted an industry-presented webinar entitled: Fuels of Engagement: Myth Busting and Science Trusting. Watch a free recorded version of the webinar. The webinar is also available for two (2) CEC’s via ACSM ceOnline.
Several questions were asked by attendees during the webinar and the answers are below.
Q 1: Why do we drink cow’s milk?
For several reasons. Here’s some food for thought:
- We’ve enjoyed drinking cow’s milk for centuries: Archaeologists and anthropologists have found evidence of people drinking cow’s milk dating back several thousand years, according to “Dr. Dairy,” Greg Miller, PhD, FACN, who recently wrote about this topic.
- It’s not just about taste: While milk tastes great, it’s also good for us – it packs a nutrient punch,plus it’s affordable, readily available and versatile. Plus, Milk is the leading food source of 3 of the 4 nutrients of public health concern for children and adults (calcium, potassium and vitamin D) in the American diet.
- We’re not only enjoying cow's milk, but other dairy foods, too: Thanks to milk, we also can enjoy other dairy foods from cheese to yogurt. Dairy offers many delicious ways to get essential nutrients into our day-to-day diet (or meals) from enjoying a yogurt for breakfast to noshing on a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner.
Q 2: What is Lactose Intolerance? Does it mean I should avoid dairy?
Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and many other dairy foods made from milk, like yogurt and cheese. The body makes a natural enzyme called lactase to help digest lactose. If your body doesn’t make enough lactase, you may not be able to digest lactose properly (called lactose intolerance). Lactose intolerance is characterized by several symptoms, which could include abdominal pain, bloating, gas and/or diarrhea, that may happen after some people eat or drink dairy. It’s important to make sure your symptoms are not from another problem with the help of your doctor.
Lactose intolerance is a very individual condition, which means people can tolerate different amounts of lactose. Many people often don’t have to miss out on the great taste and health benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, because there are many options available with varying amounts of lactose, even lactose-free. Some milk companies make lactose-free milk, which is easier to digest. The process to make it starts with real cow’s milk. Then the lactose is broken down into its two simple sugars. This makes it easier to digest for those who may not have enough lactase in their systems. Other milk companies may choose to filter out the lactose. Lactose-free milk provides the same essential nutrients, such as calcium, protein, vitamin D and B vitamins, as regular milk and can be used in the same delicious ways.
In addition to lactose-free milk, many with lactose intolerance can work small amounts of dairy into daily meals or choose dairy foods with minimal lactose. Here are 12 tips you can try to see what works for you so you may not have to give up your favorite dairy foods and the great taste and health benefits that come with them.
Q 3: Can dairy foods increase my risk of cancer?
Most of us have had an experience with cancer either personally or through family, friends or coworkers. It can be scary and confusing, so it’s understandable people are searching for ways to reduce their risk, which may include watching the foods they eat. When it comes to dairy foods and the risk of a complex disease like cancer, according to a comprehensive review, the evidence is not conclusive. But “the proven health benefits of dairy foods greatly outweigh the unproven harm.”
Because each cancer is different, it can be difficult to establish dietary recommendations. Rather than focusing on removing specific foods or nutrients, which may do more harm than good, it’s important to concentrate on a healthy eating plan that contains all food groups, including dairy foods.
The American Cancer Society encourages consumption of a healthy diet to help maintain a healthy weight, which is important for overall health. These recommendations are consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) which recommends Americans 9 and older consume three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products every day as part a healthy eating style such as the Healthy U.S.-Style eating pattern. The DGA acknowledges the role of healthy eating styles, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, as being associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and overweight and obesity.
Q 4: What's the latest science regarding the relationship between dairy and cardiovascular disease?
A recent study published in The Lancet of adults from 21 countries found eating dairy foods is linked to reduced risk of major cardiovascular disease events and mortality. The results of this large prospective cohort study add to the existing body of research that dates back nearly 25 years, where several studies show dairy foods are associated with a neutral or reduced risk of heart disease. The study involved more than 136,000 adults ages 35 to 70 years old across five continents who completed food frequency questionnaires to record dairy consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt and other dairy-based foods. This was further categorized into low-fat and whole-fat dairy. Why the distinction? The researchers noted they wanted to examine if dietary guidance to choose only low-fat over whole-fat dairy, due to its saturated fat content and potential adverse effects on heart health, would hold up if tested among diverse populations from low- and middle-income countries.
The main findings include:
- Higher consumption of total dairy (more than two servings per day compared to 0.5 servings) was associated with reduced risk of total mortality, non-cardiovascular mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, major cardiovascular disease and stroke, while no association was observed with myocardial infarction
- Higher milk and yogurt consumption (more than one serving per day compared to none) was associated with reduced risk of total mortality;
- Cheese and butter (butter intake was low) consumption was not associated with risk of total mortality.
These results are consistent with the growing body of scientific evidence that has shown eating dairy foods from a variety of fat levels are associated with neutral or reduced risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes and mortality. Additionally, this new evidence indicates that dietary recommendations to include dairy foods — within caloric and physical activity recommendations and regardless of fat level — as part of healthy eating patterns could be made globally.
Q 5: Is dairy environmentally friendly?
Producing dairy foods requires natural resources such as energy, land and water so food can travel through the supply chain from farm to table. The dairy community takes environmental stewardship seriously and is committed to contributing to sustainable food systems. Becoming environmentally friendly is a journey that evolves with science and new innovations and demands commitment and continuous improvement. Here’s a snapshot of what the dairy community has done, is doing and is planning to do in the future to continuously improve its environmental efforts:
- Dairy farmers have a long legacy of environmental stewardship. Even before anyone knew what a carbon footprint was, dairy farmers have improved breeding techniques, quality animal care, specialized feeding practices and technology. As a result, each gallon of milk produced in 2007, for example, required 90 percent less land and 65 percent less water, with a 63 percent smaller carbon footprint than it did in 1944.
- Building on this legacy, the Innovation Center ― a collaboration of U.S. dairy companies, cooperatives and stakeholders ― made a shared commitment to sustainability in 2008 by creating the Sustainability Alliance. Among other things, members agreed to make dairy foods available in ways that enhance and protect our natural resources to nourish a growing population.
- The goals of the Sustainability Alliance are grounded in sound science. Before the Alliance was formed, the Innovation Center conducted a comprehensive life cycle assessment of farms, transportation and dairy companies to measure the industry’s carbon footprint. This baseline data, published in 2007, showed that the dairy sector contributed about 2 percent of total U.S. green-house gas (GHG) emissions and used about 5 percent of total water withdrawal. Understanding the LCA allowed the dairy community to set a voluntary goal to reduce GHG emissions 25 percent from 2007 to 2020.
- Guided by research and input from stakeholders, the Innovation Center board identified three environmental priorities to address: GHG emissions, energy use and water quality and quantity. They developed and completed several projects to reduce emissions and energy use and fostered partnerships to accelerate progress toward common goals of environmental stewardship.
Looking ahead, dairy farms and companies will continue to use the Stewardship and Sustainability Framework for U.S Dairy to set performance baselines and measure improvements on the field, on the farm and in dairy companies along the supply chain. Ongoing research will continue to advance the science and understanding of dairy’s environmental impact and help evolve best management practices.
Of course, dairy’s environmental footprint is part of a multi-dimensional approach to achieving sustainable food systems ― it’s also about the contribution to nutrition, public health, social wellbeing, economics and thriving communities.
For more commonly asked questions and answers about dairy, visit: https://dairygood.org/content/2016/myths.
Keast DR, Fulgoni 3rd VL, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE. Food sources of energy and nutrients among children in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2006. Nutrients. 2013;5:283–301.
O’Neil CE, Keast DR, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA. Food sources of energy and nutrients among adults in the US: NHANES 2003–2006. Nutrients. 2012;4:2097–120.
Low-fat milk provides 366 mg potassium per cup, 8% DV (USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 #0108)
Davoodi H, Emaeili S, Mortazavian AM. Effects of milk and milk products consumption on cancer: a review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2013;12:249- 264.
Kushi LH, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:30–67.
US Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
Dehghan M, et al. Association of dairy intake with cardiovascular disease and moratlity in 21 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet. 2018;392(10161):2288-2297.
Drouin-Chartier JP, et al. Comprehensive review of the impact of dairy foods and dairy fat on cardiometabolic risk. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(6):1041-1051.
Soedamah-Muthu SS, et al. Milk and dairy consumption and incidence of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(1):158-171.
Capper JL, Cady RA, Bauman D. The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007. J Anim Sci. 2009;87(6):2160-2167.
From Dairy Lifecycle Assessment research: https://www.usdairy.com/~/media/usd/public/dairysenvironmentalfootprintbrochure-july.pdf
About the Presenter: Leslie Bonci. MPH, RDN, CSSD
Leslie Bonci is the owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie, a nutrition consulting company and co-founder of Performance365, a sports nutrition consulting company. Leslie was a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a sought-after industry spokesperson. She conducts media training, lectures and writes on topics such as Communicating with Conviction, Sciensationalism, and performance nutrition. Her clients include National Dairy Council, General Mills, The Wonderful Company, Gatorade, KLEAN Athlete, Bayer, Potatoes USA, The California Dried Plum Board and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.