Leading scientists from the United States, Australia and Canada gathered in Toronto yesterday to present their latest findings on the role of diet, nutrition and exercise in managing the growing world-wide obesity epidemic.
The conference, organised by Dairy Farmers of Canada , summarised the research supporting the role of dairy products and milk-derived ingredients in reducing the risk of obesity.
Professor Rachel Novotny, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, discussed findings presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego in April showing that increased dietary calcium was associated with decreased body mass index (BMI) and decreased body fat in adolescent girls.
The findings support previous research showing that an increase in calcium consumption can, contrary to popular anti-dairy food beliefs, reduce risk of obesity.
Other seminars involved Dr Martha A. Belury, from thedepartment of Human Nutrition at Ohio State University, on the role of CLA to manage type 2 diabetes and Dr Robert A. Gibson, from the Child Health Research Institute in Adelaide, Australia, offering an in-depth look at the role of dairy fat in low rates of degenerative diseases (including heart disease) among Mediterranean populations.
Like the US, obesity in Canada is increasing at an alarming rate. The World Health Organization now lists obesity among the top ten health concerns in the world and related health risks including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are putting enormous stress on national healthcare systems.
Helen Bishop-MacDonald, nutrition director with Dairy Farmers of Canada, said: "The findings presented at today's symposium show that specific nutrients play an important role in maintaining and lowering body weight and that calcium and dairy products can be part of the solution to obesity."
Dairy producers are trying to tackle the current assumption that dairy fat should be replaced with polyunsaturated fats. The Canadian board recently launched a major campaign to try to change teenagers' attitudes to milk.
Research has also linked the reduced consumption of milk to calcium-deficient diseases, such as osteoporosis in later life, and also allergies such as asthma.
The symposium, 'Obesity: Weighing the Options', was part of the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual Smart Gourmet series.