Professor Leonie Segal from the Health Economics and Social Policy Group at the University of South Australia made this claim while introducing co-authored research at a poster presentation of the Nutrition Society in New Zealand on November 30.
Segal said that if recommended amounts of dairy were consumed by Australians, then AUS $2bn – a sum comparable to the entire public health budget – could be trimmed off the nation’s books.
Reviewing the benefits of dairy consumption, Segal noted that estimated 65 per cent of Australians currently consumed less than the recommended serves of dairy foods: milk, cheese, yogurt and custard.
Segal said: “The largest healthcare savings were associated with the maintenance of a healthy body weight
“Other calculated healthcares savings came from dairy’s beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and osteoporosis,” she added.
Dairy interventions urged
According to Dairy Australia, which funded the research, the scientists concluded that there was (in the trade body’s words, “a strong justification for developing interventions focused on increasing dairy consumption to reduce the costs of diet-related disease”.
A dietitian working for Dairy Australia, Glenys Zucco, said the Segal study reinforced the understanding that dairy foods had far-reaching benefits.
Zucco said: “It’s a shame so many Australians are missing out on the health and nutrition benefits dairy provide.
She added: “Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt provide a unique package of nutrients including calcium, high quality protein, zinc, potassium and vitamin A.
“Most Australians require three serves of dairy foods every day to meet their calcium requirements. A serve is equal to a cup of milk, two slices of cheese or a tub of yogurt.”
Source: J.C Doidge, L Segal, E Gospodarevskaya (2011), ‘Potential healthcare savings from increased consumption of dairy products in Australia’. Oral presentation at the Joint Annual Scientific Meeting of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand and the Nutrition Society of Australia (Queenstown, New Zealand Nov 29-Dec 2 2011).