‘Quality’ dairy nutrients could slash US healthcare costs by billions: DRI president


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Milk fixture: Eating dairy products at recommended US amounts (three servings/day) is associated with lower chronic disease risk (Picture Copyright: Liz West)
Milk fixture: Eating dairy products at recommended US amounts (three servings/day) is associated with lower chronic disease risk (Picture Copyright: Liz West)
Dairy products play an vital role in disease prevention, and could save the US healthcare system billions if consumers ate them at recommended levels, according to the Dairy Research Institute (DRI) president.

Gregory Miller told DairyReporter.com that dairy products offer “great nutritional quality at a pretty low cost”​, with research supporting their association with reduced risk of type-2 diabetes and CVD, as well as better bone health.

He added that recognition of dairy as a source of high quality, easy-to-digest protein was also growing.

“Few foods deliver dairy’s powerhouse of nutrients in such an affordable, appealing and readily available way. Milk and milk products are an accessible and affordable source of important nutrients, including protein,”​ Miller said.

“Dairy foods are some of the most efficient and affordable sources of nutrition available,”​ he added.

Low nutrient-to-cost ratio

At $0.17/serving, Milk was among the top foods for overall nutrient-to-cost ratio, Miller said, while milk and milk products were among the lowest-cost calcium and protein sources.

At around $0.26/serving, Miller claimed that milk and milk products cost less than meat, poultry and fish, fruit, vegetables, were similar in cost to dry beans, legumes, nuts, and cost “scarcely more”​ than eggs, grains, sugars, sweets and other beverages.

Cost analyses also showed that milk and milk products were by far the lowest-cost source of dietary calcium and among the lowest-cost sources of riboflavin and vitamin B12, Miller added.

According to Miller, Dairy foods provided 50% of the calcium in the US diet, nearly two-thirds of the vitamin D and significant amounts of several more essential nutrients, yet only constituted around 10% of total calorie intake.

“Evidence continues to mount that higher consumption of dairy products to meet the recommended three servings of dairy per day (current average consumption is about two servings) is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases,” ​he said.

Miller added: “The benefits come from simply meeting the current recommended amount [to] close nutrient gaps and help decrease disease risk.”

‘Science supports dairy role in healthy diet’

As noted by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Miller explained, moderate evidence linked dairy intake to improved bone health – especially in children and adolescents – and a reduced risk of CVD and type-2 diabetes, as well as lower adult blood pressure.

Further research since the 2010 guidelines were issued provided further evidence of dairy’s role in reducing the risk of CVD, elevated blood pressure, metabolic syndrome or type-2 diabetes, Miller said.

“It doesn’t get more positive than that with science supporting the role of dairy foods in a healthy diet,”​ he added, [while] health benefits from higher dairy consumption can translate into healthcare cost savings.”

Miller said that a 2004 meta-review of nearly 100 studies projected that increasing US dairy consumption to three to four servings per day could lower the risk of chronic diseases (including CVD, type-2 diabetes and hypertension).

Not accounting for post-2004 inflation, this study estimated healthcare savings of $200bn over five years, and a 15%+ reduction in health spending.

He added that a more recent study from Australia concluded similarly that increasing dairy food consumption to recommended amounts could lead to substantial improvements in health and lower costs for healthcare services.

“That’s exciting, and shows the far-reaching impact dairy can have, not only on nutrition, but also good fiscal sense,” ​Miller said.

‘Protein is hot right now’

Miller also said that US awareness was growing that dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurts (including Greek)) were a source of “high quality, easy-to-digest protein”.

Protein’s benefits included satiety, appetite control, body composition and building muscle health, he explained, before adding that, although most Americans met their protein needs “some people may benefit from higher protein diets, for instance, athletes, aging adults and those trying to mange their weight”.

Dairy proteins have a neutral color and flavor, are well-known for their nutritional benefits and digestibility, and are ingredients “formulators find it easy to work with to develop on-trend food and beverage products,”​ Miller said.

In addition to protein, dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt) were also important sources of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A,D, B12 and riboflavin in the US diet, he added.



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