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Dietary Guidelines panel: Dairy one of most nutritionally beneficial foods

Michael Dykes

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, contributes this column bimonthly for Cheese Market News®.

As happens every June, National Dairy Month presents the dairy industry with an opportunity to shine a light on dairy products’ nutritional benefits. This year, Dairy Month just so happened to coincide with the release of the draft conclusions from the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) — conclusions that carry significant sway as they will guide USDA’s and HHS’s development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

When the DGAC presented its draft conclusions to the public June 17, it firmly established dairy as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods in dietary patterns alongside fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. The panel’s report — based on an expansive review of the latest nutrition science — affirms the important nutritional contributions made by dairy foods and reminds Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of dairy. As has been established for decades, science is on dairy’s side.

Here are my top seven takeaways from the DGAC’s draft scientific report as it relates to dairy:

• Three Daily Servings Preserved: The committee recommends maintaining three servings of dairy per day in two of three eating patterns, including the Healthy U.S.-Style, the de facto eating pattern.

• Dairy Category Preserved: The committee recommends maintaining dairy as its own food category. That glass of milk in the MyPlate graphic isn’t going anywhere.

• Dairy Included in the Healthy Category: Alongside whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and seeds, dairy (lowfat and fat-free) continues to be a recommended food for healthy eating patterns for people of all ages.

• Dairy Included in New B-24 Recommendations: For the first time, the DGAC provided recommendations for pregnant and lactating women and children from birth through 24 months of age, including cheese and yogurt (one-fourth to one-half cup equivalents/day) as “complementary foods” for 6-12 months, and broader categories of dairy foods for toddlers 12-24 months.

• Dairy Better for Bone Health Than Previously Reported: Lowfat dairy is associated with more favorable bone health outcomes in adults, primarily decreased risk of hip fracture, than previously reported.

• Disinformation Combatted: For pregnant women, there is no reliable connection between consumption of cow’s milk and risk of asthma in the child. Once again, the committee found no strong connection between dairy consumption and incidences of breast cancer. Consuming lowfat dairy is associated with beneficial outcomes, not contributing to all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and various cancers, among other findings.

• More Milk, Please: The Beverages Subcommittee recognized milk as a nutrient-rich beverage (potassium, calcium, vitamin D, etc.) that contributes positively to under-consumed food groups, including dairy.

IDFA staff have worked closely with members to develop dairy industry priorities and submit official comments to the current DGAC advocating with scientific evidence to maintain dairy as its own food group and recommending three servings of dairy products daily. We’re pleased the DGAC appears to have accepted this evidence and recommended dairy products as part of a healthy diet for Americans. Despite the many positive aspects of the DGAC, IDFA is disappointed the committee didn’t seriously address science showing the benefits of dairy at each fat level, and we are encouraging USDA and HHS to remedy this oversight.

IDFA now shifts its focus to working with USDA and HHS to complete the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which will have a significant impact on the standards for federal nutrition programs, such as school breakfast and lunch programs, and nutrition education messages, like MyPlate.

This June Dairy Month, let’s celebrate the years of research and advocacy that are now yielding very positive results for the dairy industry.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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