Milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are naturally nutrient-rich foods, supplying a high concentration of many nutrients in relation to their energy (caloric) content (1). Consuming dairy products is associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D (2,3). The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies seven nutrients low in the diets of children and adults (2). Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, supply four (i.e., calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A) of these seven nutrients for adults, and three (i.e., calcium, magnesium, and potassium) for children. Moreover, low-fat and fat-free milk and other dairy products are one of the “Food Groups to Encourage” identified in the Dietary Guidelines to help consumers meet nutrients lacking or low in their diets (2).
Each year, findings from new scientific studies add to the accumulating body of evidence supporting the health benefits of dairy foods. This past year has been no exception. Numerous studies have demonstrated that consuming dairy products or dairy nutrients (e.g., calcium, vitamin D) helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and hypertension, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and may have a beneficial role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.
Calcium from food, primarily dairy products, is associated with greater bone mineral density than calcium from supplements, according to a study in postmenopausal women.
This Digest highlights some new scientific studies supporting a beneficial role for dairy foods in health promotion and disease prevention. Recent dietary guidance supporting consumption of dairy foods is also identified. For more information, particularly including previous studies, readers are referred to recent comprehensive reviews (4,5).
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