Nutrient-Dense Dairy Packs a Healthy Punch

 

On the list of nutrient-dense foods and beverages, milk and dairy foods are standouts. That’s why the federal government’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage increased consumption of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods (along with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) to improve Americans’ nutrient intake and health.

Recommending consumption of three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products a day, the guidelines are based on an established body of research that shows a link between dairy consumption and bone health and new research that shows dairy may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. This is important news for nutritional product developers as they work to answer consumer demand for products that deliver health benefits.

“Because most low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are naturally nutrient-rich while contributing relatively few calories, they are considered nutrient-dense,” says Judith Jarvis, MS, RD, director of nutrition and scientific affairs at the National Dairy Council (NDC; Rosemont, IL). “For example, an 8-oz glass of fat-free milk provides 300 mg of calcium and only 80 calories.” Milk, cheese, and yogurt together contribute nine essential nutrients to the U.S. diet, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin, and niacin (niacin equivalents).

Unfortunately, Americans consume only half of the recommended three servings of dairy foods a day. Women in particular sometimes cut out dairy foods from their diets for fear they will cause weight gain. Yet the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) said this concern about dairy products contributing to weight gain is unfounded. “There is no evidence that milk products should be avoided because of concerns that these foods are fattening,” the committee’s report noted. Consumers also have many low-fat and fat-free options.

In a study published in the April 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers tracked the eating habits of 135 healthy, normal-weight women between the ages of 18 and 30 and monitored any changes in body weight, fat mass, and lean mass over the course of a year. The study found that consuming three servings of dairy per day did not cause weight gain.

A June 2006 report developed on behalf of FDA, the “Keystone Forum on Away-from-Home Foods: Opportunities for Preventing Weight Gain and Obesity,” acknowledges dairy’s positive contribution to a healthy weight. The report urges restaurants to provide more nutrient-rich low-fat and fat-free foods and beverages on their menus. “With more families eating meals away from home, the FDA report underscores what I know as a mom and registered dietitian: that healthier menu options are a must for meeting the nutrition needs of on-the-go families,” says Ann Marie Krautheim, MS, RD, LD, senior vice president of nutrition affairs at NDC.

The DGAC report points to seven nutrients of concern for Americans. Intake of these nutrients, on average, is well below recommended intakes. According to Greg Miller, PhD, MACN, senior vice president of nutrition and product innovation for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI; Rosemont, IL), “Three servings per day of dairy will help adults meet the nutrition requirements for four of the seven most critical nutrients Americans are lacking: vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Three servings of dairy provide three of the five nutrients that kids 9 years of age or older are lacking: calcium, magnesium, and potassium.”

REDUCING TYPE 2 DIABETES RISK

An exciting new area discussed in the 2005 DGAC report is the emerging role of dairy in decreased risk of insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), otherwise known as the metabolic syndrome. In some studies, said the committee, higher milk product consumption has been associated with decreased risk of IRS components, including high blood pressure, obesity, high blood triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. IRS components lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

In a new study published in Diabetes Care in July 2006, researchers who followed 37,318 women over 10 years found that each increased serving of dairy per day was associated with a 4% lower risk of type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and older women.

An earlier study of men’s diets published in the May 2005 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that including three servings or more of dairy products a day, especially low-fat dairy, was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that each serving-per-day increase in total dairy intake among the men studied was associated with a 9% lower risk for type 2 diabetes and concluded that dietary patterns that include higher intakes of low-fat dairy foods may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

LOWERING BLOOD PRESSURE

Milk and dairy products may also help reduce the risk of hypertension, according to research reported in the August 2006 issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. The researchers used data from food questionnaires from 4797 men and women participants with an average age of 52 in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Family Heart Study.

“Our data showed that people who ate more dairy products had lower systolic blood pressure,” explains Luc Djoussé, MD, MPH, DSc, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (Boston).

The 2005 DGAC report acknowledges the advantages of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, an eating plan that is shown to significantly lower blood pressure in adults. The DASH diet, which is rich in low-fat milk products (three servings per day) and fruits and vegetables (eight to 10 servings per day), is included in the Dietary Guidelines as an example of a healthy eating plan.

BONE HEALTH

Dairy foods have long been recognized for their benefits to bone health. The DGAC report notes the strong connection between the intake of milk products and improved bone health, concluding that “Consuming three servings (equivalent to three cups) of milk and milk products each day can reduce the risk of low bone mass and contribute important amounts of many nutrients.”

The Surgeon General’s Report on Osteoporosis and health professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians (Leawood, KS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (Elk Grove Village, IL), the American Dietetic Association (Chicago), and the National Medical Association (Washington, DC), also support the recommendation of consuming three servings of dairy per day for stronger bones.

Furthermore, the DGAC report says, “Many of the health benefits associated with milk consumption may be attributable to the component nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D, and vitamin A...Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients.”

More Than One Whey to Use Dairy

 

 

Dairy products have a wide array of potential applications that extend well beyond traditional sports drinks. While it’s true that milk-derived ingredients are mainstays of the sports beverage category, they are also being used in nutrition bars, functional foods, and even joint-health supplements.

For example, PeptoPro, a dairy ingredient from DSM Food Specialties (Delft, The Netherlands) that consists mostly of dipeptides and tripeptides, is a featured component of the sports drink Sonic Protein, which is marketed by Protein Factory Inc. (Brick, NJ). According to DSM’s national accounts manager, Reto Rieder, the quickly absorbable protein does not have the bitter taste associated with other peptides found in sports drinks. “It is now possible for everyone to benefit from great-tasting protein-based sports beverages, which have been shown to significantly shorten the recovery phase after exercise and prevent muscle damage,” he says.

Another new dairy protein ingredient, ProMyogen 4023, contains 25% more branched-chain amino acids than traditional whey protein isolates. It is 90% protein and can be used in aseptic, ready-to-drink, and powder formulations. Protient (St. Paul, MN), which manufactures ProMyogen 4023, received the Gold Medal award for most growth in ingredient suppliers from the Nutrition Business Journal at the Newport Summit in July.

Sports drinks aren’t the only application for dairy proteins, however. At this year’s Institute of Food Technologists Meeting and Expo held in Orlando, FL, in June, Glanbia Nutritionals (Monroe, WI) announced the launch of BarTex protein for use in nutrition bars. Kelly Czerwonka, marketing manager at Glanbia, notes that BarTex is a partially hydrolyzed whey protein that is partially denatured using a proprietary process, creating a soft, creamy texture. The protein’s high phospholipid content produces good emulsification properties, and its low lactose content helps prevent grainy lactose recrystallization. Czerwonka adds that a shelf-life study found that nutrition bars made with BarTex were nine times softer after one year than bars made with standard whey protein isolate ingredients. BarTex joins Glanbia’s family of other proteins for nutrition bars, including BarFlex whey protein isolate, BarMax milk protein isolate, and BarPro partially hydrolyzed milk protein isolate.

Finally, the milk protein MicroLactin, supplied by Humanetics Corp. (Eden Prairie, MN), is intended for both the sports-recovery and joint-care markets. According to Scott Steil, vice president of sales and marketing at Humanetics, studies have shown that MicroLactin inhibits neutrophil migration to painful joints by 70% and also helps reduce a major cause of muscle soreness, creatine kinase levels, leading to quicker recovery time. “Clearly, consumers have a strong interest in using dairy-based ingredients to improve overall health,” Steil says. “Humanetics has targeted this market for promotion of MicroLactin based on solid consumer demand. We believe that MicroLactin is a key ingredient behind innovation in dairy-based products and are confident that consumer demand will continue to grow as a result.”

 

CONSUMER KNOWLEDGE

So do consumers know that nutrient-dense dairy foods are good for them? In a 2005 study conducted for the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC; Washington, DC), “Consumer Attitudes Toward Foods for Health,” the vast majority of survey participants (93%) said they recognize that calcium in dairy foods may play a role in the promotion of bone health.

Dairy Management Inc.’s 3-A-Day of Dairy marketing and education program is aimed at letting Americans know about dairy’s benefits to bone health as well as weight loss.

There is a growing body of research to support dairy’s role in weight management. For example, an April 2004 study published in Obesity Research showed that obese adults on a reduced-calorie diet who consumed three to four servings of dairy foods each day had the greatest weight loss, losing 24.4 lb-significantly more than those who just reduced calories or reduced calories and took calcium supplements while consuming little or no dairy. Those on the dairy diet also lost a greater amount of body fat and trunk fat compared with the other two groups.

These results are consistent with other studies using dairy foods in a calorie-reduced weight-loss plan that showed similar reductions in body weight and body fat. Thus, a growing body of evidence suggests that consuming three servings a day of dairy products, as part of a calorie-reduced weight-loss plan, can accelerate loss of body weight and body fat in obese and overweight adults compared with consuming little or no dairy.

ANSWERING WHAT CONSUMERS WANT

Global research supports the premise that consumers seek greater health and nutritional benefits from the foods and beverages they eat and drink. A 2004 Euromonitor (London) study on health and wellness revealed that global sales of “better-for-you” foods and beverages totaled $129 billion and continue to grow. Some 23% of global dairy sales stem from the better-for-you product category as people choose dairy for its nutrition benefits, the report said.

For example, in Asia and Europe, certain dairy-based beverages are marketed with a positioning that they help prevent hypertension. Japanese researchers reported in a study published in the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension that drinking a certain fermented milk beverage every day reduced blood pressure in men. The researchers used Calpis-brand (Tokyo) milk, a fermented milk product made in Japan that contains bioactive peptides hydrolyzed from milk protein.

Valio LLP, a dairy processing cooperative in Helsinki, Finland, has developed Evolus-brand milk, a product that carries a health claim for its blood pressure–lowering effect. The company says the product’s positive effects have been documented in several clinical trials.

In the United States, all health and nutrition label claims must be truthful, not misleading to consumers, and based on strong evidence produced by sound science. A July 2006 document, “Quick-Reference Guide: Nutrition Claims on Dairy Products,” is now available online at www. innovatewithdairy.com/claims to help product developers identify nutrition- and health-related claims for dairy products, and to understand FDA labeling requirements.

The body of science supporting the benefits of nutrient-dense dairy foods continues to grow. More and more, consumers interested in products with science-based health and wellness benefits will be on the lookout for dairy.

 

Peter Huth, PhD, is director of regulatory and research transfer at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI; Rosemont, IL). For more information about DMI, call 800/853-2479 or visit www.dairyinfo.com.