Milk, plain yoghurt and other unsweetened dairy products contain naturally occurring sugar lactose. Lactose in dairy is part of a nutrient-dense package, providing high-quality protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iodine and vitamins B2 and B12. Studies have also indicated a differential role for foods that are inherently nutritious, such as milk and yoghurt. When children and adolescents consumed dairy products, the quality of their diets improved, with studies analysing the impact on weight revealing that no adverse effects were found.
“The global obesity crisis is something that the dairy sector takes very seriously. However, the discussions at the IDF World Dairy Summit show it is wrong to assume that the natural sugars in milk and dairy products are the same as other added sugars. The dairy sector needs to help consumers understand the sources of sugar in their diet and to strike the right balance between nutrients and sugar intake,” said Dr Michael Donat, Team Leader, IDF Action Team on Flavoured Dairy.
The sessions determined that sugars naturally present in milk and dairy foods (lactose and galactose) have no adverse effects on health, with a growing body of research indicating that dairy may protect against non-communicable diseases including type 2 diabetes.
“Scientists investigating the health effects of dairy have already noted its positive impact on bone health and some non-communicable diseases. Going forward, greater understanding of dairy food structure and nutrient absorption could pave the way to developing innovative dairy products that improve the nutritional status. It’s imperative that when discussing dairy within diets, a ‘whole food’ rather than an ‘isolated nutrients’ approach is taken,” said Dr David Everett, Chair of the IDF Standing Committee on Dairy Science and Technology, and Leader of the IDF Action Team on the Microstructure of Dairy Products.
Nutritionists and scientists are considering the effects of milk and dairy foods on health, and whether they extend beyond the benefits of the individual nutrients they contain. In a process called the Dairy Matrix, the different structures and textures of dairy products impact how these nutrients are absorbed into the body, having potentially important and positive impacts for health.