U.S. dairy producer and processor groups this week urged a scientific advisory panel working on the next round of federal dietary guidelines to keep the recommendation of three daily servings of dairy products for most Americans, since dairy products are the No. 1 source of nine key nutrients.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is a group of nutrition experts who review nutrition research to make recommendations. The second meeting of the group was held at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. 

Since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as the basis for federal nutrition programs, including school meals, and also for the government’s communication regarding food and nutrition, their impact can be widespread. Following the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA will finalize the messages of the Dietary Guidelines, which are updated every five years.

The current 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans increase their intake of low-fat and fat-free dairy products to reach three servings of dairy for adults, two and one-half servings of dairy for children between the ages of four and eight and two servings for children ages two and three.

NMPF: dairy irreplaceable

“Dairy foods are uniquely nutrient-rich and virtually irreplaceable in the diet if we want to meet nutrient recommendations,” said National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Vice President for Nutrition Beth Briczinski. “We strongly urge the committee to maintain the current recommendation of three daily servings of dairy, and to focus on the serious public health problem of under-consumption of milk and dairy products.”

Briczinski reminded the group that milk, cheese, and yogurt contribute more than half the calcium and vitamin D in the American diet, and are the primary source of seven other essential nutrients in children’s diets: phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, B12, D, and riboflavin. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) found that when foods from the milk group were removed from model food patterns, intakes of calcium, vitamin D, and three other important nutrients fell below the goals.

“Even if calcium levels can be maintained with alternative foods, the levels of other nutrients such as protein, potassium, and vitamin D are adversely affected – there is simply no substitute for dairy,” she said. “Americans have major shortfalls in recommended milk consumption starting at four years of age. None of us should find that acceptable.”

Research published since 2010 has strengthened the case for dairy’s beneficial role in reducing the risk of several chronic diseases, according to Briczinski. “The good news is that if people who under-consume dairy would add even one serving a day, that would bring average daily intakes of Americans much closer to meeting Dietary Guideline recommendations. We hope this committee will encourage people who are under-consuming dairy to add that extra serving.”

Briczinski cited recent research indicating dairy is an inexpensive way of providing these nutrients, and that since the last round of federal nutrition advice, the case has been strengthened that dairy is beneficial in reducing the risk of several chronic diseases.

“Many population groups do not consume anywhere near the recommended amounts of dairy,” she said. “The good news is that if people who under-consume dairy would add even one serving a day, that would bring average daily intakes … much close to meeting Dietary Guideline recommendations.”


IDFA highlights industry efforts

Michelle Matto, International Dairy Foods Association’s consultant on nutrition and labeling, presented oral comments, also emphasizing the value that nutrient-dense dairy products bring to the American diet, and highlighting the industry’s successful efforts to reduce fat, added sugar and sodium, while continuing to meet consumer demand for delicious, convenient and reasonably priced products.

“Milk provides nine essential nutrients, while yogurt and cheese provide protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamins A and D,” said Matto. “Even dairy products that contain some fat or added sugar have high nutrient density. Focusing American diets on nutrient-dense foods encourages people to include more nutrients in a lower calorie diet and helps them meet overall dietary requirements.”

Matto explained how many companies have incorporated new processing technologies and ingredients to lower fat, sodium and added sugars in dairy products, particularly yogurt, ice cream and cheese. At the same time, she noted that the functional use of salt in the cheesemaking process makes reducing sodium extremely difficult and asked committee members to consider the recent Institute of Medicine’s report on sodium when making new recommendations. Although the report indicates that reducing sodium intake from very high to moderate levels provides health benefits, the authors said there is no indication that the general population should lower sodium intake below 2,300 mg, or that special populations need separate recommendations.

Anti-dairy presenters outnumbered pro-dairy

Representatives from the Milk Processor Education Program and the National Dairy Council also provided comments in support of milk and dairy products. 

According to IDFA, the pro-dairy viewpoint was significantly outnumbered by anti-dairy speakers, including representatives from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an activist group whose views are closely aligned with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.