Key pieces of information designed to help Americans develop healthy menus and eating habits – with mostly good news for dairy – was released this week. An advisory report – the “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” – was sent to the the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The purpose of the advisory report is to provide scientific evidence on topics related to diet, nutrition and health, giving the federal government a foundation for developing national nutrition policy. The recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee are non-binding, and HHS and USDA will jointly release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 later this year.

The report provides a pretty dismal picture of American diet-related health. About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases that are related to poor quality dietary patterns and physical inactivity, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and diet-related cancers. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese, further exacerbating poor health profiles and increasing risks for chronic diseases and their co-morbidities.

On average, the U.S. diet is low in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and high in sodium, calories, saturated fat, refined grains and added sugars. Underconsumption of the essential nutrients vitamin D, calcium, potassium and fiber are public health concerns for the majority of the U.S. population, and iron intake is of concern among adolescents and premenopausal females.

 

Dairy: Good news

From a quick review, the report contains good news for dairy. It recognizes that dairy foods are excellent sources of nutrients of public health concern, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium. Consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits, including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity. When consumed in the amounts recommended, dairy foods contribute about 67% of calcium, 64% of vitamin D, and 17% of magnesium. Consumption of low-fat and fat-free foods in the dairy group ensures intake of these key nutrients, while minimizing intake of saturated fat. 

The bad news, or perhaps the "opportunity” news: Overall, more than 80% of the entire U.S. population does not meet the daily dairy intake recommendation. More than 60% of young boys and girls ages 1-3 years meet or exceed the recommended intake of 2 cup equivalents (eqs) per day, with most of this intake coming in the form of fluid milk. Intake falls in older children to about 30% of boys and girls meeting or exceeding the recommended 2.5 cup eqs per day for those ages 4-8 years, and 3 cup eqs per day for children ages 9-13 years. About 30% of adolescent boys meet or exceed the recommended 3 cup eqs per day, but less than 10% of adolescent females meet or exceed this recommendation. An age-related decline in dairy intake appears to begin in adolescence and intakes persist at very low levels among adult females across the age distribution. Less than 5% of adult females consume the recommended 3 cup eqs per day.

 

NMPF, IDFA

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), issued a joint statement following release of the report:

“The essential role of dairy foods, as part of dietary patterns that foster good health outcomes, is supported by the totality of the science — low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products are a core component of the healthy dietary patterns identified by the Committee.

“The good news for people across the country is that milk, cheese, and yogurt not only taste great, but also are nutrient-rich, affordable, readily available, and versatile, making dairy foods realistic options to help people build healthier meal plans. Milk is the number one source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of America’s children – including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, three of the four nutrients the 2015 DGAC found to be under-consumed. Dairy foods’ nutrient package can be hard to replace with other foods.

“We will provide science-based comments on the advisory report during the current public comment period and look forward to the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy document later this year.”

The report is available online at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report. (Editor’s warning: The Executive Summary alone is 11 pages.)

The public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group's report and provide written comments at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. A public hearing will be held March 25, at Bethesda, Md., and written comments will be accepted through April 8.