Industry Experts Advocate For Dairy In Dietary Guidelines Review
Industry stakeholders touted the benefits of dairy and noted it is a critical component of a healthy diet in comments made at a dietary guidelines review meeting held in Mid-September by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
Miquela Hanselman, regulatory affairs director at the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and Elle St. Pierre, a farmer-member of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and a world medalist track athlete who represented the United States in the women’s 1,500-meter race in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, both offered their perspectives on dairy’s role in dietary needs before the panel that will shape the scientific report informing the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Both Hanselman and St. Pierre hold degrees in nutrition and public health.
Dairy Consumption Insights
“Nearly 90% of Americans don’t consume the recommended servings of dairy,” Hanselman said. “Dairy products have always been an integral part of the dietary guidelines review. Milk is a good or excellent source of 13 essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D, three of the four nutrients of public health concern.”
Hanselman’s comments focused heavily on how dairy at all fat levels benefits diverse communities and how current guidelines work against including varieties of milk that Americans consume the most.
“With the scientific question focused on sources of saturated fats, this committee has the opportunity to remedy a previous oversight and include the newer science on dairy fats and the dairy matrix,” she said. “Dairy foods, regardless of fat level, appear to have either neutral or beneficial effects on chronic disease risks including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke. This committee shouldn’t default to the overly broad recommendation to avoid saturated fats regardless of food source.”
Plant-Based Vs. Dairy Milk
St. Pierre spoke out against the proliferation of plant-based imitation beverages that offer wildly inconsistent nutritional value, cautioning against any consideration of them as potential dairy replacements. Plant-based beverages “are so nutritionally different from real milk that whether one views them positively or negatively, their impact on health cannot be assumed to be the same as, or even similar to, that of milk,” said St. Pierre, who lives near Berkshire, Vermont. “I strongly caution against and oppose any inference that health impacts associated with milk consumption would apply to plant-based milk alternatives.”
Roberta Wagner, senior vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), also provided oral testimony at this week’s meeting. In her testimony, Wagner stressed that 90% of Americans do not consume enough dairy to meet dietary recommendations, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) report. Wagner urged the committee to maintain nutrient-rich dairy foods as a central part of a healthy diet, and she stressed that new science shows that limiting dairy based on fat level — as current guidelines recommend — does not lead to better health outcomes.
“An overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrates that dairy should be part of healthy eating patterns for all Americans, at all life stages and with various dietary needs,” Wagner said. “The DGA have long recognized the inherent benefits of dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheese, as important sources of nutrients and associated with better health outcomes. At a time when people are not meeting DGA recommendations for dairy, deterring intake due to fat level is not science-based, nor is it in the best interest of public health.”
Revisiting Dairy Fat Recommendations
While the 2020-2025 DGA report prioritizes the consumption of lowfat and fat-free options, IDFA is urging the committee to review expanding scientific evidence demonstrating that consumption of dairy products, including full-fat products, is not tied to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
“By expanding the variety of dairy products that are recommended for consumption to Americans, we may narrow the gap between recommended servings and current intake,” Wagner said. “For example, adolescents on average consume 1.6 to 2 servings of dairy per day, well below the recommendations of 3 servings per day. We urge the committee to release the protocol for the systematic review of food sources with saturated fat so appropriate scientific studies can be shared to inform the committee’s recommendations.”
Lactose Concerns Addressed
Wagner’s comments also stressed the wide availability and affordability of nutrient-rich dairy products that are lactose-free and low in lactose for people who want solutions to address lactose intolerance and lactose sensitivity.
Setting The Scene For Future Guidelines
This week’s meeting is part of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s information-gathering process for the next set of guidelines. The committee is convened every five years by the Departments of Agriculture and the of Health and Human Services to make recommendations for American diets, affecting numerous federal nutrition programs.
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Source: Cheese Market News