UK - With their unique nutrient profile and matrix, milk and dairy foods may play a neutral or protective role in long-term heart health, The Dairy Council said this week.
The nutritional value of milk and dairy foods continue to be misunderstood and are often targeted in saturated fat reduction campaigns; however, multiple recent studies have shown that milk and dairy foods have neutral, and in some cases protective, associations with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Speaking at Food Matters Live, Dr Anne Mullen, Director of Nutrition at The Dairy Council, told delegates that the nutrient array and matrix of dairy is key to understanding dairy's relationship with certain long term health conditions.
Dr Anne Mullen said: "It is often thought that milk and dairy can play a part in developing health problems such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes due to its saturated fat content – but recent studies have shown that isn't the case.
"Saturated fat is actually an umbrella term to describe a family of individual saturated fatty acids and research has shown that these saturated fats behave differently in the body. When we appreciate their true complexity, a different picture emerges with regards to dairy.
"There are two saturated fatty acids found in dairy foods that are believed to be inversely associated with risk in developing type 2 diabetes, in addition to nutrients such as calcium and bioactive peptides which may also play a positive role in heart health. There is also recent research coming out that shows yogurt may actually have a protective effect in the development of type 2 diabetes.
"The reality is that the sheer complexity of saturated fat means that it is often misunderstood when assessing its impact on long term health and current public health guidelines, which looks at single nutrients as opposed to whole foods, have overlooked this."
Lydia Cooper, Nutrition Scientist at The Dairy Council, also highlighted the relationship between milk and sports recovery. Research in the field has shown that milk can support an athlete's recovery through aiding rehydration, muscle repair and replenishing glycogen stores.
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