Translating Science into Health Policies

EU - One of the main conclusions of a policy conference on saturated fat and dairy health is that it is difficult to translate the complexity of the increasing amount of scientific evidence into clear but not oversimplified messages that policy makers require when it comes to translation of science into health policies.
calendar icon 16 February 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

Last Wednesday, the European Dairy Association (EDA) organized a policy conference on saturated fat and dairy for health in Brussels. Scientists and EU policy makers dealt with new scientific developments in the area of saturated fat and dairy, and discussed how these should be translated into public health policies.

Taking on the challenge, EDA aims at facilitating this exchange of views, stimulating a better alignment between policy and science. Some 150 people attended EDA’s policy conference on saturated fat and dairy for health last Wednesday in Brussels. The participants – scientists, policy makers, dairy sector representatives and other stakeholders – attended a lively and engaging exchange between scientists and policy makers with some remarkable conclusions.

Professor Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen told the participants that the latest scientific findings indicate that we have to reassess the way we look at saturated fat. He argued that the effect of particular foods, such as cheese, on heart disease or stroke cannot be predicted only by their content of saturated fatty acids, because food sources of saturated fat, such as dairy foods, contain other nutrients that might decrease the risk for heart disease.

In fact, recent studies show that the consumption of cheese does not result in any increase in heart disease. He concluded that using single nutrients and single risk markers of disease are not the way to go in establishing dietary recommendations; people eat food, not nutrients.

The following speaker, Professor Ian Givens from the University of Reading, zoomed in on the value of milk and dairy foods in health and disease, illustrating that dairy foods are important dietary sources of key nutrients and that increased milk consumption over a longer period may offer some vascular protection. He also mentioned that a holistic approach is needed when looking at dietary recommendations: the food matrix is important and the use of single risk markers may be misleading.

MEP Esther de Lange explained how policy makers use scientific evidence in the development of public health policy. Policy decisions on health and nutrition in the European Parliament are not only the result of a clash between committees, nationalities and political visions, but take also into account the current consumer trends.

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