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Nutrition symposium confirms important role of dairy in diets

IDF Symposium reviewing the latest science on the contribution of dairy in diets gathers several hundred health professionals from around the world.
Date: May 12, 2021
Insights type: News
Subject Area: Nutrition & Health, Sustainability
Categories: News

On the 11 and 12 May, the IDF Nutrition Symposium 2021, an entirely virtual event, convened several hundred nutritionists, dietitians, health regulators, policy makers, scientists, and other health professionals with an interest in nutrition and health to discuss the important role of dairy foods in healthy sustainable diets, the impact of diet and nutrition on non-communicable diseases, and the effect of nutrition and diets on the microbiome and immune system.

The event included the welcome contributions from experts at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO): Dr Franco Branca, Director for Nutrition for Health and Development at WHO, who gave an insightful introduction on the impact of diet and nutrition on non-communicable diseases, and Dr Nancy Aburto of FAO, who gave a detailed presentation on the important role of animal-source foods such as dairy in a sustainable diet.

Recognising dairy’s integral place in dietary guidelines

Dairy foods are an integral part of evidence based dietary guidelines around the world, yet they are often under scrutiny or criticised for their role in the diet, and in health and disease. It is therefore important to build and share knowledge around dairy, nutrition and health messaging which supports the role of dairy in food based dietary guidelines.

“The high levels of interest for the IDF Nutrition Symposium demonstrates the value for health professionals to access nutrition dairy science. As the world grapples with the challenges of feeding a rapidly increasing global population, a principal concern related to food production and consumption is producing adequate amounts of nutrient dense foods such as dairy to nourish the world sustainably, accessible to all, and without compromising global health. A sustainable diet would be incomplete without dairy!” IDF Director General, Caroline Emond.

Including dairy in diets is important in meeting the challenge of delivering on Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Studies have shown that dairy plays an important role in providing enough protein and nutrients to feed the world. The Symposium provided the opportunity to build a deep, mechanistic knowledge of the health properties dairy and leverage this understanding into nutrition and management.

“Milk and dairy products play an essential role in a healthy and varied diet. They are nutrient-rich and provide high quality protein and micronutrients in an easily absorbed form that can benefit both nutritionally vulnerable people as well as healthy people. The Symposium presented a valuable opportunity to find out more about the place of dairy in sustainable dietary guidelines around the globe.” Erica Hocking, Deputy Chair of the IDF Standing Committee for Nutrition and Health and Senior Nutrition Scientist at Dairy UK.


Some key takeaways from the discussions:

  • Dairy as a vital nutrient source: Not all protein is equal, and milk is the best natural source of calcium, highest protein quality and has the best overall digestibility.
  • Dairy for bone health: The importance of bioavailable nutrients from foods particularly dairy foods for sustained bone health. Consumption of dairy in the childhood makes an important contribution to bone health later in life.
  • Dairy and body weight: There is little evidence to support the concern for limiting dairy products consumption on the grounds that they may promote obesity. Especially in childhood and adolescent where most of studies conclude to an inverse or null association between dairy intake and obesity.
  • Nutrition and antiviral immunity: A healthy diet and good nutrition play a significant role in building a strong and healthy immune system. The immune system is very sophisticated, and a lot of lifestyle factors influence the immune response. Among the multiple nutrients that may be involved, recent convincing evidence support special roles for Vitamin D and Zinc in particular.
  • Dairy and inflammation: Based on scientific evidence, there are no pro inflammatory effects of dairy consumption, and many anti-inflammatory effects are reported. Fermented dairy products may have beneficial impact on inflammatory markers, with no explanatory mechanism very well identified at this stage.
  • Sustainable diets: to assess the environmental impact of food, it is important to consider the nutritional aspects, in terms of nutrient density/protein quality.


Learn more about dairy nutrition and health

To learn more about the importance of dairy products in a balanced diet, go to the section Nutrition & Health

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