A growing body of research supports the inclusion of fuller fat dairy foods in the diet. However, the overweight and obesity epidemic in the U.S. makes it challenging for scientists to justify full-fat dairy in federal dietary guidelines. As an example, the fact that nearly 40% of kids and adolescents are overweight or obese provided some of the impetus for removing fuller fat milks from schools back in 2012, described Katie Brown on the January 6 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
Unfortunately, it’s clear that many Americans are not meeting the recommendations for a healthy eating pattern. Although three servings of dairy each day are again recommended in the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this is rarely the real case.
“Ninety percent of Americans are not consuming the recommended servings of dairy,” said Brown, a registered dietitian and vice president of scientific affairs and outreach with the National Dairy Council.
Further, she added, “Eighty percent are not meeting the recommendations for dairy, fruits, and vegetables.”
With these nutritious foods left out of our diets, Cornell University dairy economist Andy Novakovic asked, “What do we overconsume?”
He identified that the dietary guidelines committee points most heavily to refined grains, added sugars (as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, like lactose in milk), sodium, and dietary fiber.
How we can improve
In addition to discovering more about how dairy fats differ from other saturated fats, broader acceptance of fuller fat dairy likely depends upon a healthier American population. There are two keys we can pull from the dietary guidelines to help reach that goal, Brown mentioned.
“One is if we met all the daily serving recommendations from the core food groups,” she said. “And two is if we attained and maintained a healthy body weight.”
Beyond overweight young people, 70% of American adults are also overweight, Brown stated. “When you talk about the top causes of illness and death in our country — heart disease, diabetes, lung disease — those are all related to diet. They’re all heavily influenced by overweight and obesity,” the dietitian said.
For consumers to make healthy diet choices to reverse that trend, they must first trust the scientists making the recommendations. As research evolves, listening to unbiased scientists is necessary to bolster acceptance of recommendations like the dietary guidelines, Novakovic said.
Then, consumers must have access to make the healthy choices they want to. As Novakovic described, “If you walk down from your office and you go to the nearest cafeteria and all you’ve got is lattes and donuts, you can want to eat a grapefruit as badly as you want, but it’s not there for you to choose.”
In terms of obesity and disease, there are more pressing problems in the American diet than full-fat dairy products. But a healthier population overall will provide more leeway for these dairy foods to be once again supported by federal guidelines.
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, January 20 at 11 a.m. CST. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here. Registering once registers you for all future events.