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Nutrition News: Dairy in Your Diet

Charlyn Fargo on

Dairy seems to get a bad rap these days. As the popularity of anti-inflammatory diets rises, dairy seems to be the first thing people recommend you eliminate. But it shouldn't be.

I'm often asked if dairy foods cause inflammation. Actually, the opposite is true. Based on the body of science, dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese do not cause inflammation and can be a part of anti-inflammatory diets. They are also important as we age as a source of calcium, which helps keep bones strong.

A study published in Nutritional Epidemiology that ranked foods based on their inflammatory potential indicated that dairy foods, fruits and vegetables -- especially dark, leafy greens and deep orange vegetables -- tend to be anti-inflammatory.

When it comes to dairy specifically, a systematic review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, funded by the National Dairy Council, evaluated 27 randomized control trials and found that dairy foods (i.e., milk, cheese and yogurt) and dairy proteins (i.e., whey, casein) have neutral to beneficial effects on inflammation.

Concern about inflammation isn't a valid reason to avoid dairy -- and as we age, we may benefit from fewer falls and fractures by including dairy in our diets.

A new study finds that increasing calcium and protein intake through dairy products reduced the risk for falls and fractures among older adults living in care homes by 33%. The results of the randomized controlled trial were published in the October 20, 2021, BMJ.

 

Sandra Iuliano and colleagues at the University of Melbourne led a 2-year cluster randomized controlled trial in residential care facilities in Australia. Twenty-seven facilities were randomized to provide residents with greater amounts of milk, yogurt and cheese that contained 562 milligrams of calcium and 12 grams of protein for a total daily intake of 1,142 milligrams of calcium and 69 grams of protein. An additional 29 facilities were included as controls, with residents consuming an average of 700 milligrams per day of calcium and 58 grams per day of protein.

Overall, 7,195 residents were enrolled in the study between December 2013 and August 2016. The mean age of residents was 86.7 years in the intervention group and 86.4 years in the control group.

At the beginning of the study, initial calcium and protein intakes were 689 milligrams and 57 grams per day, on average.

During the study, residents in the intervention cohort consumed 3.5 servings of dairy per day, while residents in the control group consumed fewer than 2 servings per day, on average. In a follow-up of the study, researchers identified 324 fractures, which occurred among 3.7% of residents in the intervention group and 5.2% of residents in the control group. This amounted to an estimated 33% reduced risk for fracture with increased dairy consumption.

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