Top Nutrition Trends For 2005
by Peggy Biltz and Lori Hoolihan
New research is constantly advancing our understanding of the link between diet, health and disease. The dairy industry, like all food industries, needs to stay abreast of nutrition trends and research to stay ahead of the curve in developing and marketing products that will meet the needs of target consumers.
Dairy Council of California’s Trends Task Force met recently to identify this year’s top nutrition trends with potential for affecting the dairy industry. Three of the newest trends may impact product labeling, food purchasing and consumption decisions.
Solutions for Obesity
As we enter our third year with obesity ranking first in nutrition issues, the focus is shifting more to how to fix the problem and less on why it happened or who is to blame. The FDA plans to battle obesity by changing food labels to focus on calories and portion size. The food industry is responding by reducing the fat content of some products, reducing package sizes and listing the nutritional content of entire packages if they are commonly consumed in one occasion.
Sugars and refined carbohydrates are often cited as contributing to weight gain and will be a prime target for obesity prevention efforts. The industry will need to be cautious of the level of sugar added to dairy beverages and yogurts.
Individualized Nutrition
The concept that food choices and nutrition recommendations should be highly tailored to an individual’s specific lifestyle, disease risk, health goals and needs is building momentum. The USDA’s recently updated food guidance system incorporates this concept, and the marketplace boasts an increasing array of niche products to meet individual needs. Nutrigenomics — the study of the interaction of nutrition and genes in disease risk — represents another driver of this movement.
The realization that not just age and gender, but also activity level, disease risk, genetics and lifestyle play a role in one’s nutritional needs will encourage consumers to seek products that meet their specific needs and those of family members. Segments with specific nutritional needs include middle-aged men with heart disease, teenage male athletes, overweight pregnant women and homebound elderly at risk for osteoporosis.
Diet and Lifestyle Habits
Evidence is mounting that diet and environment from a very early age — as early as in utero — can impact future health. Metabolic imprinting and fetal programming are terms used to describe this growing body of research.
Some examples: Mom’s prenatal calcium intake predicts blood pressure in her babies and lipid levels in her 9-year-old children; overweight children typically become overweight adults; preschoolers’ diets predict blood pressure in adolescence; and children who do not drink milk have a higher frequency of future fractures.
Peggy Biltz is chief executive officer of the Dairy Council of California. Lori Hoolihan, Ph.D., R.D., is the council’s nutrition research specialist.