As we kick off a new year, one thing is certain: Consumers will continue to have more food choices and information than ever, whether strolling through the grocery store, choosing a meal at a restaurant or building out the family dinner menu for the week. Information on nutrition and health benefits of certain foods is easy to come by — but knowing what is credible, science-based and worthy of dairy processors’ attention is a more difficult task.

To help, Dairy Council of California (Dairy Council of CA) issues a trends report twice a year that updates dairy processors, producers and health professionals about issues that are developing and likely to impact the dairy community within the next one to three years. The trends tracking system is designed to identify issues early and follow their development to help the dairy community plan for the future. Dairy Council of CA’s most recent trends report looks at topics supported by science that are shaping the nutrition landscape. 


Sustainability and nutrition begin to intertwine

Due to the rapidly changing global landscape, every sector of society plays a role in sustainability. Sustainable nutrition is a topic with international importance, as countries around the world are faced with addressing the triple burden of malnutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies while protecting natural resources. In fact, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals include ending hunger, improving health and wellbeing, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Health and sustainable food systems are intricately linked at every level. Moving into the future, it is inevitable that nutrition recommendations and guidelines will integrate sustainability. For the dairy community, focusing on the nutritional qualities of milk and dairy foods and the improvements within the industry related to sustainability is a way to strike a balance among nourishing people, caring for animals and sustaining the environment. A successful approach to achieving sustainable nutrition should encompass reviewing sustainability at all aspects of the agri-food chain — including the processing level — and the best nutrition science to protect the health of the planet, the population and the individual.


All age groups benefit from dairy foods

While milk is commonly thought of as an important food for children that helps build strong bones, research continues to find additional health benefits for all ages. A recent study published by The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, linked high consumption of dairy with a reduced risk of major cardiovascular disease and stroke — important findings as cardiovascular disease and obesity statistics remain high in the United States.

Numerous studies suggest that, in addition to bone health, dairy consumption in children is linked to improved insulin response, better glucose control and weight management. This growing body of evidence indicates that dietary recommendations and advice should include dairy foods, within caloric recommendations regardless of fat level, as a part of eating patterns that support optimal health at all stages of life.

The research linking milk and dairy food intake to positive health outcomes in children and their families must continue to be leveraged by dairy processors in a way that resonates with consumers and health professionals alike.


Health outcomes are tied to overall food choices  

In nature, nothing happens in isolation, and the nutrients within a food work the same way. Nutrition experts agree that overall diet quality matters more than calorie count or single nutrients, and research is uncovering the benefits of the food matrix — the complex structure of nutrients — and its positive impact on overall health.

More specifically, the effect of the food matrix was recently studied by looking at the unique structure of nutrients found in dairy foods, including saturated and unsaturated fats, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and probiotics. Among the conclusions was that nutritional values of dairy products should be based on how the nutrients act together within dairy food structures rather than on calories or nutrient content alone.

Research shows better health outcomes are associated with nutrient-dense foods that are less processed and lower in added sugars. The good news is that dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt are wholesome foods that are positively associated with diet quality. Dairy processors can encourage consumption of underconsumed foods, specifically milk and dairy, to help close the nutrient gaps that exist among Americans of all ages.

While trends reports guide Dairy Council of CA’s nutrition education programs, they are also meant to empower the dairy industry with credible science-backed research. Through the support of dairy farm families and processors, Dairy Council of CA has been able to identify nutrition trends that ultimately help the organization elevate the health of families and children through the lifelong pursuit of healthy eating habits.

For a full list of citations used to develop this blog post view the Fall 2018 Trends Report.