Dairy products have either a “neutral, or protective effect” against obesity, the industry body said in a report, published on April 5. Eating dairy foods played an important role in maintaining a healthy diet, and could ‘break the obesity cycle’ in children and adolescents, The Dairy Council added.
“It can be reasonably concluded after reviewing all the data from both observational and interventional [data] available in human studies, that milk and dairy consumption carries no risk to body consumption or obesity, and can be part of a healthy diet at this life stage,” said Anestis Dougkas, a researcher working on the report.
The Dairy Council’s report – Dairy and Obesity: What the Science Says – analysed more than 100 previous studies on the link between dairy and obesity. It subsequently explored the mechanisms which caused dairy products to have a positive impact on obesity.
Positive impact on obesity
Javier Gonzalez from the University of Bath, and another researcher on the study, said: “There are many potential mechanisms by which dairy can modulate fat balance.
“There is a good rationale for including dairy products in the diet to assist with fat loss, whilst also maintaining lean body mass.”
The report was launched after Public Health England reduced the size of the dairy and dairy alternatives section of the new Eatwell Guide from 15% to 8%. A subsequent survey by The Dairy Council last month found 79% of healthcare professionals did not think, or were not sure, that dairy should be targeted to reduce cardiometabolic disease in the public.
The Dairy Council said the dairy sector was being unfairly targeted in public health campaigns to reduce obesity. More attention should be paid to promoting physical activity, rather than offering dietary advice, it added.
‘Wider family and societal issues’
A statement from The Dairy Council on April 5 said: “While obesity reduction programmes are most often defined by dietary and nutritional advice, in recent years a number have focused more on wider family and societal issues.
“Along with diet, physical activity performed in a social context – for example, with family and friends – and ensuring the habitual environment promotes health eating and physical activity, may have a greater impact on childhood obesity.”
The Dairy Council director of nutrition Anne Mullen added: “The role of dairy in a healthy diet for life is well-substantiated, and the evidence supporting dairy for a healthy body weight is gathering strength.”