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INDI & NDC Explore the Benefits of Milk Matrix

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Pictured are Dr. Jean Michel Lecerf, Head of Department of Nutrition at Institut Pasteur de Lille, France, Dr. Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager, The National Dairy Council,  Professor Arne Astrup, Head of Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, Jennifer Feighan, Chief Executive, Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute, Professor Ian Givens, Professor of Food Chain Nutrition at UK’s University of Reading.

Exploring Health Benefits of Milk Matrix – Subject of Specialist Symposium

“Diet, a key moderator of chronic disease risk, will play an increasingly important role in light of public health concerns associated with cardio-metabolic disease.  This is driven by trends such as the growing burden of obesity, ageing populations and the need to increase food production by 50% by 2030 whilst minimising the effect on the environment,” said Professor Ian Givens, Professor of Food Chain Nutrition at UK’s University of Reading.  “These issues will shape future food policies and will inevitably impact the risk of cardio-metabolic disease.”

Professor Givens was one of three European experts in Dublin on 16th September, 2014 speaking at a symposium for dietitians organised by the European Milk Forum (EMF) in collaboration with the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI).   The symposium on “Exploring the Health Benefits of the Milk Matrix” was part of the Milk, Nutritious by Nature symposia roadshow from EMF and took place in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel. 

Cardio-Metabolic Health: What’s the Role of Dairy?

Professor Givens said that most people understand that milk and milk products are very important sources of nutrients such as calcium, iodine and vitamin B12, but there has been uncertainty in the public’s mind about the role of these foods in relation to cardio-metabolic disease and other chronic diseases.

“The evidence from long term cohort studies indicate that milk consumption does not increase cardio-metabolic disease risk,” said Professor Givens.

“To date, the largest meta-analysis for cardio-metabolic disease is that of Elwood et al. (2010) based on 17 studies comprising 4.3 million person-years, with 16,212 CVD events or deaths,” explained Professor Givens.  “Overall, the results showed a reduction in risk in the subjects with the highest dairy consumption relative to those with the lowest intake for all-cause deaths, for ischaemic heart disease, for stroke and for type 2 diabetes,although more studies are needed to confirm the mechanisms involved.”

Dairy and Weight Management: A Review of the Evidence

Research on the potential benefits of the dairy matrix in relation to weight control was discussed by Professor Arne Astrup, MD, DMSc, Head of Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark who is also a Knight of the First Order of Dannebrog.

“Accumulating evidence supports a role for dairy in weight control, particularly during energy restriction. The mechanisms by which dairy influences energy balance are not entirely clear – the effects of a number of nutrients within the dairy matrix are being explored,” said Professor Astrup.

We Eat Foods Not Nutrients 

“We eat foods, not nutrients. Nutrition science has focused on food nutrients for decades and it is becoming more evident that the effects of whole foods are greater or different from that of the sum of their nutrients,” said Dr. Jean Michel Lecerf, MD, PhD, Head of Department of Nutrition at France’s Institut Pasteur de Lille.

“This is the ‘food matrix effect’ – the fact that beyond nutrients, a food, especially an unrefined food, is a combination of hundreds of components in a particular arrangement and interaction working in concert,” said Dr. Lecerf. 

Milk and dairy products are good examples of the complexity of foods and of the food matrix effect according to Dr. Lecerf.   “Milk is a natural food with the largest nutrient diversity among all available foods for human nutrition: lactose, high quality proteins and a great diversity of fatty acids with over 400 different kinds (some of them being very specific).  The milk micronutrient content is also very vast.”

Dr. Lecerf said that the positive interaction between some nutrients or components explains, at least in part, the major health effects of dairy products reported in the scientific literature. For example, calcium, phosphorus , vitamin D and protein positively interact with several physiological mechanisms involved in bone growth and maintenance of bone health.   The interaction of specific nutrients has also been proposed as the mechanism underlying other potential benefits.

Professor Lecerf concluded that the food matrix modulates the action of the food components on human biological systems leading to specific health effects. This concept of the food matrix has many implications for defining a healthy individual diet, for future policies about nutrition and diet, and for the future direction of nutrition research.

Nutritious by Nature

Dr. Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager with the National Dairy Council says that this NDC & INDI symposium is part of the European Milk Forum’s scientific symposia tour taking place in Belfast, Dublin and Paris to present updates on the most recent studies exploring the health benefits of the milk matrix.

EMF’s “Milk, Nutritious by Nature” programme is a science-based programme aimed at creating awareness of the nutrient richness of milk and dairy and underlining the contribution of milk and dairy to a healthy and balanced diet.  It is important that people understand the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle and how to achieve this.

Jennifer Feighan, CEO, INDI welcomed the European scientists to Dublin and said that their expertise strongly demonstrated that milk and milk products can play an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.

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