The drink you pour in your glass can make a positive difference to your health, and that of your patients. That’s the benefit of milk! Evidence, from a number of sources and for a number of reasons, suggests three serves a day of dairy foods (that’s milk – as well as cheese and yogurt) is just right.
The NH&MRC’s Dietary Guidelines for Australians say dairy food is the most reliable source of calcium and are readily available and convenient to use.
Adequate calcium intake in the young is crucial for achieving peak bone mass – and the larger the ‘bone bank’, the lower the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Dietary calcium requirements in Australia soar from 500mg daily for the one-year-old to 1000 to 1300mg daily in adolescence.
It’s a big requirement, and according to the last National Nutrition Survey, more than half of all Aussie children don’t get enough calcium. So health professionals should be on the lookout for the nutrition of youngsters!
Losing weight is proving another battleground for patients – some navigating the maze of miracle diets. Dairy foods can be a good option for patients watching their weight. Emerging evidence suggests people who include three serves of dairy as part of a healthy, calorie-reduced diet may lose more fat and weight, than those on the same diet with little or no dairy food.
It may come as a surprise that regular milk is 3.8 per cent fat. A lot less than some patients think! And those patients on lower fat dairy foods can rest assured – these products supply just as much nutrition as their regular-fat counterparts. Dairy is the hero of the story here because more than 60 per cent of Australia’s calcium intake comes from this source. Although bony fish and some plant sources do have calcium, it’s at comparatively low levels per serve. And absorption is another matter – a patient would need to eat 32 brussel sprouts or five cups of cooked broccoli or one cup of dry roasted almonds to absorb the same amount of calcium as from a 250mL glass of milk.
Also, recent research has linked children and adults who regularly consume dairy products with a higher quality diet overall with more essential nutrients. Besides calcium, a glass of milk, tub of yogurt or slice of cheese contains carbohydrate, protein, vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. P
rofessor Peter Elwood, of the Department of Epidemiology, Statistics and Public Health at Cardiff University, collated data from more than 400,000 subjects from cohort studies in the UK, USA, Japan, the Netherlands, and Italy. The research met appropriate criteria for meta-analysis. He showed – in both men and women – that regular milk drinkers had reduced stroke and heart attack risk. Interestingly, the majority of milk consumed was regular fat.
For some time, benefits had been suggested in previous major studies – such as the Tromso study, the Nine Communities study, the CARDIA study and the Caerphilly study – which showed a reduction in hypertension in those individuals with a higher dairy intake. The ‘DASH’ dietary plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) – low in fat and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and three serves of mainly low-fat dairy foods – provides similar blood pressure reduction to that offered by medication.
There is good evidence that cheese helps reduce tooth decay and milk may reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colon cancer. Milk and yogurt also have a low glycaemic index (GI) – to help diabetic patients control blood glucose levels. So, remember to encourage patients to have three serves of dairy products a day.
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(References: Dairy Australia, July 2006, Three Serves)