Diets helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure
The DASH eating plan has been developed in the US as an approach to reduce elevated blood pressure through appropriate dietary choices (DASH = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Randomized trials have shown which food categories help in establishing and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Dairy products are part of food-based dietary guidelines around the globe
Food-based dietary guidelines from all over the world recommend consuming dairy on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet. From Europe and Asia through to Africa and the Americas, milk and milk products are perceived as an important source of nutrients to comply with the dietary recommendations for all stages of life.
Dairy and bone physiology
Bone is a composite material made up principally of proteins and calcium phosphate. Other bone components include sodium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Getting just the right mix of nutrients is important for maintaining strong bones. In addition to calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium and protein are all important for keeping our bones healthy. All of the aforementioned mineral elements provide bones with their strength and rigidity.
The history of dairy
Crop farmers and cattle farmers first began to keep cows about 10,000 years ago. They discovered that cows can convert grass, which is indigestible for humans, into the valuable food product milk. This was the perfect solution for people in areas where no other crops could grow.
Protein and muscle health
Body proteins are continually being broken down and synthesised. This process of protein turnover (about 300 g/day in adults) is many times higher than the amount of proteins consumed from the diet. This indicates that the building blocks of the proteins, the amino acids, are reutilised in protein metabolism. Yet, part of the amino acids is lost in the form of nitrogen compounds through urine, faeces, sweating and via the skin, hair and nails.
Milk and bone health
Genetics are a major determinant for strong bones and account for 60 to 80% of the variation in peak bone mass, i.e. the maximum bone density. Nutrition and exercise also play important roles in the development of the bones while growing (children) and in the bone tissue maintenance phase for adults and elderly people. Health authorities agree that calcium, protein and phosphorus from, among others, milk support the development and maintenance of bone mass.
Measures of diet quality
Currently, dietary patterns are gaining attention as people do not consume nutrients or single foods, but combinations of foods. Diet quality indexes have been developed to study optimal diets from a health perspective. To optimize diets in a broader sense, other aspects such as sustainability and affordability are now also being included.
Can people with lactose intolerance consume dairy products?
Many Europeans and some populations in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia can digest lactose throughout life thanks to the presence of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. This is called lactase persistence. Most people who cannot tolerate lactose can digest about 12 grams of lactose per day. This is equal to a large glass (250 ml) of milk. Yoghurt contains less lactose and semi-hard cheeses hardly contain any lactose.
Dietary patterns in relation to fracture risk and low bone mineral density
Osteoporosis is characterized by a low bone mineral density and compromised bone strength. Many factors contribute to low bone mineral density and osteoporosis such as gender, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, loss of estrogen and nutritional factors mainly related to adequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D.
Do adults need calcium?
Calcium is the most common mineral in our bodies. There is scientific proof that we need sufficient amounts of calcium in our nutrition. This is relevant for every phase in life, both old and young. Calcium supports the build-up of bone mass with children and with adults the mineral contributes to the maintenance of bones, normal blood clotting and proper functioning of muscles and nerves.