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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Dairy and Functional Foods Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #303096

Title: New insights into the health benefits of dairy products

item Tunick, Michael
item Van Hekken, Diane

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/25/2014
Publication Date: 3/4/2014
Citation: Tunick, M.H., Van Hekken, D.L. 2014. New insights into the health benefits of dairy products (abstract). Book of Abstracts, 1st Joint AGFD-ACS ICSCT Symposium on Agricultural and Food Chemistry. p. 13.

Interpretive Summary: Many people are aware that dairy products are good for building strong bones and teeth, but other health benefits are constantly being discovered. The proteins in whey powder help build muscle mass, which aids athletes and the elderly. The vitamins and minerals in milk have been found to reduce the risk of diabetes. Milk fat does not appear to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, and one component of fat is known to help prevent cancer. Research in our laboratory and by others has shown that organic milk has higher concentrations of some healthy fats than in regular milk. The compounds in milk combine to produce a larger effect than if they are consumed separately. The many food products that are derived from milk have more healthy benefits than most people realize.

Technical Abstract: Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt have long been known to provide good nutrition. The protein, calcium, and fatty acids present in milk and the vitamin D added to it are major healthful contributors to the diets of many people. Additional ways in which milk and milk products benefit human health is the subject of ongoing research. Our laboratory has shown that levels of linolenic acid, which provides optimal function of cellular membranes, are higher in milk from cows on organic farms (eating more fresh pasture) than on conventional farms (those specifically with no access to pasture), and that levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which may inhibit cancer, are higher in organic milk during the grazing months. Further research will determine if these additional amounts are enough to confer benefits. It also appears that consumption of dairy products may have positive effects in muscle building, lowering blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, prevention of tooth decay and diabetes, improving intestinal health, and weight loss. Probiotic microorganisms using milk products as a vehicle might provide additional benefits. Recent developments improve our understanding of the connections between milk and milk products and their effects on the human body.