Dairy still has nutritional benefits


In a previous article, the importance of continuing to tell ‘our story’ was stressed. This is true for the dairy industry, as well as other aspects in life.

The previous article focused on the relationships of human health and dairy products, specifically discussing the importance of the development of the smallpox vaccine and pasteurization.

Some today claim milk, and thus dairy products, are only for young mammalians, the intolerances of some of the population to lactose or proteins in milk should change the whole population’s consumption of dairy products and plant-based alternatives need to be considered.

It continues to amaze me people would try to convince me to not consume dairy products based on intolerance to lactose or proteins in milk when I don’t experience any symptoms of intolerance. If I don’t have an intolerance to gluten, which, by the way, is not in milk and dairy products, why should I avoid wheat-based bread that I enjoy?

Why are all of these plant-based alternatives trying to mimic milk with the same color, and why are they claimed to have comparable nutrient density to milk?

If others are trying to mimic it, that is a message about the nutritional value of milk.

Biblical usage

For these and other reasons, I want to take a snapshot of the history of using dairy products. Even in Biblical times, milk and dairy products were in use.

Abraham provided the choicest of foods to three visitors, which included milk and curds (Genesis 18:8). The curds may have been butter or curdled milk similar to yogurt rather than cheese as we know it today.

Moses wrote of “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

In Proverbs (30:33), Solomon wrote of the churning of milk bringing forth butter.

The Ammonites ate fruit and drank milk (Ezekiel 25:4).

During the AD period, Paul wrote: “Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?”

Production development

The use of dairy products during Biblical times provides evidence for their nutritional value and the status of families with such food available from the herds and flocks they owned. Also of note is small ruminants, likely goats and sheep, were the primary sources of the milk.

By the fifth century AD, cows and sheep were prized for their milk in Europe, and by the fourteen century, cows were more popular than sheep for milk production. European dairy cows were brought to North America in the early 1600s.

Genetic selection of animals for milk production potential has been conducted during the entire history of mankind. With improved genetics and management practices today, milk yield per cow has increased by about 2% per year for many years.

This increased availability of a valuable food source has been important to the American population and has been a major focus of some countries around the world.

For many years, China has been trying to increase their youth’s dairy product consumption for the nutrients important for growth. In both 2007 and 2016, the Chinese government published dietary guidelines suggesting a daily consumption of dairy products equal to 300 grams per day of liquid milk.

Dietary guidelines

Closer to home, the U.S. federal government has provided dietary guidelines to the American public for over 100 years.

For many years, the offices of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have formed advisory committees tasked with reviewing the science on nutrition and health, receiving and reviewing public comments, and preparing scientific reports to advise them on dietary guidelines for human health.

From the earlier reports, these dietary guidelines recommended three servings of dairy products per day; thus originated the 3-A-Day advertising program by the American Dairy Association.

The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines continue to recommend including low fat and fat-free dairy products.

The development process for the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines is currently underway.


The nutritional attributes of milk and dairy products have been long recognized. Many studies have reported the value of the calcium, protein, other minerals and vitamins found in milk to the development of children and for even for the skeletal health of adults.

In a recent review published in the Journal of Dairy Science, researchers at Oregon State University noted that “Calcium is often seen as the most important component of milk for bone health, and adequate intake is recommended during adolescence to increase peak bone mass and help prevent osteoporosis later in life; the diverse blend of nutrients in milk have been shown to increase bone health and development. Besides calcium, milk contains biologically relevant amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, protein, and vitamin D (due to fortification), which all contribute to bone growth and mineral accrual.”

Even though the nutritional properties of milk and dairy products has been realized for centuries, specific attributes are still being discovered.


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