A glance at… Health and dairy products

Milk is a very high-quality food. Canada’s Food Guide recommends daily consumption of 2 to 4 servings of milk or dairy products, depending on the age group, because they are the most reliable source of calcium. Dairy products contain up to 16 nutrients, which offer multiple benefits for maintenance of good health. This document summarizes the main health benefits of consumption of dairy products. We also address some of the myths in circulation regarding the links between consumption of dairy products and certain diseases.


Consumption of dairy products is recognized as a key factor in bone health and prevention of osteoporosis. Very reliable scientific data show that calcium and vitamin D, two important nutrients of milk, play a leading role in achieving maximum peak bone mass and in the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures.


Calcium from cow’s milk has good bioavailability, meaning the quantity of calcium that can be absorbed by the bones. Foods of plant origin contain a considerable quantity of inhibitors, such as oxalates and phytates, which bond to calcium and form insoluble salt complexes, thus reducing calcium absorption. For example, the bioavailability of calcium from spinach is 5%, compared to 30% to 35% from milk. You would have to consume 8 cups of spinach to obtain the same quantity of calcium as in one cup of milk.


The scientific data available to date shows that dairy products, especially those with full fat content, could provide protection against asthma. Consumption of full fat yogurt by pregnant women seems to have a protective effect for the child, while consumption of whole milk and butter seems to reduce the risk of asthma in children and adults.


According to recent studies, regular consumption of milk and dairy products helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, especially strokes. One study found that the risk of cardiovascular diseases diminishes by 6% for each 200 ml glass of milk consumed daily. In addition, dairy products contain “bioactive peptides”, which have an effect similar to certain antihypertensive drugs. The scientific data does not show any link between consumption of dairy products and the risks of coronary diseases or infarction.


According to a systematic review of the studies, consumption of dairy products is associated with a reduction in the risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes. An inverse dose-effect relationship seems to exist between consumption of dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition, dairy products could have a protective effect against excess weight and metabolic syndrome, two risk factors in type 2 diabetes.

To find out more: www.dairynutrition.ca