The new year is marked by res­o­lu­tions, of­ten about health­ier life­styles. A new se­ries backed by Fon­terra looks at the nu­tri­tional and life­style ben­e­fits of dairy – and at some of the old views now be­ing slowly dis­carded.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - BROUGHT TO YOU BY FONTERRA - —Fon­terra

The Wall Street Jour­nal head­line ran over two lines: Grass-Fed Milk Is Tak­ing Off With Health-Con­scious Shop­pers. It was a sign of things to come. That was in 2014 – a story about how shop­pers were pre­pared to pay more for grass-fed milk (many cows in the US eat feed de­rived from corn) be­cause it was con­sid­ered health­ier.

Now, an ar­ti­cle on the Gal­lagher Group’s web­site re­lates how US dairy re­tail sup­plier Or­ganic Val­ley (the one high­lighted in the WSJ two years ago) is en­joy­ing an 82 per cent dol­lar growth in their grass-fed yo­ghurt, more than three times that of non-grass-fed yo­ghurts. Their Grass­milk brand is the top-sell­ing grass-fed dairy brand in the US, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dou­ble-digit growth since its launch in 2012.

If this causes a wry smile on the face of New Zealand dairy farm­ers (New Zealand cows are about 85 per cent grass-fed an­nu­ally and the ben­e­fits of good pas­ture in good-tast­ing dairy have been long hailed), it is also a sig­nal the world is chang­ing its mind on some old, long-held views.

In the US, about US$45 bil­lion is spent on or­ganic or healthy food ev­ery year with growth pre­dicted at a com­pounded an­nual rate of 16 per cent through 2020. Glob­ally, the mar­ket for or­ganic, func­tional, non-al­ler­genic and bet­ter-for-you foods will reach US$1 tril­lion this year, ac­cord­ing to in Au­gust.

In an­other il­lus­tra­tion of this shift, the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, in their pre­dic­tions for the top 5 nu­tri­tion trends for 2017 last month, turned to top Aus­tralian PhD-qual­i­fied nu­tri­tion­ist, au­thor and health pre­sen­ter Dr Joanne McMil­lan.

Along with meat-free foods, func­tional foods (in­clud­ing horse­rad­ish, fenu­greek, gin­ger, turmeric, ap­ple cider vine­gar and co­conut oil), and ‘clean eat­ing’ (in­stead of detox­ing), the pointer to bet­ter nu­tri­tion in­cluded a sec­tion on bal­ance, sub-ti­tled ‘Back from the brink’.

It talked about the need to ‘bring bal­ance back’ from to­tal­i­tar­ian regimes like no fat, no sugar and other di­ets which de­monise cer­tain food groups.

Re­act­ing to the global move­ment of treat­ing our bod­ies with re­spect with­out the need for de­nial or calo­rie-count­ing and em­brac­ing whole foods (food as min­i­mally al­tered or pro­cessed as pos­si­ble), McMil­lan said: “I think dairy will make a come­back with all the good news on dairy fat not be­ing as­so­ci­ated with heart dis­ease*.”

There are two main rea­sons for in­creased at­ten­tion be­ing paid to dairy and full-fat dairy – science and con­sumers.

Many sci­en­tists are be­gin­ning to re-think nu­tri­tion, shift­ing away from the old think­ing that sat­u­rated fats (as found in dairy) should be avoided and that the rush to ‘low-fat ev­ery­thing’ may have been mis­guided. In fact, in some in­stances, what we re­placed sat­u­rated fats with may have been worse.

Con­sumers are an­other force driv­ing re­newed in­ter­est in whole foods and dairy.

Kiwi ‘global baker’ Dean Brettschnei­der – a man whose bak­ing busi­ness em­pire ex­tends from Lon­don to Den­mark to Shang­hai and Sin­ga­pore – says con­sumers are seek­ing en­hanced flavour: “I do a lot of con­sult­ing around the world, for big su­per­mar­ket out­fits like Tesco and to the man­u­fac­tur­ers who sup­ply them. What I am hear­ing is more and more mar­kets want but­ter in their bak­ing now.

“That’s be­cause they are hear­ing their cus­tomers want­ing whole­some, hon­est, clean food. Around the world, peo­ple are look­ing for the ex­pe­ri­ences their grand­mother used to give them – sim­ple stuff which tastes good and they pre­fer the taste of but­ter.”

Then there’s the sports world. High Per­for­mance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) says milk is “burst­ing with nu­tri­tion” and for ath­letes can be used as a sports food in a range of ex­er­cise op­tions. It says milk con­tains more than 15 nu­tri­ents and has a va­ri­ety of health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing vi­ta­mins and min­er­als to sup­port the im­mune sys­tem, nu­tri­ents for re­cov­ery from ex­er­cise, cal­cium for strong bones and wa­ter and elec­trolytes for hy­dra­tion.

A re­search study led by Emma Cock­burn, a se­nior lec­turer in sport and phys­i­ol­ogy at Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity in Bri­tain, found peo­ple who drank milk af­ter train­ing were able to ex­er­cise longer in their next ses­sion than peo­ple who had sports drinks or wa­ter.

A Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity study claimed milk as the ‘ul­ti­mate gym drink’. In 2015 re­search for a BBC show, Bri­tain’s Favourite Foods: Are They Good For You?, Pro­fes­sor Alice Roberts and stu­dents ex­er­cised to­gether be­fore re­hy­drat­ing with three dif­fer­ent drinks – milk, wa­ter and a sports drink.

Milk stayed in the sys­tem for longer than wa­ter and the sports drink.

*Sources for “good news” about dairy in­clude Alexan­der DD, Bylsma LC, Var­gas AJ et al. (2016) Dairy con­sump­tion and CVD: a sys­tem­atic re­view and meta-anal­y­sis. Brit J Nutr 115:737-750. Qin LQ, Xu JY, Han SF et al. (2015) Dairy con­sump­tion and risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease: an up­dated meta-anal­y­sis of prospec­tive co­hort stud­ies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 24(1):90-100

NOTE: As with all nu­tri­ents, fat should be eaten in mod­er­a­tion, re­flect­ing nu­tri­tion and en­ergy needs of the in­di­vid­ual and as part of a healthy diet and ac­tive life­style.

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