Dairy groups commended the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for maintaining dairy’s important role in healthy diets during a virtual hearing Aug. 12 with USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.

But they pointed out a glaring omission in the committee’s failure to consider the growing evidence of the benefits of dairy fats.

Both the National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association applauded the committee for maintaining the recommendation for three servings a day of low-fat and nonfat dairy.

They were also pleased to see dairy included in recommendations for infants and toddlers and confirmation that dairy is its own food group, separate from plant-based foods and beverages.

The committee’s recognition of low-fat and non-fat dairy in a healthy diet further cements the need for people to consume dairy products across their lifespan, said Miquela Hanselman, NMPF’s manager of regulatory affairs.

“However, the committee did fall short on one topic — the recognition of the newer science on dairy fats,” she said.

NMPF is pleased the committee didn’t lower the daily limit on saturated fats but wishes it had included the newer science on dairy fats in its recommendation, she said.

“While the committee did acknowledge the need for more research and analysis on fat sources and food matrices, they failed to include the breadth of science that already exists in this area in their review,” she said.

NMPF is urging USDA and HHS to review the scientific literature on dairy foods at all fat levels and draw their own conclusions, she said.

IDFA gave similar comment.

IDFA was pleased to see the committee report affirm the unmatched health and nutritional benefits that dairy products provide to people of all ages, said Joseph Scimeca, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs.

Dairy is a crucial part of a healthy diet beginning at a young age, and there is no replacement for dairy. Milk is a key component of diets associated with improved bone health and lower risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity.

But disappointingly, the committee did not consider or include references to many important studies regarding the consumption of dairy products at various levels of milkfat content, he said.

“This is curious considering the (advisory committee’s) report indicated there is an important and growing body of evidence on the favorable cardiovascular disease outcomes related to specific types of fatty acids, food matrices and specific sources of fats,” he said.

“This is an important area that should have been considered by the committee since there is growing evidence to support a positive health impact of milkfat that is different from other saturated fats,” he said.

Moises Torres-Gonzalez, vice president of research for the National Dairy Council, also gave comment at the hearing.

It is difficult to predict health outcomes of eating whole- and reduced-fat dairy foods based simply on their fatty acid content and profile, he told Capital Press.

“Emerging evidence indicates that consuming dairy foods, regardless of fat content, in healthy eating patterns is not linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or weight gain. Dairy fat is the most complex fat naturally occurring in a food,” he said.

The final guidelines are expected to be released later this year. The recommendations are updated every five years.

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