A RECENT study by Korean researchers sought to examine the relationship between dairy product intake and the incidence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its components among middle-aged Koreans.
The researchers examined 7,240 adults ages 40-69 years old without MetS at baseline over a 45.5-month follow-up period. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that there is an inverse association between dairy product consumption and the risk of abdominal obesity and MetS.
Obesity has become a global public health concern in recent decades. The prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity and MetS, are increasing worldwide. In Korea alone, the leading causes of death are cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver disease. Additionally, the prevalence of obesity, hypertension and other adverse cardiometabolic outcomes has increased among Koreans.
According to the "Korea National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey," the prevalence of obesity among adults has more than doubled, from 20.5% in 1995 to 30.9% in 2009. The increase is primarily blamed on changes in lifestyle and diet, such as automobile use and fast-food consumption.
Obesity and MetS have become primary targets for public health intervention due to the rapid change in mortality and chronic disease prevalence among Koreans. Because of this, the researchers were looking for ways to help Koreans better their health.
Several cross-sectional and prospective studies had investigated the association between dairy product consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disease. However, the results were inconsistent and varied among population groups. A review of 10 cross-sectional studies and three prospective studies of the relationship between dairy product consumption and MetS suggested that dairy product consumption had a protective effect against MetS, but the evidence was inconclusive.
Using food frequency questionnaires, the recent Korean study was able to gather information on a large number of people. Dairy products used in the study included milk, yogurt and cheese.
At the follow-up, the incidence of MetS was 17.1%. The incidences of MetS components were as follows: low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (16.2%), abdominal obesity (14.0%), hypertriglyceridemia (13.8%), hyperglycemia (13.3%) and hypertension (13.1%). Adjusting for potential confounders, dairy product consumption frequency was inversely associated with the risk of MetS and abdominal obesity.
The findings suggested that daily intake of dairy products would protect against the development of MetS, particularly abdominal obesity, in middle-aged Koreans.
The high response rate, comprehensive data collection through face-to-face interviews, inclusion of demographic and lifestyle factors and the use of a validated FFQ all strengthened the results of the study. In the statistical analysis of this study, most well-known factors affecting MetS were included in the analysis as covariates, such as age, sex, physical activity, alcohol consumption, total energy intake, smoking status, education and income.
The researchers did recommend that future studies with greater statistical power be done to further examine the relationship between dairy product consumption and the risk of MetS components other than abdominal obesity.
Overall, though, the researchers said results of the study suggest that dairy product intake is an important dietary factor for lowering the risk of abdominal obesity and MetS in middle-aged Koreans.
The incoming president of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) recently urged dairy farmers to become more engaged in the organization and the policy-making process.
"We need your financial commitment, yes, but even more importantly, we need your time and effort and engagement," NMPF chief operating officer Jim Mulhern told nearly 1,000 attendees at the organization's annual meeting. "The more engagement our members have, ... the more our organization can achieve for our members. It's a virtuous circle."
Mulhern will take over as NMPF president and chief executive officer Jan. 1, 2014, when longtime leader Jerry Kozak retires. The organization serves as the voice in Washington, D.C., of more than 32,000 dairy producers.
Mulhern said 30 years ago, NMPF, like many organizations, could be a neatly defined hierarchy and be successful. According to Mulhern, that isn't the case today, and both NMPF and the entire dairy industry must be more engaged in the free and rapid flow of information.
"If there's a message I can leave with you today, it's that the future of NMPF is not a function of what I want ... or any one leader," he said. "Rather, the successful future of NMPF will be a function of the active engagement that our board, our delegates and, yes, our grassroots members have in the organization and the industry."
Mulhern also stressed the need for increased transparency in the dairy industry.
"Look at how food marketers have increased the flow of information about their products. Twenty years ago, it was calorie and nutrition information on the back panel. Ten years ago, it was absence claims about artificial sweeteners and growth hormones," he said.
Now, Mulhern said it's whether a product is locally and sustainably produced or whether it can be traced back from the store to a field or barn. He called it "transparency in action" but added that it can also be misused.
Mulhern said the strategy of some food companies is to try to increase sales by scaring consumers into paying more for their particular product because of how it was produced.
"That's not transparency," he said. "It's fear-based marketing. ... Left unchecked, it not only affects the marketplace; it also affects the policy environment. We must tell our story, because if we don't, others — who don't have our interest at heart — are telling a very different, and harmful, story."
Mulhern explained that transparency requires telling stories about brands and product categories and entire industries.
"The clean lines that used to exist between farmer and processor and distributor and retailer have blurred," he said, adding that transparency has created a value chain where everyone is accountable for what they do and why they do it.
Dairy genetics workshop
A three-day workshop will be offered Feb. 17-19, 2014, on the future of dairy cattle genetics. The workshop, "Advancing Dairy Cattle Genetics: Genomics & Beyond," will mark the first time in more than a decade that the entire dairy genetics community will gather to discuss the long-term future of the dairy industry.
Commercial dairy producers and elite breeders, artificial insemination company representatives, dairy record specialists, breed association representatives, genetic researchers, dairy consultants, veterinarians, educators and graduate students are all encouraged to attend the program.
The Dairy Calf & Heifer Assn. (DCHA) has begun accepting applications for its annual scholarship program. The goal of this long-standing scholarship program is to invest in the future of the dairy industry by offering scholastic support to outstanding agriculture-focused students.
"As an organization focused on the future, we feel very strongly about investing in our industry's youth," said DCHA president Jack Banker, a calf and heifer raiser. "Today's youth are tomorrow's leaders, and we are pleased to offer a $1,000 scholarship opportunity to the DCHA membership this year to help shape our industry's leaders."
To apply for the scholarship, applicants must:
* Be a member of DCHA or the son, daughter or legal dependent of a DCHA member;
* Have completed at least one year of post-high school education;
* Be attending an accredited college or university, and
* Be enrolled in a field of agriculture (e.g., food science, horticulture, animal/veterinary science, agricultural communications, etc.) or in a course of study with relevance to agriculture.
To download a copy of the application, go to http://bit.ly/DCHAScholarship_2014.
The scholarship recipient will be recognized during the 2014 DCHA annual conference, themed "Be a 'Driver' of Change." The conference is set for April 1-3, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.