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Milk delivers excellent health benefits, say scientists


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Milk is a ‘superfood’ that can help fight disease but more research is needed to convince consumers to stock up on the white stuff.

That was the message to emerge from a meeting of scientists and food industry experts at the University of Reading last month.

The symposium, ‘Milk and Dairy Products in Health and Disease’ on December 19, was organised by the University of Reading’s Food Production and Quality Division as part of the University’s research for DRINC the Diet and Health Research Industry Club, funded by industry and the research council BBSRC.

The event provided the latest review of the evidence on the role dairy foods and milk can play in keeping people fit and healthy and preventing vascular disease, such as heart attacks and strokes Europe’s biggest killer illness.

Some of the leading experts on food science, nutrition, physiology and epidemiology spoke at the conference, updating the 100 delegates from around the EU with backgrounds in science and industry on the latest developments in the field.

Among the speakers were the University of Reading’s Professor Julie Lovegrove, who presented findings from her work into the role that milk proteins play in lowering blood pressure and improving vascular function.

Her Reading colleagues Dr Kirsty Kliem and Dr Les Crompton talked about their research into how changing the diets of dairy cows could change the types of fat in milk and reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane, thereby helping to tackle global warming.

Other topics discussed included research by Dr Anestis Dougkas from Lund University, Sweden, on dairy products and obesity, Professor Luc van Loon from the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands, who presented evidence on how milk proteins could help older people maintain muscle mass, and epidemiological links between dairy products and vascular disease reduction presented by Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University Hospital.

Delegates also heard a plea from Suzane Leser, from Volac International, a sports nutrition company, on the need for more research into the benefits of milk and dairy proteins to the growing number of middle-aged, moderately active adults, rather than just among elite athletes or the elderly population.

Event organiser Professor Ian Givens, the University of Reading’s DRINC project leader, said the event gave a vital snapshot into the state of cutting-edge research into dairy foods and health.

“Milk and dairy products remain a crucial part of our diet, but the legacy of health scares, misinformation, and a lack of investment in research in the past has left the public confused about whether dairy products are helpful or harmful to their health,” Professor Givens said.

“Considering the importance that consumers are now placing on diet and health when making purchasing decisions, it is no surprise that there is an increased focus on research into dairy foods and health.

“Here at Reading we are fortunate to have a depth and breadth of expertise across the entire food chain, all the way from farm to consumer, making Reading the ideal place to examine how changes to food production affect health, the environment and business.”


The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities. The quality and diversity of the University’s research and teaching is recognised internationally as one of the top 1% of universities in the world.

The cross-disciplinary research in food chain and health is a component of the University of Reading’s Centre for Food Security and links with the University’s Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research. These facilities co-ordinate research efforts across disciplines to provide a better understanding of how more knowledge of food and nutrition can help tackle some of the biggest health crises facing humanity in the 21st century.

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