Yogurt and worldwide habits

Whole dairy matrix matters more than single nutrients


The health effects of foods, such as dairy, can no more be viewed as the sum of their individual constituents. That’s the main conclusion of an international experts* workshop held in Gentofte, Denmark, 28–29 September 2016, whose results are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This workshop was supported by the European Milk Forum.

A diet does not consist of single nutrients

Traditionally, the nutritional evaluation of the relation between diet and health has focused on individual food constituents or nutrients separately. This reductionist approach, which links one nutrient to one health effect, may partly explain some of the discrepancies between a food’s predicted health effect on the basis of its nutrient content and its actual health effect, when consumed as a whole food. Foods have complex structures both physically and nutritionally, which affect digestion and absorption and may generate interactions within the food matrix, thereby altering the bioactive properties of nutrients in ways that are not predictable from the nutrition-label information. This appears more and more evident for the dairy matrix, which was the main topic of a consensus workshop of international experts. They reached an agreement on several aspects related to the dairy food matrix. For instance, despite the high level of saturated fatty acids in dairy fats, experts agree that there is no association between the intake of dairy products and the risk of cardiovascular disease or even with type 2 diabetes.

The dairy matrix has higher beneficial effects on health than single nutrients

The paper reports that there are differences between the metabolic effects of whole dairy, and those of single dairy constituents, on body weight, cardiometabolic disease risk and bone health. They also pointed to the fact that the relationship between dairy and health differs, according to the subtype of dairy product. In addition, different processing methods and dairy structures can enhance interactions in the dairy matrix, thereby modifying the metabolic effects of dairy consumption. Therefore, the nutritional value of dairy products should be considered as the biofunctionality of the sum of nutrients within dairy matrix structures.

The authors call for further research on the health effect of whole dairy foods, alongside studying the health effects of single nutrients. According to them, such research would help to support dietary guidelines that consider the effect of whole foods on health, rather than only focusing on a few individual nutrients within a food.

To learn more, read the original article.


Kongerslev Thorning T. et al. Whole dairy matrix or single nutrients in assessment of health effects: current evidence and knowledge gaps. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. First published ahead of print April 12, 2017.

*Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, Hanne Christine Bertram, Jean-Philippe Bonjour, Lisette de Groot, Didier Dupont, Emma Feeney, Richard Ipsen, Jean Michel Lecerf, Alan Mackie, Michelle C McKinley, Marie-Caroline Michalski, Didier Remond, Ulf Riserus, Sabita S Soedamah-Muthu, Tine Tholstrup, Connie Weaver, Arne Astrup and Ian Givens.

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