Research puts inflammation myth to rest
Chris Cifelli, Nutrition Research Vice President, National Dairy Council
May 24, 2021
Farmer-funded research by the National Dairy Council (NDC) allows us to engage in myth-busting when necessary.
One of the more common myths we’ve effectively addressed is that dairy causes inflammation. Our body of research has not only proved this is not the case, but that dairy can even reduce the risk of inflammation in some at-risk groups.
Let’s begin with some background.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a cut, injury, or infection. Inflammation is good – it is our body’s first line of defense. But it can become harmful if it doesn’t turn off after doing its job. This is what we call chronic inflammation, which contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Myths have been circulating that dairy is linked to chronic inflammation and people should avoid our products. It even caught on with some diet book authors who support an “elimination” approach to eating in which people are urged to cut out an entire category of food, such as dairy.
Science-based studies This is why we turn to research to set the record straight. First, NDC funded a large clinical trial at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that looked at the effects of eating low-fat yogurt on inflammation in apparently healthy women. These findings not only confirmed our belief that dairy didn’t cause inflammation but that it could reduce markers of chronic inflammation.
We further strengthened our case by conducting a systematic review that was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. We evaluated 27 clinical trials and found that dairy foods and dairy proteins (whey and casein) have neutral to beneficial effects on inflammation.
Once armed with the facts, NDC’s job is to begin our communications and outreach work. We make sure the broader health and wellness community sees the research and uses it to continue building an accurate case on dairy’s behalf. We produced a scientific summary and shared our findings through scientific conferences, social media, and other venues. We also produced consumer-focused content at USDairy.com.
The research also is part of scientific proof points used to educate members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, who rely on science-based evidence of the foods it recommends.
Farmers’ vision to create National Dairy Council more than 100 years ago has brought us to this point where the weight of accumulated evidence is on dairy’s side. This commitment is vital, and without it, there would be no counter to these myths and other false narratives surrounding dairy.
Our inflammation work is a great example of how the science and communications teams have come together to present a convincing case to defend and enhance dairy’s benefits on consumer wellness.