22 January 2008, London
The conference opened with a welcome speech from Jim Begg Director General of Dairy UK. He began by highlighting the importance of obesity as an issue for both consumers and industry. He discussed the major changes which are occurring within industry in order to modify foods to help reduce the prevalence and risk of obesity. He went on to talk about how these changes are taking the dairy industry into new frontiers and of the importance in identifying and understanding the issues facing the industry in the coming years and months. He finished by highlighting the aims of the conference, which would include trying to improve awareness of issues relating to dairy and obesity, awareness of evidence for dairy as a solution to obesity, and to discuss the ways in which the industry can handle this issue in the future.
The first presentation of the conference began with an overview of dairy’s contribution to the solution of obesity and overweight by Dr Theo Ockhuizen, chair of the EDA nutrition group. He began by discussing how dietary patterns and lifestyles have changed over time leading to the increased prevalence of obesity across the globe. Unfortunately increased obesity also leads to reduced quality of life, well being and increased costs to the health care systems which has resulted in a global health crisis. Dr Ockhuizen went on to discuss how we have created an “obesogenic” environment which has promoted the development of obesity through excessive and unhealthy lifestyles and that numerous factors are to blame and not just diet. He suggested that foods including dairy could actually be part of the solution to obesity rather than the cause. The food industry can help to improve the situation by educating consumers, creating innovative products to help control weight and providing consumers with an increased range of choices including reduced portion sizes. He also suggested that authorities can help by encouraging scientific research and healthy lifestyles through school and community health programmes and by creating appropriate legislative environments. Following this he touched on nutrient profiling and health claims, the difficulties experienced in this area and the current industry position on nutrient profiles. Dr Ockhuizen then concluded by describing how low fat dairy foods and the dairy industry have a very positive role to play in tackling obesity through improved innovation and communication of the many health benefits of dairy beyond pure nutritional value.
Dr Cindy Schweitzer, Technical Director, Global Dairy Platform, gave the second presentation on the messages we should be communicating about dairy foods and obesity. She discussed the fact that low fat dairy is widely considered to be an important part of a healthy balanced diet and is incorporated into dietary guidelines around the globe. She then went on to highlight that although levels of obesity are rising, consumption of dairy in the UK and USA are still below the recommended levels. Dr Schweitzer then described the wealth of scientific evidence which suggests that adequate dairy consumption can play an important role in weight loss and weight maintenance. She demonstrated the range of different industry messages used around the world relating to dairy consumption, calcium intake and weight control and the different low fat and functional products now produced by various different dairy companies to facilitate consumption of low fat dairy. She concluded by discussing how dairy was an important part of a healthy diet and that with consumption of the many different low fat products now available that we can provide our bodies with essential nutrients at the same time as potentially enhancing weight loss when consumed as part of a calorie restricted diet.
The next presentation was given by Martien van den Hoven (Campina). His presentation was based upon the role of dairy products in solving health issues and he began by discussing the changes that have occurred within global food trends over the last few decades and the new challenges and opportunities that now face the dairy industry as a result of these changes. He discussed how consumption of dairy foods not only makes an enormous contribution to nutrient intakes but may also contribute to the reduced risk of a number of different health problems including, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. He then focussed on the growing obesity epidemic and the ways in which Campina as an organisation has tackled the problem. He described the development and success of the Optiwell range which is a 0% fat yogurt drink with additional side ranges including a functional product aimed at increasing satiety and reducing overall calorie intake. He then went onto talk about other programmes run by Campina to target obesity in school children such as the encouragement of healthy vending machines and the Schools Football Initiative to encourage more physical activity. He concluded by describing the work of Campina (in conjunction with other organisations) in developing the “My Choice” logo system to enable consumers to make healthier choices.
Dr Judith Bryans, Director of The Dairy Council then presented the results of the Dairy UK survey completed by the conference delegates. Rt Hon David Curry MP and Chairman of Dairy UK presented a brief summary of the conference proceedings. He began by highlighting how the dairy industry is one of the oldest industries we have today and is an enormous part of the kind of civilisation we are familiar with in the western world. He discussed how the next challenge to the dairy industry will be to get into schools to educate children about key healthy eating messages based on new proposals by the government and acknowledged the growing wealth of evidence that suggests that dairy foods may have a significant role to play beyond the provision of nutrients. He also emphasised the importance of delivering key nutritional messages carefully and in the right context in order to gain the most support and success.
The conference was then followed by the Dairy UK Reception.