Dairy products for optimal skeletal, gastrointestinal and immune health
Dairy products (milk, yoghurt and cheese) are highly nutritious foods and the necessity of their daily consumption is demonstrated, among other things, by their prominent position in the Mediterranean diet pyramid. Dairy products contain several nutrients that are necessary for the human body, including all three classes of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), essential water- and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, B and D), important minerals (such as calcium) and probiotics-prebiotics.
Dairy products make up a significant and essential part of the human diet, since they provide around 65% of the total amount of calcium which is necessary for the human body on a daily basis. Several clinical studies have so far revealed that the daily consumption of 3 servings of dairy products contributes not only to the prevention of bone loss, but also to the enhancement of bone mass, especially in skeletal areas that are sensitive to osteoporotic fractures, such as the hips and spine. More specifically, milk and yoghurt contain the ideal combination of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D3 and consist the ideal nutritional choice in order to meet the body’s nutritional needs throughout lifespan.
Furthermore, dairy product consumption has a positive impact on the body’s immune system. The immune benefits of dairy products are attributed, among others, to the bacterial strains contained in them. Peptides and free fatty acids produced during fermentation, as well as other components present in milk, such as proteins, calcium and specific vitamins (e.g. vitamin D) can also significantly enhance the body’s immune functions, when combined together, via a synergistic action.
Moreover, lactic acid bacteria found in yoghurt and cheese contain a significant immunoregulatory ingredient, known as peptidoglycan, which is a necessary component of important immune cells, namely lymphocytes and macrophages. Peptidoglycan, and possibly other compounds contained in milk as well, stimulate macrophages and enhance the production of antibodies and the activity of T lymphocytes. It is also worth mentioning that MDP, the main component of peptidoglycan, has been shown to enhance the production of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) by lymphocytes, a beneficial cytokine that is critical for the development of both innate and adaptive immunity against infections.