Healthy dairy foods like milk, curds, yoghurt, buttermilk are being consumed since long almost throughout the world. Today, India’s dairy industry consists of a wide- range of both regional and international products including fermentable and non-fermentable products. Curd and yoghurt are considered valuable segments of the industry. References to yoghurt and health date back to 6000 BCE, as seen in Indian Ayurvedic medicinal text. Dairy is a huge industry in India and a big part of many states’ economy. In 2021, India is the largest milk producer in the world, currently contributing to almost 22% of the total milk production in the world. India produced 210 metric tons of milk in 2021 with a per capita availability of 427 g/day.
Most Indians consume lower amounts of fruits and vegetables leading to low intake of many micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Milk is a whole food being a staple protein rich food that is mainly consumed in coffee and tea to begin the day could cover this short fall arising from other such foods. Further, milk was included in the guidelines to help people get specific vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in the Indian diet. Milk and other dairy foods tend to be affordable and accessible food choices for meeting some nutrients of public health concerns, meaning nutrients we tend to not get enough of—specifically B2, B12 vitamins, calcium and potassium. Further, among individuals with lactose intolerance who cannot tolerate dairy products yogurt or curd can be given as an alternative because of its lower concentration of lactose sugar. Fermentation by the bacteria breaks down lactose to lactic acid.
Consumption of dairy is associated with improved nutritional status with various guidelines including milk and milk products as a part of a balanced diet. Milk and milk products are considered nutrient rich as they contribute to energy, protein, and micronutrients such as magnesium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B12 considering milk as ‘whole food’. In identifying a dietary pattern both healthy for people and sustainable for the planet, the “planetary health diet” sets the target for dairy foods at 250 grams per day. Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study conducted across 21 countries examined the association between dairy consumption and incident hypertension and type 2 diabetes and concluded higher intake of whole fat (but not low fat) dairy was associated with a lower risk for diabetes and other heart disease risk factors. In a recent study from the urban component from the Chennai Urban Rural Epidemiological Study (CURES) it was found that 5 cups or more of total dairy foods including 2 cups of fermented dairy foods lowered blood pressure, BMI, fasting blood sugar and improved the good cholesterol HDL among Chennai adults. The health benefits of dairy consumption could be attributed to its low glycemic index (GI).
Though International glycemic index table lists the glycemic index of various dairy products, predominantly from the west. For the first time in India a study funded by Verghese Kurien Centre of Excellence (VKCoE) has made it possible to evaluate the GI of toned milk (3% fat and 8.5% non-fat milk solids) and home style curds made from the same milk. Both the foods were found to have low GI 21±3 % (plain milk) and 17±4 % (plain curd). Scientists from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation attempted to improve the composition of milk by fortifying with soluble dietary fibre (as milk and curd lack dietary fibre). The fibre fortified milk and curd were found to have similar low GI. This opens for a new area of milk fortification.
Till date the evidence of dairy consumption strongly supports to reduce the risk factors of diabetes and heart disease. This is a blessing for Indians who are at greater vulnerability to risk of diabetes and heart disease. Milk and curds (dahi) are part of our cultural cuisines across regions of India and hence promoting dairy is only natural to get back to our traditional diets for good health. Thus, it is important that Indians do not give up on milk as a part of their healthy diet plan.
Source : A research article by Dr V Mohan and Dr J B Prajapati VKCOE May 27 2023