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Webinar: Spotlight on uniqueness and complexity of dairy foods

24.03.2021

Webinar: Spotlight on uniqueness and complexity of dairy foods

On 23rd March, the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland (DCNI) hosted more than 200 nutrition, health and industry professionals, academics and students at an online seminar on The Dairy Matrix Effect: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Perspectives.

Chaired by Professor Michelle McKinley from Queen’s University Belfast, the webinar shone a spotlight on new thinking around nutrition and health, with a move away from a reductionist approach that looks at nutrients in isolation to one that considers their relationship to each other in the complex structure of a food – known as the food matrix.

According to DCNI nutritionist Dr Carole Lowis, the food matrix approach will be an important consideration in the future development of public health policy and dietary guidelines:

“For more than half a century, the study of the relationship between diet and health has focused on individual nutrients in isolation: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and micro–nutrients. This has led to dietary advice based on nutrients alone. The food matrix concept offers a more holistic view, which recognises that the health effects of a food are much more complex than that of a single nutrient it contains or even a few nutrients. Rather, they are a function of both its structure and its nutrient content, and how these interact together.”

“As nutrition science evolves, we are learning more and more about the food matrix effect and its importance in understanding the impact that food has on our health and we believe that this should be reflected in dietary guidelines and public health policy.”

Event attendees heard insights from Dr Aileen O’Connor, Food for Health Ireland at University College Dublin (UCD) and Professor Alan Kelly, Professor in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork, on the subject of the dairy matrix effect.

Dr O’Connor’s presentation focused on health impacts of dairy foods beyond individual nutrients and in particular research carried out at UCD to investigate the cheese matrix. Dr O’Connor said:


“We’ve found that the cheese matrix modulates the effect that the fat it contains has on blood lipids levels. Interactions of the components and structure of the cheese matrix including calcium, phosphorus and the milk fat globule membrane play a part in this.” 

Looking at the dairy matrix from a food science perspective, Professor Kelly described the enormous complexity of dairy foods. He commented: 

“You cannot find a more complex matrix system than the dairy matrix. For millennia, we’ve processed milk and many dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are ancient – dairy processing was an art before it was a science. We start with the liquid milk and transform the milk matrix into many different structures – from the gel–like structure of yogurt to solid cheese and butter. The components change in state, and the way that they interact too and the structural and functional matrix of cheese even changes as it ripens. To think therefore, that we can consider the effects of nutrients in isolation from the structure they are contained in is far too simplistic.”

Nutrition and Health Professionals can watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentations here

More about the nutrients in dairy and the dairy matrix here 

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From the farm to the fridge, the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland acts on behalf of the dairy industry, promoting the natural goodness and quality of Northern Ireland milk and dairy products.

Our primary function is to communicate factual information to allow individuals to make well informed choices about dairy products that they consume and to inform them of the benefits of including dairy products in a balanced diet. We use a wide range of media, which includes television, radio, press, and social media. Our Advertising is complemented by public relations and promotional activities designed to communicate with specific groups.

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