Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: Where Are We?

Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: Where Are We?

Less consumption of saturated fat has in the past been associated with better cardiovascular health. However, there is significant and mounting evidence showing that saturated fat is NOT associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, some studies have shown that the origin of the saturated fat is very important, especially when it comes to dairy, which may have no or even a positive benefit for cardiovascular health. For the fat facts on this story, click here.

Human Nutrition and Health

A research team led by Dr. Hope Weiler at McGill University is studying the effects of dairy consumption on teenagers’ bone development. They will be following the dairy intake of a group of healthy teens aged 15 to 18 years old for two years. This age group is in a critical period for the development of peak bone mass or PBM. Diet and activity are key lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of osteoporosis as recognized in Canada’s Food and Activity Guides.

Called the FAMILY Milk study and supported by funding received in the Dairy Research Cluster, Dr. Weiler’s work is receiving positive attention in the community. Her work and recruitment efforts were recently publicized in the Montreal Gazette on February 17th. The team aims to include 200 teens in the study to obtain the best results possible. While teenagers are the main target group to be investigated, it is referred to as the FAMILY study because parents have such an important role in food purchases, food preparation and instilling healthy behaviours toward food for their children. As a result, parents and their habits and behaviours toward dairy will also be examined.

According to Dr. Weiler, research shows that 75% of teenagers are not consuming enough dairy products as per the recommended servings in Canada’s Food Guide. That means they may not be getting enough of the minerals they need, like calcium, during this major growth period. The health-economic costs associated with osteoporotic fracture that could be avoided if dairy was consumed as recommended are approximately 129 million Euros for France and $200 billion dollars for North Americans.

For a summary of the study, visit

What is the Impact of Removing Chocolate Milk from Schools?

Increasing childhood obesity rates have made food intake at school a focal point for policy makers, school administrators, parents, and the media. Flavoured milks are being limited or even eliminated from some schools in Canada and the U.S. … with unintended consequences that could critically hinder optimal nutrient intakes.


  • Chocolate milk can improve diet quality of children and adolescents with no adverse impact on weight.
  • Removing chocolate milk from schools negatively affects overall milk and key nutrient intakes.
  • The nutrient contribution of milk is very difficult to replace with other foods.

Full article can be found here.

Listen to Dr. Carol Henry, Associate Professor, Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Saskatchewan explain her research on the Dairy Research Cluster Channel

Continue reading “What is the Impact of Removing Chocolate Milk from Schools?”

Can dairy product consumption lower blood pressure?

Can dairy product consumption lower blood pressure?

Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is high. If left untreated, this condition can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The prevalence of high blood pressure has been steadily increasing worldwide. In Canada, over six million Canadian adults[1] – that’s one in five – now have the condition.

The good news is that diet is a key factor in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Healthy eating patterns, which include dairy products, have been shown to have beneficial effects on high blood pressure.

Many studies have shown that eating dairy products can help lower the risk of high blood pressure in healthy individuals. However, few studies have looked at the impact of dairy consumption on people diagnosed with mild to moderate hypertension.

The authors of this study decided to investigate how dairy product consumption could affect blood pressure in men and women with mild to moderate hypertension. They enlisted the help of 89 men and women, who were asked to eat three servings per day of dairy products (milk, cheddar cheese and yogurt) for a four-week period.

Results showed that eating three daily servings of dairy products led to a significant reduction in blood pressure in men, but not in women. According to the researchers, this is consistent with other findings that suggest men and women respond differently to blood pressure regulation.

The study also showed that consuming three daily servings of dairy products significantly improved endothelial function in both men and women. “Endothelial” refers to the cells that form the lining of blood vessels. When this inner lining is impaired, it can increase the risk of coronary artery disease and is also linked to high blood pressure.

Authors: Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, Iris Gigleux, André J Tremblay, Luc Poirier, Benoît Lamarche, and Patrick Couture

Journal: Nutrition Journal, 2014, 13: 83

[1] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website


First National Dairy Study about to get underway

First National Dairy Study about to get underway

By: Dr. David Kelton, Professor, Population Medicine, University of Guelph

Starting in January, 2015, the first National Dairy Study will be conducted across Canada. This is a research initiative funded by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada the Canadian Dairy Network and the Canadian Dairy Commission through the Dairy Research Cluster 2 Program. The study is modeled after the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) studies that occur periodically in the United States. The goal is to gather health and management information from a random sample of dairy farms across the country in order to describe and benchmark the current state of the Canadian dairy industry. 

In the spring of 2014, various dairy stakeholders were recruited to prioritize the topics for the upcoming Canadian study through an on-line questionnaire. Response was overwhelming with over 1,000 respondents. Animal welfare was the number one management issue identified, while lameness was the number one health issue. Other management issues were: biosecurity, costs of disease, antibiotic use, food safety, reproductive and udder health. Top health issues included: calf diarrhea, respiratory disease, bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), enzootic bovine leukosis (EBL)/bovine leukemia virus (BLV), Johne’s disease, E. coli (food safety), and S. aureus mastitis. These issues have formed the framework for the upcoming study.

The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase I will get underway in early 2015, and will consist of a questionnaire administered either on-line or via telephone to a randomly selected number of producers. The selection process will ensure all provinces will be proportionally represented and will include farms that are and are not currently registered with a milk recording agency. This phase will help establish national benchmarks for production and dairy farm management. In the second phase of the study a subset of farms will be visited during the summer of 2015 by regional teams of university students who will collect biological samples from animals and data about specific management and disease issues.

The results from this collaborative, proactive initiative will benefit producers in many ways. Participation in the first phase will generate data that will allow them to compare their operation to local, regional, and national benchmarks. Participation in the farm visit will provide them with free test results for selected diseases of importance in Canada. In addition, the results will help guide future research and the development activities for agriculturally based companies, educators and researchers at universities. Lastly, it will help to reinforce the strong reputation for food safety and sustainability that the Canadian dairy industry has among consumers.

For a summary of the study, visit

Nutrition Research


Nutrition Research– by Maria Kalergis, PhD, RD, CDE
National Program Manager, Nutrition Scientific Affairs Dairy Farmers of Canada

With seven new projects underway and 33 completed in the first Dairy Research Cluster, a lot of information is being transferred to health professionals on the benefits of dairy products in the Canadian diet.

The new research activities were launched on January 1st 2014. The objectives are to better understand the link between dairy foods, nutrition, health and wellness in order to improve the health of Canadians, reduce health care costs and to contribute to the economic development of the dairy sector. Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis continue to be global health burdens that are associated with substantial health care costs thus need to be urgently addressed. Emerging scientific evidence indicates a beneficial role for milk products in reducing the risk of these conditions as well as associated health care costs. 

Seven Projects to Benefit the Health of Canadians

  1. The following is a list of the new projects launched under the Dairy Research Cluster (2013-2018)
  2. Integrated research program on dairy, dairy fat and cardiovascular health
  3. The effect of milk products and novel milk products on satiety, food intake and metabolic control (glycemia) in early and late adulthood
  4. Dairy nutrition and risk of diabetes in vulnerable populations: a novel biomarkers-based approach
  5. Beneficial effects of milk and fermented dairy products on intestinal and adipose tissue inflammation, and obesity-linked cardiometabolic diseases
  6. Association between dietary intakes and cardiovascular risk of Canadians using the Canadian Health Measures Survey cycles 1+2
  7. Role of high dairy diet on bone health outcomes in pregnant women and their offspring in early life (Bone BHIP): A randomized clinical trial
  8. FAMILY (FAmily MILk product two Year) dose-response study to enhance bone health

Nutrition Research Results and Knowledge Transfer

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s nutrition team is hosting a nutrition symposium in four cities across Canada. This year’s theme is focused on dietary guidelines and will address hot topics such as fat, sugar and salt in the diet, by examining the scientific evidence to date and the implications on dietary guidelines in Canada and throughout the world. 

The symposium will be held in:

  • Vancouver on November 17
  • Toronto on November 19 (live webcast in English)
  • Montreal on November 20 (live webcast in French)
  • Moncton on November 21

Live webcasts will be available on for those who cannot attend in person. Complete information (including registration forms) will be available on the website in October.

For more information, subscribe to the Nutrition newsletter online at:

We are Dairy Farmers

We are Dairy Farmers

Presentation on Innovation and Competitiveness in the Agricultural Sector to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture & Agri-Food – May 5th, 2014




Run by farmers, for farmers, DFC is the voice of Canadian dairy farmers. DFC is the national lobby, policy and promotion organization representing Canada’s farmers living on more than 12,000 dairy farms. DFC strives to create stable conditions for the Canadian dairy industry, today and in the future. It works to maintain policies that foster the viability of Canadian dairy farmers and promote dairy products and their health benefits.




  • In 7/10 Canadian provinces, dairy is one of the top two agricultural sectors.
  • The sector’s GDP contribution has risen from $15.2B in 2009 to $16.2B in 2011, and thecontribution to Canadian employment market grew from 215,104 to 218,330 over the sametime period.
  • The Canadian dairy industry contributes annually more than $3 billion in local, provincial andfederal taxes.
  • An increasing proportion of farms are being operated solely by young operators (those 18 to 39 yearsof age), despite an aging farmer population.



The supply management system enables the Canadian dairy sector to effectively and efficiently manage the production of the perishable product with processor plant management to deliver Canadians with fresh, high quality, safe and nutritious dairy products.

Canada’s supply management dairy policy rests on three pillars: production management, predictable imports and farm pricing. The aim of the Canadian dairy supply management system is to balance supply and demand, as well as balance market power among the supply chain stakeholders.

Supply management is not the same today as it was 40 years ago. Farmers, processors and governments have worked together to improve and strengthen the system and increase the diversity of dairy products offered to Canadians.

Examples of Innovation in Dairy:

  • Making over 1000 cheeses, artisan cheese makers, who can be found all across Canada, provide significant economic benefits to their local communities.
  • Yogurt varieties have diversified and grown over the years; for instance Greek yogurt is increasing by 15% per year.


Farmers across Canada recognize that innovation drives efficiency gains in the industry and profitability. The stability offered by a strong supply management program has allowed dairy farmers to reinvest in their industry and on their farms through comprehensive research programs for example, where results deliver better management practices, better technology and better quality products for consumers.

The future sustainability and profitability of our industry is directly connected to the advancement and new breakthroughs in our genetics and genomics programs. Leadership is taken to set standards to produce the best milk in the world in a sustainable way and maintaining strong investments in primary production, human health and nutrition research.

Dairy farmers want to keep working with processors to innovate in dairy and welcome opportunities that increase demand for quality, nutritional Canadian dairy products to the benefit of all Canadians.



In March 2014, DFC welcomed the government’s announcement of close to $945,000 under the AgriMarketing program for traceability and to support DFC’s integrated on-farm assurance programs. This investment will help Dairy Farmers of Canada develop programs that confirm farmers’ commitment to continuous improvement. DFC’s proAction Initiative is dairy farmers’ commitment to excellence in dairy farming. Canadian dairy farmers want to collectively demonstrate responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, sustainably producing high quality, safe and nutritious food for consumers.

The proAction Initiative is national framework that will bring various programs related to the best management practices on-farm under one umbrella. This new approach will allow the Canadian dairy industry to continue its leadership by assuring customers about farm practices. Canadian dairy farmers will collectively and proactively establish the terms and timelines for this Initiative. DFC’s investments in research have built a strong, science-based foundation for the progress and development of the proAction Initiative.

proAction will set best management practices in six key areas:

  1. Milk Quality
  2. Food Safety
  3. Livestock Traceability
  4. Animal Care
  5. Biosecurity
  6. Environment

Some innovation examples based on dairy research:

  • The research related to mastitis led to the development of a molecule which could serve as the basis for an antibiotic which would not develop resistance.
  • Dairy farmers’ carbon footprint is one of the lowest in the world while working under adverse climatic conditions.



A number of success stories are driving dairy farmers to innovate and make the safest and highest quality of milk for Canadians. A consistent body of work in research has been dedicated to delivering best practices to improve the health of dairy cows, prevent infections and disease, treat diseases like mastitis to reduce the use of antibiotics on farms, make farm environments more comfortable for cows and encourage the adoption of new technologies like the use of robotics to make farms more efficient.

DFC’s Canadian Quality Milk program is an on-farm food safety program designed to help farmers prevent, monitor and reduce food safety risks on their farms. It has achieved technical recognition by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as adhering to HACCP principles and being scientifically sound. Farmers on the program implement best management practices on their farms and keep records to monitor critical areas of food safety. By 2015, all Canadian dairy farmers will be certified under the program.

How dairy farmers strive for the best:

    • The Canadian Dairy Information Centre indicated that in 2013, there were 407 robot farms in Canada or roughly 4.6 percent of the dairy barns across the country. This number has increased by almost 50% since last year!
    • In April 2014, CBC’s Steven and Chris visited Joe Loewith and sons’ dairy farm in Lyndon, ON. One of the hosts commented on the automatic “back scratcher”. He couldn’t believe that cows actually line up to use it and said it’s like they’re “going to a salon”. Purchasing a back scratchers makes smart business sense, keep cows clean, happy and healthy. This product has is being sold by agricultural equipment dealers across Canada.
    • Other examples of success stories includes the discovery, development and testing of a vaccine against infections caused by mastitis, an infection that costs Canadian dairy farmers $400 million in animal treatments and loss of milk.



Canada is renowned globally for being home to some of the best dairy animals in the world. This is a direct result of over 40 years of investments and work in dairy cattle genetics research and breeding programs. The results of which have been applied successfully at home and creating demand for our dairy cow genetics abroad.

The Canadian Dairy Network has led the industry in dairy genetics and genomics research by: providing genetic evaluations for all dairy cattle breeds in Canada; coordinating industry-funded research and development projects in the area of dairy cattle genetics and genomics; establishing national standards associated with supervised herd recording, publishable lactations and information used for genetic evaluations; and maintaining a national dairy database for the dairy cattle improvement industry in Canada.

Our reputation for superior genetics globally speaks for itself:

      • Canadian dairy genetic exports were valued at over $123 million in 2013, a $12 million increase from 2012, with exports to more than 100 countries. The industry only keeps growing; the first two months of 2014 saw almost $26 million in international trade.
      • In December 2013, Minister Ritz announced that Vietnam’s largest dairy wants to buy 10,000 Canadian dairy cattle. This could be worth up to an additional $20M for Canadian dairy farmers. An order of this magnitude demonstrates the confidence in the health status of our national herd and the high regard for Canadian dairy genetics.
      • Breeding and genetic improvements have transformed our animals over time. In 1970, Canadian cows produced on average 3,431 litres of milk. In 2012, this had increased to 8,331 litres, or 143%!



Dairy Farmers of Canada has been investing in dairy production, and human nutrition and health research for almost three decades. We are proud to have built and grown these investments over the years with our partners, including the federal government. Together, we are driving innovation in the Canadian dairy industry.

At the national level, DFC’s yearly investment in dairy production, and human nutrition and health research is $1.7 million. Of this, $750,000 is directed toward dairy farmers’ priorities to improve efficiency, on-farm sustainability, animal health and welfare, and dairy genetics. The contribution of research results has led to efficiency and productivity gains made on dairy farms.

Our research priorities in dairy are clear and built around three main themes: sustainable milk production, dairy genetics and genomics and human nutrition and health.

The goal of the Sustainable Milk Production theme is to increase the competitiveness and profitability of dairy farming in a sustainable way through the adoption of innovative practices and new knowledge. Examples of targeted activities touch on a number of areas like animal health, animal welfare, environment and food safety

The goal of the Dairy Genetics and Genomics theme is to help advance and establish national genetic evaluation systems for traits of importance affecting dairy cattle productivity, profitability and competitiveness. Examples include activities focused on genetic improvement for dairy cattle productivity and profitability with emphasis on health, mobility, and identifying milk properties to improve animal health.

The goal of the Human Nutrition and Health theme is to advance our understanding and competitiveness with respect to the role of dairy products. Examples include looking at the beneficial role of milk in cardiovascular health, metabolic health, healthy weight and body composition, including bone health and optimal nutrition and function.

Since 2010, DFC has partnered with the federal government under the Agri-Science Clusters Initiative for the creation of a Dairy Research Cluster. In the fall the government announced the renewal of its partnership with DFC to continue the Dairy Research Cluster program to 2018. By the end of 2018, investments in dairy innovation by government and industry will be $30 million dollars for 71 research projects executed in 23 academic institutions and research centres across the country, involving more than 200 scientists and training close to 300 students, our next generation of scientific innovators.

Science and innovation requires critical infrastructure – an assured long term investment that animals used for the purpose of innovating through research can be housed and milked in modern facilities, and land used to plant and test new forages and crop varieties to better feed our animals in a sustainable way.

DFC recognizes and appreciates the investments made by the federal government, along with industry’s investments, in state of the art dairy research facilities like the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre in Lennoxville, Quebec, the construction of the new dairy research facility at the University of Saskatchewan and the agreement between AAFC and UBC to renew the land use and facilities at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, BC. Ontario dairy farmers are proudly investing in the construction of new state-of-the art facility in Elora, Ontario with multiple partners from government, the processing sector and other businesses in the dairy value chain.

With investments in dairy research facilities comes research projects and demand for scientists, students and other research professionals. So not only are research investments contributing to the next generation of farmers, it is contributing to the next generation of scientists and technicians in a time where there is a large skills gap. These young professionals are being trained for jobs that currently exist within the agriculture sector. In 2010, the ag and agri-food sector directly provided 1 in 8 Canadian jobs.

Examples from the first dairy research cluster:

      • A tool was developed to enable dairy farmers to quickly identify bacteria that causes mastitis and selectively treat only those quarters that are infected.
      • Tools were developed to ensure that dairy animals are well cared for through an objective assessment process. A means to identify animals who need special attention was also included.



Canadian dairy farmers are committed to producing safe, nutritious food in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way. Our objectives are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms; ensure the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources like land, soil, water and biodiversity in a way that will minimize costs while maximizing profitability; and address the socio-economic aspects of sustainable development to promote the economic, human and societal benefits of sustainability in the dairy sector.

Environmental practices on all dairy farms, regardless of their size, are regulated by federal and provincials laws. Dairy farmers exceed regulations, implementing environmental farm plans to improve manure equipment and storage, to maximize the use of manure as a fertilizer for soil, to adopt modern technologies allowing them to maintain the temperature and ventilation of their barns while reducing their dependency on energy. Several farmers are also collaborating with Ducks Unlimited to preserve wetlands on their land.

These practices reduce the carbon footprint as well as save money and energy. DFC also invests in research to continue reducing the impact on the environment, improve sustainability as well as the viability of dairy farms.

Last year a DFC-commissioned study supported by its research investment partners at AAFC and the CDC showed that the carbon, water and land footprints for Canadian milk production are among the lowest in the world. See Appendix A, for an info graphic showcasing the results of this study. Dairy Farmers of Canada is leading the way to making the Canadian dairy farm sector even more sustainable.

Commitment to the environment:

      • Less than 1% of Canada’s water usage is used to produce milk.
      • About 2% of Canada’s agricultural land is used to produce milk.



Dairy farmers have shown their commitment to drive innovation in dairy and look forward to continued, strong partnerships with the federal government and dairy processors to keep: building capacity in our sector, and develop our research professionals and students invested and engaged in our industry and ensure the delivery of results to farmers for efficiency and profitability.

Dairy farmers have made important breakthroughs and progress through their investments in research. Sharing those results with farmers and industry stakeholders encourages the adoption of new knowledge, new practices and new technologies. For dairy farmers, the Cluster initiative and continued investments in infrastructure enable strategic collaboration with their partners – the government, the industry and some of the best scientists from across the country to achieve our shared goal: to keep driving innovation in dairy.



Get Social. Get with the Herd. And Let’s Talk Dairy Research Shop!

Get Social. Get with the Herd.  And Let’s Talk Dairy Research Shop!

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By David Wiens,
DFC Board Member of the Cluster Research Committees

Welcome to our Dairy Research Blog. We’re pleased to offer this new blog to have a conversation with our dairy community (our herd!) on the research we finance in production, genetics and genomics, and human nutrition and health. It’s our place to talk Dairy Research Shop!


Unknown-1.jpegHere we’ll talk about the progress made from 23 new research activities launched on January 1st 2014. Most of the projects end in December 2017 and they’re all financed under this second Dairy Research Cluster funding partnership. (see the article entitle Driving Innovation in Dairy for more information). We’ll also post recent articles and extension information published thanks to the great work done by our science community in the first Cluster (48 projects completed from 2010-2013!). Our infographic on the situation of Canadian milk’s footprint is a great example.

We’ll feature some guest bloggers too so you can meet the scientists doing the research and the many students that support them. We’ll post pictures and videos of research results and extension articles we publish in your favourite magazines. Or, point out new posts made in our Dairy Research Portal website. It has a fresh new look that will give us more research information to chew on. While you’re connecting with us on our Blog, don’t forget to sign up and join the other members of our herd on Twitter and Facebook. Here too we’ll be talking Dairy Research Shop and sharing information that can help you on your farm.

Take a look around the site. Sign up to receive regular updates and join us, get social and get with the online herd!

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