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Strategies to Increase Consumption of Milk Products

A large proportion of North Americans don’t consume the minimum recommended daily servings of milk products. Milk, cheese and yogurt provide key nutrients and are associated with many benefits, including bone and cardiometabolic health outcomes. Strategies to increase milk product intake to optimal levels are urgently needed.

Mary Jung Mary Jung, PhD

Assistant Professor, Health and Exercise, Psychology Laboratory, University of British Columbia


  • Milk products are underconsumed in North America.
  • Milk products contribute many key nutrients to the diet and are associated with several health benefits, including bone health, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure.
  • Strategies to increase consumption to optimal levels are urgently needed and should target consumers’ beliefs about the benefits of milk products.

Findings from the most recent national survey of over 35,000 Canadians indicate that milk products are underconsumed by all age groups, with 65% of men and 72% of women aged 31-50 years failing to consume the minimum recommended daily servings.1 The situation is similar in the U.S., with only 15% of the population meeting recommendations for milk product intake.2

Nutritional and health benefits of milk products

Milk products are a source of essential nutrients and the main contributor of several key nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium.2 In addition, following their systematic review of the scientific literature, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee concluded that “moderate evidence shows that dairy consumption is associated with improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and with lower blood pressure in adults.”2

Strategies to increase milk product consumption

A systematic review of interventions aimed at children indicated that those that specifically target increasing dairy food or calcium intake raise children’s dairy food intake by about one serving per day.3 In our own systematic review of interventions targeting adults’ (19-65 years) calcium consumption, the most efficacious used behaviour-change techniques that educated the subjects on the consequences of insufficient calcium, and provided specific instructions on how to successfully implement the behavior.4

In a qualitative study we conducted in adult men and women (30-50 years), lack of knowledge about the benefits of milk and milk products specific to adults appeared to be the most common barrier to consumption.5 Men preferred messages with factual information and from reputable sources. Women preferred health and well-being messages and disapproved of aesthetic appeals.5

Messages to increase milk and milk product consumption should target consumers’ beliefs about the benefits of milk products and provide strategies for increasing consumption.


  1. Garriguet D. Canadians’ eating habits. Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003. Health Reports 2007;18(2):17-32.
  2. Rice B et al. Meeting and exceeding dairy recommendations: effects of dairy consumption on nutrient intakes and risk of chronic disease. Nutrition Reviews doi:10.1111/nure.12007.
  3. Hendrie G A et al. Improving children’s dairy food and calcium intake: can intervention work? A systematic review of the literature. Public Health Nutrition 2012. doi:10.1017/S1368980012001322.
  4. Jung M E et al. A systematic review on calcium intake interventions in adults: Where do we go from here? In submission, 2013.
  5. Jung, M E et al. A qualitative investigation of adults’ perceived benefits, barriers and strategies for consuming milk and milk products. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2013.45, s280.

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