Executive summary: The role of dairy food intake for improving health among Black Americans across the life continuum

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the National Medical Association




2 Pt 2




African American; Black; Dairy intake; Health; Life stages


Given the complex relationships that many Black individuals have with dairy foods, due to issues with lactose intolerance or other cultural factors, the National Medical Association has made considerable efforts to examine the role that dairy foods play in the health and well-being of Black Americans. Over the last two decades, the National Medical Association and its partners have produced multiple reports on the value of including adequate milk and dairy foods in the diets of Black Americans. These publications have highlighted the impact that inadequate consumption of dairy foods and nutrients have on chronic disease risks. Past publications have also provided evidence-based recommendations for the proper diagnosis and management of lactose intolerance. This new series of evidence reviews focuses on dairy's role in improving nutrition and health among Black Americans across the life course and covers an extensive amount of new research that highlights additional health disparities and provides further evidence-based strategies for the management of lactose intolerance. Much like the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this work utilizes a life course approach to better address dairy intake on health outcomes for different ages and life stages: 1) pregnancy, fetal development, and lactation, 2) infants, toddlers, and young children, 3) older children and adolescents, 4) adults, and 5) geriatric populations. Overall, the findings and conclusions from this series of evidence reviews continue to indicate that higher dairy intake is associated with reduced risk for many of the most commonly occurring deficiencies and diseases impacting each life stage, and that Black Americans would receive significantly greater health benefits by increasing their daily dairy intake levels to meet the national dietary recommendations than they would from continuing to fall short of these recommendations. However, these recommendations must be considered with appropriate context and nuance as the intake of different dairy products can have different impacts on health outcomes. For instance, vitamin D fortified dairy products and fermented dairy products like yogurt - which are low in lactose and rich in live and active cultures - tend to show the greatest impacts for reducing disease risk across the life continuum, while whole-fat dairy foods may be most beneficial in early life for optimal brain development, and more protein-rich options may be most beneficial in later life to help maintain muscle mass and function.