Two recent studies document the health and economic impact of consuming too few dairy foods.
Researchers in the Health Economics and Social Policy Group at the University of South Australia (Doidge, et al.) reviewed the scientific literature on the health effects of dairy product consumption and estimated the direct health care expenditure and burden of disease attributable to low consumption of dairy products in Australia. Systematic reviews of the literature conducted during the development of the Australian Dietary Guidelines indicated there was satisfactory or good evidence of associations between dairy consumption and several health outcomes analyzed in this study, including reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity, and improved bone health. The analysis found that the estimated direct health care cost of illness attributable to low dairy product consumption is the equivalent of $2.1 billion U.S. dollars annually (2010-11) — or $11.7 billion when loss of productivity (disability-adjusted life years) was applied to the model.
Taking a health economics perspective, a group of researchers in Europe (Lötters, et al.) constructed a model to quantify the potential economic impact from reduced risk of osteoporotic fracture. The model estimated the number of hip fractures that could potentially be prevented and the costs avoided by increasing dairy calcium consumption by people 50-plus years who have low calcium intakes. Their results indicated that the number of hip fractures that potentially may be prevented each year with higher dairy product consumption was highest in France (2,023), followed by Sweden (455) and The Netherlands (132) — translating into total cost savings of 129 million, 34 million and 6 million Euros, respectively. The authors said, "Improving the dairy consumption is likely to be effective in decreasing this public health burden and the associated health care expenditures."
A paper published in 2004 estimated the health care savings relative to several chronic diseases that could potentially be realized if all Americans consumed three to four servings of dairy foods per day.
Doidge JC, Segal L, Gospodarevskaya E. Attributable risk analysis reveals potential healthcare savings from increased consumption of dairy products. J Nutr. 2012;142(9):1772-1780.
Lötters FJ, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Fardellone P, Rizzoli R, Rocher E, Poley MJ. Dairy foods and osteoporosis: an example of assessing the health-economic impact of food products. Osteoporos Int. [Epub ahead of print]. 2012 June 16.