The health relevance of dairy products has mostly been judged by their abundant nutrients (protein, calcium and riboflavin) and recommendations for these derived in lactase-persistent Caucasian populations. Extrapolation to Asians who are generally lactase non-persisters may not be biologically, culturally or environmentally sound. A number of studies, especially among north-east Asians as in Taiwan, provide guidance for their optimal dairy intakes. In Taiwan, the NAHSIT (Nutrition and Health Surveys in Taiwan) linked to the National Health Insurance and Death Registry data bases provide most of the evidence. Cultural and socio-economic barriers create population resistance to increase dairy consumption beyond one serving per day as reflected in food balance sheet and repeat survey trend analyses. For the morbidity and mortality patterns principally seen in Asia, some, but not too much, dairy is to be preferred. This applies to all-cause and cardiovascular, especially stroke, mortality, to the risk of overfatness (by BMI and abdominal circumference) and diabetes and very likely to fracture and its sequelae. In Taiwan, there is no apparent association with total cancer mortality, but among Europeans, there may be protection. Historically, while fermented mammalian milks have been consumed in south Asia and various Asian subgroups and regions, most of the uptake of dairy in Asia after World War 2 has been from imported powdered milk or fresh liquid milk, encouraged further by the use of yogurts and popularization of milk teas and coffee. Asian dietary guidelines and clinical nutrition protocols need to encourage a modest, asymptomatic dairy intake.
- Lactase persistence