Dairy’s Role in Addressing the Triple Burden of Malnutrition

People in every country in the world are challenged with one or more forms of malnutrition —undernutrition (i.e., underweight, stunting or wasting), overweight or obesity or micronutrient deficiency, also known as the triple burden of malnutrition.

This is one reason why the United Nations launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals with the global aim of drastically decreasing poverty, hunger, climate change and inequality by 2030. Of the 17 goals, goal No. 2 is to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Dairy foods and ingredients can help address the economic, environmental and social challenges presented by malnutrition in all its forms. The dairy community is committed to being part of the solution. (For more, check out and download this infographic.)

The growing world population is contributing to the increased global demand for milk, estimated to be 4 trillion servings (8-ounce milk equivalents) by 2050. Nutrient-rich dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt supply essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, that are required for optimal growth and development throughout childhood.

For example, eating high-quality dairy proteins, including whey proteins, is associated with better rates of weight gain among children being treated for severe acute undernourishment and malnutrition. And a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies showed that each daily serving of dairy foods was linked to a 13 percent reduced risk of childhood overweight and obesity.

In the U.S., milk is the No. 1 food source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium among adults and children over the age of 2. These are three of the four nutrients identified as nutrients of public health concern by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines due to underconsumption. Healthy eating patterns, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt, are associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (strong evidence) and type 2 diabetes (moderate evidence).

Did you know that the livelihoods of up to 1 billion people in the world are connected to and depend on dairy? This is an example of the economic value dairy contributes to individuals, families and communities all over the world.

The triple burden of malnutrition is a global challenge. The second of the Sustainable Development Goals demands and deserves a response of unprecedented scale. Find out more through our new infographics on the SDGs and dairy’s role in helping achieve them. You can also learn more about the triple burden of malnutrition in this infographic and blog post.