The importance of the dairy product matrix

The dairy matrix is a key concept in food science that describes the unique structure of a dairy food, its components (nutrients and non-nutrients) and how they interact. The health effects of the dairy matrix refer to the impact of the entire dairy product on health, which goes beyond its individual components. Understanding this matrix is essential for assessing the true nutritional value of dairy products and their role in the diet


Understanding the matrix of dairy products is the result of decades of research in the field of food science and nutrition. The idea of a ‘food matrix’ began to take shape in the 20th century, when scientists began to recognise that the health effects of foods could not be explained by their individual nutrients alone. Initial studies on dairy products, conducted as early as the 1950s and 1960s, showed that the combination of nutrients in dairy products produced different health effects than isolated nutrients.

In the 1970s and 1980s, research began to focus on the physical structure of foods and how it affected the digestion and absorption of nutrients. This led to a greater understanding of the role of the food matrix. It was observed that the structure and composition of milk, cheese and yoghurt significantly influence how their nutrients are released and utilised by the body.

The real breakthrough came in recent decades with the advent of advanced technologies, such as electron microscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which allowed scientists to study the microstructure of dairy products in detail. These technologies have revealed how fat droplets, proteins, and minerals interact within the dairy matrix, confirming that their complex structure significantly influences nutritional benefits.

Essential nutrients in dairy products

Dairy products are an excellent source of essential nutrients. They contain high amounts of calcium, essential for healthy bones and teeth, and B vitamins such as B2 (riboflavin) and B12, essential for energy production and nervous system functioning. They also provide high-quality protein, iodine, magnesium, potassium and various beneficial fatty acids.

Milk, for example, is an emulsion of fat droplets suspended in an aqueous phase that contains proteins, numerous minerals and vitamins. This complex structure directly influences the processes of digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract.

Diversity in the dairy matrix

The composition and structure of cheese and yoghurt can vary significantly depending on the type of milk used and the method of production. Cheese has a solid matrix, while yoghurt has a gelatinous structure, and milk is a liquid. These variations in the physical matrix of dairy foods influence the way nutrients are released and absorbed in the body.

Health effects of the matrix

The food matrix of dairy products not only provides nutrients, but also modulates their bioavailability and health effects. Studies have shown that consumption of dairy products as part of a balanced diet is associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. For example, the calcium and protein present in dairy products work together to improve bone health, while the fats present can aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D. In addition, some fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt, contain probiotics that can improve gut health.

Holistic approach to nutrition

Traditionally, the importance of dairy products in the human diet has been attributed to their richness in nutrients. However, dairy products have been shown to have beneficial effects that go beyond individual nutrients due to their complex matrix. This holistic view is key to updating dietary guidelines and policies, recognising the importance of considering the food as a whole rather than just its individual components.

In conclusion, understanding the matrix of dairy products is essential to assess their overall impact on human health. Future studies should continue to explore how the structure and composition of foods affect their nutritional benefits and overall health in order to provide increasingly accurate and effective dietary recommendations.
The dairy matrix not only enriches our understanding of nutrition, but also emphasises the importance of a holistic dietary approach to promote overall well-being.


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