By Lauren Dunn
DES MOINES, Iowa—In a few years, 4.5 billion people around the world will be without a milk mustache.
The “milk-stache” was part of a U.S. advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of dairy products, which contain vital nutrients for muscle function, energy, the immune system, healthy bones and protein.
“The importance of protein in the emerging middle class is essential,” said Jeff Simmons, a corporate executive and campaigner against global hunger. “We can’t just get enough calories. We have to get enough of the right calories. Rice and beans alone is not enough.”
Simmons is president of Elanco, a global pharmaceutical company for cattle. In an upcoming report, “Enough: The Fight for a Food Secure Tomorrow,” he emphasizes the growing “protein gap.”
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Simmons, cited a Kenyan study that focused on the quality of calories versus the number of calories eaten. The study compared test scores of children on four different diets.
Test scores decreased by 10 percent for children who continued to eat their current diet and test scores dropped by 7 percent for children whose diet was supplemented with oils in equivalent calories.
But test scores rose by 20 percent for children who had milk integrated into their diet and 44 percent for children who also had meat included in their diet.
Simmons also recalled a discussion he had with an Indianapolis mother faced by the challenges of a low income. The mother told him, “I have a daughter who’s 12 years old. She is obese, but she is skinny in the mind and she didn’t pass the state education test.”
The “Got Milk” ad campaign featuring the “milk-stache” called attention to the health benefits of dairy products. But even if Americans wanted to buy milk, many neighborhoods have little or no access to it.
Both rural and urban areas are plagued with “food deserts.” In many of these communities, affordable, healthy food isn’t accessible. Obesity is propelled in poor communities because when faced with the decision to buy food from a drug store, soda is chosen over milk and pop tarts are purchased before eggs, experts say.