July 8, 2016

Aaron Rodgers and His Non-Dairy Diet

 |  By: Dairy Talk

Last month, Green Bay Packers quarterback and future NFL Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers announced he was cutting dairy from his diet to lose weight and cut down on inflammation following knee surgery.

Being a Packer fan since before I can remember and a proud, one-share owner of the team, I was deeply disappointed in Rodger’s announcement. Others were, too, and it had to put the Packers and the NFL in an awkward position.

After all, Green Bay is the heart and soul of America’s Dairyland, and for many years, the epi-center of the U.S. dairy industry with the National Cheese Exchange located there for more than 40 years. The NFL couldn’t help but be embarrassed as well, given the multi-million dollar partnership the league has with dairy farmers with its “Fuel Up to Play 60” youth program.

Media reports suggest Rodgers was following the dietary advice of fellow NFL quarterback, Tom Brady, who is still dealing with his own brush with high (actually low) pressure controversy. Here’s the crux of the problem and what Rodgers told ESPN:  

"Through your eating, you can reduce inflammation because if you do research (my italics), you learn the different foods you eat can actually increase the inflammation in your body and especially in certain parts of your body," Rodgers said. "And with a knee condition I've had a long time, it really started after the surgery, thinking about exactly what I'm going to eat the first couple of weeks after surgery to kind of limit the amount of inflammation in my knee and carried that around the rest of the offseason."

A lot of folks in Wisconsin took issue with Rodger’s statement. But nobody took on his “research” until Forbes magazine did a deep dive into the science of dairy’s contribution to weight gain and inflammatory response. Turns out, “if you do the research” as Rodgers suggests you do, neither is true.

Years ago, University of Tennessee research showed that eating dairy products could lead to weight loss. The studies came under fire from anti-dairy groups because the studies were funded by the dairy industry. But later analysis showed the results were valid.

More recently, studies published in Food Science and Nutrition and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition debunked the notion that dairy products cause or contribute to inflammation. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The Food Science and Nutrition article  summarized 52 clinical trials, and concluded:  “Taken together, our review suggests that dairy products, in particular fermented products, have anti-inflammatory properties in humans not suffering from allergy to milk, in particular in subjects with metabolic disorders.” In particular, low-fat dairy products and fermented products such as yogurt and cheese have significant anti-inflammatory effects.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at eight trials, and concluded: “Dairy product consumption does not exert adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation in overweight or obese adults.”

Aaron Rodgers is a smart, articulate guy, a brilliant quarterback and is beloved by millions of Cheeseheads across the country. It’s just too bad he didn’t follow his own advice and do a little more research before making his dietary decision.

Instead, he blindly followed the lead of Tom Brady, that other future NFL Hall of Famer from Boston. New England Patriot fans all know how deflating that can be.