Are Dairy products good or bad for you?
What exactly are the myths and what is the truth about dairy – is it good or bad for you? There has recently been a lot of hype about whether or not it is good for us.
Humans are the only species that drink milk as adults. And not only that, 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. This is because milk is designed specifically for infants, and the body loses its ability to break down lactose in adulthood.
The reason dairy eventually became a dietary staple was because during the agricultural revolution thousands of years ago. Northern Europeans discovered it was a good source of nutrition when other sources were scarce.
Eventually certain sections of the global population developed a genetic mutation that enabled them to tolerate dairy – and there are arguments that say it is because of this mutation that we need to consume dairy our entire lives.
However, more and more people are beginning to complain of symptoms that are directly related to lactose intolerance: stomach cramps, flatulence and bloating. When we lose our ability to produce lactase it can’t break down the lactose effectively in the small bowel.
So it is possible that we are consuming more dairy than even our genetically evolved bodies can handle. Scientists are even beginning to question the amount of recommended dairy that health professionals endorse.
Dr. Walter Willet, who is the Head of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the most vocal critics of dairy consumption, claiming that the advised 3 cups of milk a day was a suggestion not based on scientific evidence, but instead on the financial interests of the dairy industry.
Myths about Dairy
There is no scientific evidence that exists to support the belief that drinking milk can reduce fractures in bones. The truth is quite the opposite. A Nurses’ Health Study showed that it is possible that consuming dairy could actually create a 50% increase in the risk of you breaking a bone.
And along those same lines, it is in the countries where the populations are lactose intolerant, like in Asia and Africa, where there are the lowest osteoporosis rates in the world. In truth, bone health is mostly related to vitamin D levels, and making sure you exercise enough.
Calcium may cause Cancer, and other health problems
According to a study from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in the US, it was revealed that too much calcium and dairy consumption could increase a man’s chances of developing prostrate cancer by up to 50%.
There have been other studies that have made a similar connection to breast cancer. Dairy also causes the levels of the cancer promoter “insulin-like growth factor-1” to increase in the body.
Dairy has also been connected to health problems like irritable bowel syndrome, childhood anemia, type 1 diabetes, constipation, allergies, ear infections and sinus problems.
How much Dairy is okay?
Dr Miranda Lomer, the Senior Dietician in gastroenterology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust recommends that consuming up to 375 mls of milk products per day is safe, and should not even cause harm to people who have lactose intolerance.
Also, the probiotic benefits of fermented dairy produces, such as kefir and yogurt are preferential to regular milk. In other words, if you are worried about your calcium levels being adequate, there are plenty of other options you can choose from to obtain your recommended daily allowance.
Salmon and sardines – including consuming the bones, are a great source. Also, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables and tahini.