There is a lot of controversy and debate regarding the consumption of dairy products. While some health organizations deem dairy to be good for bones and health, some people argue that it is harmful and should be avoided. This issue needs some clarity of thought as it cannot be decided solely whether dairy is good or bad for human health as all the dairy products are not the same. They vary in quality and their effects on health depends on how the milk-giving animals were raised and how the dairy was processed.
Is it natural to consume?
A common theory surfacing against dairy products is that it is unnatural to consume them. Human beings are the only species who consume milk in adulthood and they are also the only one to drink the milk of other animals. Biologically cow’s milk is required only to feed a growing calf. And humans aren’t calves and are adults who don’t need to grow anymore. The theory has been given many times that dairy isn’t necessary for optimal health.
The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar made of two simple sugars glucose and galactose. An infant’s body produces a digestive enzyme called lactase which breaks down lactose from the mother’s milk. But many people lose the ability to break down lactose in adulthood. About 75% of the world’s adult population is unable to break down lactose in adulthood, a phenomenon called Lactose intolerance. It is very common in Africa, Asia, and South America. People having lactose intolerance have certain digestive symptoms when they consume dairy products which includes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea etc.
The good side…
Apart from the newly established theory that dairy is harmful completely there is the age-old standing theory that dairy products have many benefits for our health too. Milk is called a complete food because it contains adequate amounts of all the minerals and nutrients. It provides energy, balance and contributes to our wellbeing. A single cup of milk contains calcium, vitamin D, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Potassium and Phosphorus. It also has decent amounts of vitamin A, vitamins B1 and B6, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Some advantages of consuming milk are—
1.Milk supports bone health-The main mineral present in the bones is calcium and dairy is the best source of calcium in the human diet. Dairy has many benefits for bone health. Dairy improves bone density, reduces osteoporosis and lowers older adult’s risk of fractures.
2.Lowers risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes–Full-fat dairy has certain advantages for metabolic health. Despite the fact that it’s high in calories, full-fat dairy reduces the risk of obesity. Dairy fat can reduce the risk of diabetes. In a study it was found out the people who consumed mostly full-fat dairy had less belly fat, less inflammation, lower triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity and a 62% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
3.Impact on heart disease–According to conventional belief, dairy raises the risk of heart disease because it is high in saturated fat. But according to some new research it has been claimed that there is no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. According to many studies milk helped to reduce a risk of stroke and cardiac arrests.
4.Skin health and cancer–Dairy stimulates the release process of insulin and the protein IGF-1. So dairy consumption is linked to the increase of acne. The high level of insulin and IGF-1 lead to certain cancers. The relationship between dairy and cancer is quite complex. Some studies show that dairy may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer but increase that of prostate cancer.
The bad side…
For a long time cow’s milk has been touted as the best source of calcium. But apart from the established facts it has been seen that milk does a lot of bad to our bodies. So in today’s time milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream have become an invitation card to a host of health problems. Some of the reasons for this are:-
1.Formation of acne-Acne is an inflammatory condition which is caused by consuming dairy. By eating a lot of dairy products oil gets trapped in pores causing bacteria to grow in the follicles which causes inflammation which then turns into acne.
2.Digestion-By consuming excess of lactose the large intestine gets inflamed and thus develops diarrhea. And it also leads to a condition where the body can’t break down lactose which results in formation of gas and bloating.
3.Weight gain–It has been proven that drinking milk made children gain weight. And it was also found that if it was replaced with soda it didn’t help gain weight.
4.Thyroid issues-Dairy products form mucus and the proteins in dairy increases inflammation in vital body parts like thyroid gland and digestive tract.
5.Bone Issues–Despite the concept that cow milk is good for bones it actually is bad for bone health. The animal proteins produce acids when they’re broken down and calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer. To neutralize and flush out the acids the body has to use the calcium that milk contains and some from our own body store. Every glass of milk that is drunk leaches calcium from our bones. So it’s been found that people who consume a lot of cow milk have significantly higher fracture rates than those who drink little or no milk at all.
6.Prostate Cancer-Milk and cheese are linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
7.Intolerance to lactose-The lactose in cow’s milk can be difficult to digest for some people which may result in nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea.
8.Cholesterol–A single serving of milk has 24 mg of cholesterol which is very bad for the heart.
9.Ovarian cancer–It has been shown by research that women who took 4 or more servings of dairy products each day were twice likely to develop serious ovarian cancer.
10.Milk allergies-Milk allergies can cause strong and dangerous reactions generally in young children like vomiting or anaphylaxis.
11.Antibiotics–Cow milk has antibiotic-resistant bacteria which when consumed make antibiotics powerless in the human body.
12.Saturated fat-A single serving of whole milk can contain more than 20 percent of saturated fat. According to reports from Harvard pizza and cheese are the biggest food sources of saturated fat in the American diet.
13.Sodium-Cheese contains 400 mg of sodium per ounce. All the varieties of cheese like halloumi, imported blue, feta and edam and the processed cheeses had more sodium than seawater which made them salty.
What should be your best choice?
The healthiest dairy products come from cows that are fed grass and are raised on pastures. The milk from such cows has a much better nutrient profile and has fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins specially K2. The fermented dairy products like yoghurt and kefir contain probiotic bacteria that have many health benefits. People who can’t digest dairy from cows can easily digest it from goats.
So the bottom line is that dairy cannot be categorized as healthy or unhealthy because it has varying effects on different individuals. There are both plus and minus points of dairy products. So if one tolerates dairy products and enjoys it, one should comfortably eat dairy. The best types of dairy must be pricey but are of high quality and they should preferably be without any added sugar and from grass fed or pasture-raised animals.