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Milk is for babies?

July 2020

lady holding a galss of milk

Milk and dairy products have been the mainstay of normal diets for generations. We all need milk as babies and we were brought up in the knowledge that milk is an essential, packed with protein and other useful nourishment. Many of us may remember when every child in every school in Britain was provided with a third of a pint of milk in a glass bottle with a straw to drink at break time. It was all about building a healthier, better country.

However, food habits are changing and the younger generations especially are leading new trends. Along with less meat and other ideas, one thing that many younger people have taken on board in recent years is less milk. Increasing numbers are now avoiding all dairy foods including cheese and normal yoghurts, instead turning to tasty “dairy free” substitutes.

Only last year Canada removed dairy products from their recommended daily food guide. Instead they simply included dairy in with other high protein foods that the body required every day. Their advice was to fill a plate half with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with starches or grains and a quarter with protein, whether it be meat or lentils or milk.

Some in the UK have removed milk and dairy products from their diet altogether because of their concerns over animal ethics and worry over a detrimental impact that dairy production may have on the environment.

Others are avoiding cow’s milk because have an allergy. This is usually an immune response to the protein found in cows’ milk and quite a rare condition.  

Milk products are also being avoided by some people due to a misconception that dairy can cause bloating, gas and even diarrhoea. Experts however say these symptoms are more likely to be caused by a specific lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem where the body is unable to digest the lactose (a type of sugar) found in dairy. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean dairy has to be given up entirely. Some hard cheeses and yoghurts for instance contain very little lactose.

Healthline.com https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015 has reported some interesting findings. One related to women who drink more than three glasses of milk a day, saying the D-galactose sugar in the milk could lead to an increased risk of bone fractures. They also reported on research that indicated excess calcium from milk and other foods could increase the risk of prostate cancer, while milk sugars could have a link to slightly higher risks of ovarian cancers. But more research is needed on all these studies.

However, amongst the recent increase in negative attitudes to milk, there is now some concern among professionals that there is a lack of understanding of the serious nutritional benefits of dairy.

For most of the population, dairy is still generally considered by many experts to be a really important part of a normal, healthy balanced diet.

The British Nutrition Foundation https://www.nutrition.org.uksay that dairy group foods are key to providing good sources of protein plus calcium and iodine and other essentials.

Generally dairy provides:
Calcium for the development and maintenance of strong and healthy bones
Protein for growth and repair functions
Iodene for healthy nerve and brain function and healthy skin
Vitamin B12 for healthy red blood cells and nerve function
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) to help release energy from carbohydrate and protein.

Dairy also contains other important nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D.

One of the problems with dairy can be the sugar and fat levels. A couple of years ago Diabetes.co.uk published a report saying a three week study showed that drinking full fat, whole milk actually led to improved cholesterol levels compared with drinking skimmed milk
https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2018/jan/full-fat-milk-improves-cholesterol-levels-90626725.html

However, this hasn’t yet been widely accepted and generally it is still thought that low fat and also low sugar versions of milk can be helpful, especially in preventing weight gain. The good news is that if you choose a low fat version of milk, the calcium level is not reduced.

Overall, apart from environmental concerns, it seems that generally milk and dairy still remain a very good and important aspect of a normal diet.  There is increasing information on line including at:

https://www.healthline.com/health/is-milk-bad-for-you#side-effects

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/milk-and-dairy-nutrition/

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