For a long time milk has been often associated with strong bones. It’s been depicted as probably the best and most accessible source of calcium and vitamin D, so that’s why children are frequently encouraged and prompted to drink a glass of milk almost every day to be healthy. However, today as science has discovered that milk products may not be so health-improving and harmless, most particularly if they’re consumed in larger amounts. Many people all over the world do tend to drink a lot of milk, even vegetarians, and media still tries to promote it despite that its benefits may very likely be overshadowed by its flaws.
The concept that excessive dairy consumption may be bad for you isn’t pseudoscience. In fact, nowadays many researchers recommend reduced dairy intake, because according to studies drinking milk is associated with a lot of short-term health problems, as well as long-term problems, let’s talk about them.
1. Dairy is rich in cholesterol
Dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream are sources of saturated fat and bad cholesterol, and as we know eating foods rich in those substances can increase the risk of having a heart disease. We should avoid such a diet, instead we should add more omega fats-containing foods (such as olive oil, fish, coconut oil, hemp oil etc) to our daily eating regime to promote good cardiovascular health.
2. Dairy and calcium
It’s true that dairy products contain calcium, and calcium is widely associated with a strong bone system. Our bones constantly undergo a remodeling process. The body takes some amounts of calcium from the bones and replaces it with new calcium. If you don’t absorb enough calcium from your diet, this remodeling can decrease bone density, making the bones more fragile. Another important detail about calcium consumption is its absorption. The body can assimilate only so much of this nutrient, as there is a limit of absorption, so if you have more than 600mg a day, it will not additionally improve bone density.
The daily requirements for calcium can be covered through nutrition, and you don’t even need supplementation to do that. The thing is though that medical research has revealed milk-based eatables have little or no effect over bone density. In fact, a review published in 2005 in the magazine Pediatrics points that milk doesn’t improve bone integrity in children. There are even fresher studies to substantiate that. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study followed the milk consumption of more than 72 000 women for a prolonged period of 18 years. The results indicated that the milk the women had drunk didn’t have any positive effects on protecting the bones from fracture.
First of all, if you want to strengthen your bone system, you can start by lowering sodium consumption. Secondly, if you want to increase the intake of calcium, you don’t have to eat only dairy products to achieve that. On the contrary, there are plenty of other foods that contain this nutrient. For example broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage and other leafy greens have good amounts of calcium, not to mention leguminous crops like beans have great amounts of it too. There are also calcium and vitamin D fortified morning cereals, juices and soy milk that can help you reach the recommended daily intake of the mineral.
Let’s not forget that regular workouts and sport engagement is another vital step in keeping your bone density level higher, and keeping osteoporosis at bay. The benefits of exercising on strong bones have been numerously confirmed through studies in both adults and children.
Keep in mind that in order to absorb the calcium, the body also requires vitamin D, or else without it barely 10-15% of the calcium will be absorbed. Remember, the best source of vitamin D is sun light, only 15 minutes a day of solar light are enough to cover your vitamin D recommendations. Other than that, you can obtain this rare vitamin from only a few types of foods. Besides dairy foods fortified with it, vitamin D is contained mostly in sea food, cod liver oil, beef, eggs, and certain types of mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight. There’s also the possibility of taking a high quality vitamin D supplement.
3. Dairy and chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation can come as a result from often dairy consumption. That’s because milk naturally contains some acids that can incite stored calcium to build up and potentially cause long-term inflammation.
In fact, it has been established that dairy has the second highest inflammation causing rate, right after gluten. Furthermore, there are also some health suspicions related to milk homogenization which is a process developed to eliminate the build-up of fat at the top (since milk is largely composed of fat and milk). The purpose of this mechanical process is to split the fat globules and prevent them from clumping to one another. Though it’s considered primarily harmless, this process is noted by some to lead to casein and whey proteins getting reassembled with fats. So the suspicion lies in the possibility of the protein-heavy fat lowering assimilation and increasing the chance for allergies, but there isn’t enough data yet to back this claim.
Another factor can be the conventional GMO and pesticide-rich diet, hormone and antibiotic-treatment the cattle receive nowadays. All of that worsens the nutritional profile and purity of the milk by lowering the good nutrients and increasing the inflammatory levels of the fats. That’s why grass-fed organic milk is the better option and has shown to have higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acid, antioxidants, and beta carotene.
4. Dairy and the gastrointestinal tract
Dairy can cause chronic digestive problems. Let’s not forget that the main culprit in dairy is the lactose which is responsible for this. To boot, dairy could cause further gut damage because of the way it irritates the gut line. It’s one of the most often reasons for leaky gut syndrome, which in its turn can cause autoimmune disorders and other health-related issues. The regular and excessive consumption of milk predisposes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Some people who have suffered from Chron’s Disease have reported that healing has tremendously accelerated once they cut dairy products out of their diet.
5. Lactose intolerance
You’ve probably wondered when we were going to talk about this one. Come to think about it, if you suffer from it, lactose intolerance is probably the most well-known reason to cut dairy off your diet. This kind of intolerance is actually more common than you may believe. It affects nearly 95% of the Asian-American people, 74% of Native Americans, 70% of African-Americans, 53% of Mexican-Americans, and 15% of Caucasians. The affected don’t have the lactose enzyme, therefore their body can’t cope with digesting lactose upon milk consumption.
6. Dairy has association with cancer
And as if gut problems aren’t enough, unfortunately dairy can contribute to cancer too, as this is one of the worst potential side effects of too much dairy consumption. Researches have concluded that it plays a fair role in the development of colon, breast, testicular, and prostate cancer. Prostate and breast cancers are connected to the presence of IGF-1 (an insulin-like growth factor) in milk. There are some case-controlled studies that verify this speculation, especially the one in the Physicians Health Study that includes 21 660 volunteers and had a span of 28 years. In it, scientists found that men who consumed ≥2.5 servings of dairy on a daily basis, had bigger risk of developing prostate cancer compared to those who had ≤0.5 servings each day.
Except the increasing circulating levels of serum IGF-1, too much intake of milk increases the estrogen index in the body. Estrogen metabolites are also associated with cancers of the reproductive system in both men and women. Such metabolites can stimulate cellular growth including cancer cell growth. The After Cancer Epidemiology Study featured 1893 women who had been previously diagnosed with early stage invasive breast cancer. The study showed that consumption of larger amounts of high-fat dairy products were correlated with higher mortality ratios. Even half a serving was shown to increase risk fairly. The explanation of this is perhaps due to the fact that estrogenic hormones thrive mostly in fat.
Furthermore, ovarian cancer is also connected to dairy consumption because of the breakdown of lactose (milk sugar) into galactose, a type of sugar that is likely toxic to ovarian cells. There are trials conducted to conclude that, one of which was the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The results of it showed that women who drank a glass of milk every day had 73% greater chance of having ovarian cancer than those who drank less or didn’t.
That’s why we shouldn’t overeat with milk foods too often. We should always pay attention to the small signs of health problems and listen to what our body has to say. Cutting dairy from your staple foods may just prove to be a solution to a certain type of health issue.
7. Dairy products increase predisposition to diabetes
Insulin-dependent diabetes (childhood onset or type 1) is connected to intake of dairy nutrition in infancy. The 2001 Finnish Study serves as evidence for that. It included 3000 babies with genetic predisposition to diabetes. The trial showed that infants who were early exposed to cow’s milk increased their chance of having type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics observed up to 30% less chance for type 1 diabetes in those babies who avoid the intake of cow’s milk protein at least for the first 3 months after they were born. Moreover, The academy doesn’t recommend infants below 1 year drinking cow’s milk because of the high possibility of iron deficiency, since cow’s milk is poor in iron. Another highly likely problem would be colic. More than 28% of babies have colic in their first months, and cow’s milk is often found to be the reason. Breast milk is a far better choice for feeding the little ones.
Besides diabetes and milk’s lactose, saturated fat and protein may incite certain health problems in kids, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. And don’t be so sure that if you switch to low-fat or skim milk products things will be any different. There’s a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood that showed that kids who drank 1% or fat-free milk didn’t have any less risk of developing obesity, than those who consumed regular full-fat milk.
8. Another side effect of dairy may be worse skin health
Consuming too much dairy may lead to this. It may seem unrelated to some of you, but sometimes the skin can be an indication for your body’s internal well-being, and sometimes when there’s a noxious substance that some of your other organs are trying to excrete, if they don’t manage to do so, that function may be passed on to the skin. Such effects have been demonstrated, particularly when it comes to the digestive tract and the liver having trouble with removing internal toxins and wastes. So when you eat too much dairy (or if you’re predisposed to dairy side effects it could take a little), the derma could suffer decline to some degree. That could manifest in skin soreness, acne, rashes, splotchy look, or simply lackluster skin. It’s pretty possible when you limit or stop your milk intake you get to notice some skin improvement even after a couple of days. That’s because your constitution would have the opportunity to function better and excrete waste more efficiently, leaving the skin out of the equation.
9. Milk contaminants
The side effects of too much dairy intake spread further with milk contaminants. It’s no secret that cattle is massively fed nutrient-poor foods grown with the use of pesticides, herbicides and GMO. Maybe that’s why dairy is among the most common GMO foods. Cows are also given hormones (for example the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) which is very common) for faster growth and greater milk income, as well as antibiotics for disease prevention, not to mention that there are naturally contained growth factors and hormones that reside in a cow’s body. Hormones and antibiotics can cause health problems like hormonal imbalances.
Furthermore, besides herbicides and pesticides, the toxins dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls are also other exhibits for milk contaminants. In fact, ¼ to ½ of the total intake of dioxins originates from drinking cow’s milk. These toxins are not so easily excreted by our bodies. When they accumulate they can prove to be of harm to the central nervous system, and the reproductive and immune systems. There’s also a reported link between toxins such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, and cancer.
Melamine and aflatoxins (a type of carcinogenic toxins) are other noxious anti-nutrients that are found in milk. Aflatoxins aren’t destroyed in the pasteurization process, while melamine (commonly found in plastic) has a bad influence on the urinary tract and the kidneys.
Finally you can watch a very circumstantial discussion with John. A. McDougall, M.D. about the harmful effects of dairy:
So with all of these things in mind, it actually turns out that consuming a lot of dairy might not actually be good for you. These negative effects of cow’s milk should be taken under strong consideration. We’re not saying avoiding cow’s milk completely and forever is mandatory at all cost, but if you’re consuming rather much, maybe you should think twice and decrease the intake drastically. Still, every now and then you can use little in your cooking recipes or coffee, and if you do want to use, it’s advisable to choose organic cow’s milk instead of conventionally produced milk.