Dairy products and scare tactics
By Randolph Howes, MD, PhD
A huge dietary controversy surrounds the benefits or harms of consuming dairy products.
Some even argue that dairy products should not be consumed since it is not “natural” to do so and “humans are not calves.” They argue that not only are humans the only species that consumes milk as adults, but we are also the only species that drinks milk from other animals.
Yet, in some parts of the world, dairy has been consumed for thousands of years, and research has shown that genes have altered in humans to accommodate dairy consumption. Evidence shows that we have genetically adapted to eat dairy and indicates that it may now be natural for us to eat and drink it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food MyPlate guidelines, to get all the nutrients you need from your diet, healthy food and beverage choices should be made from all five food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy.
The dairy food group consists of all fluid milk products and many foods that are made from milk.
The USDA recommend that food choices from the dairy group should retain their calcium content and be low-fat or fat-free. Fat in milk, yogurt, and cheese that is not low-fat or fat-free will count toward your limit of calories from saturated fats.
The USDA reports that dairy products are the primary source of calcium in the American diet. They also say that calcium helps to build bones and teeth, maintain bone mass, improve bone health, decrease the risk of osteoporosis and, what is more, diets that have an intake of three cups of dairy products per day can improve bone mass, which is particularly important to bone health during childhood and adolescence – a time when bone mass is being built.
The USDA highlights that it is important to choose low-fat or fat-free foods from the dairy group because foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol have adverse health implications. They say that diets high in saturated fats raise “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
High LDL cholesterol increases the risk for coronary heart disease. Whole milk and many dairy products are high in saturated fat. But, even this assertion is mired in conflicted studies. Many studies have found no link between dietary saturated fat and an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
In the America that I love, government guidelines say that milk is rich in nutrients. Calcium-rich whole milk, low-fat or fat-free dairy products are essential for bone health, heart health, and type 2 diabetes. So, enjoy a range of delicious, nutritious dairy products. Today’s nutritional reports are rife with unsupported scare tactics.
Prof Randolph M Howes MD PhD