Health Hazards of Milk and Dairy Consumption
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D that are all important for maintaining strong bones. Too bad calcium absorption from milk is very low! Throughout the years, increased consumption of milk is advocated to reduce the risks of bone fractures and developing heart problems. However, recent studies show that there is no positive correlation between milk consumption, decreased bone fracture and heart diseases.
Milk contains a protein called casein which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium !
Western countries are the biggest consumers of dairy yet have the highest rate of osteoporosis.
Calcium is one of the essential minerals that is needed by the body. There should be a continuous supply of this mineral in our bones because it is needed for remodeling. Our bones undergo constant remodeling throughout our life to repair micro-damages in our bones so it has to have an adequate reservoir of calcium to carry out this process.
However, it doesn’t mean that increasing calcium intake will ensure strong bones because there’s only an optimum level of calcium needed to support remodeling and that is 600 mg per day. Beyond this amount, calcium won’t have any significant effect in strengthening bones. Also, in a research conducted by the Nurses’ Health Study, calcium in milk does very little contribution in reduction of bone fracture. So it’s not advisable to increase milk consumption just to have a lot of calcium inside the body because recent studies show that increased milk or dairy consumption brings about serious health problems.
Vitamin D is also essential in bone remodeling and in maintaining adequate serum levels of calcium. It releases calcium from bone, promotes its absorption in the intestines and retention in the kidneys. Increased milk consumption to maintain adequate level of vitamin D in the body is not a good idea because it could potentially lead to hypertension.[1.2]
Researchers’ conflicting opinions on amount of milk intake
A consensus has not yet been reached as to what is the healthiest recommended amount of dairy intake. The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Pyramid is the official food pyramid and is the framework for making school lunch program. In 2010, the USDA recommends that the average intake of milk should be three cups a day and this was openly contradicted by the researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, saying that this recommendation is not based on extensive studies and increased milk intake will bring more health problems than benefits. Dr. Walter Willet, the head of Harvard School of Public Health said that increased consumption of milk puts people at risk for contracting different diseases. When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asked about the scientific basis of promoting milk, the USDA admits that there’s lack of evidence to their following claims:
- Milk increases sports performance
- Dairy is good for bones and prevents osteoporosis
Milk and dairy products cause health problems
Increased consumption of dairy products also increases the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in our blood system. This in turn increases the risk of hypertension and heart problems since cholesterol and fat accumulates inside the walls of blood vessel making it difficult for your heart to do its work.
Cancer is a fatal disease caused by a rapid and abnormal cellular growth in the body. Studies have shown that increased milk consumption increases the likelihood of cancer because it contains insulin-like growth factor-1, estrogen metabolites and galactose. All of these are strongly associated with cancer in the following manner:
- Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) contained in cow’s milk is associated with prostate and breast cancer in 40 year old men and women as observed by the Physicians Health Study. It causes rapid growth in cells which increases the likelihood of mutations in genes leading to cancer.
- Estrogen metabolites increases with increased dairy consumption. These metabolites are found in increased levels in people with cancers of the reproductive system. They are mainly responsible in the rapid proliferation and growth of cancerous cells.
- Galactose is one of the constituents when milk is digested by the body and is broken down to simple sugars. Increased milk consumption also increases simple sugars in the body. However, galactose is found to be toxic in ovarian cells and it may be associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer for women.
Another very common problem is indigestion of milk or more commonly known as lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant do not have the enzyme responsible for breaking down the simple sugar in milk (lactose) while most just stop producing this enzyme as they grow older. The enzyme needed for the metabolism of lactose is called lactase. So when they ingest milk or dairy products, they suffer gastrointestinal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea.
The presence of synthetic hormones, pesticides and other contaminants in milk is dangerous to our health. Cows are sometimes treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone to increase their production of milk. If this hormone is ingested, it could affect the body’s natural hormonal function. Pesticides like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are used as extenders. Increased levels of these substances in the body increases the risk of developing cancer. Melamine is also a notorious milk contaminant that is added to diluted milk to trick quality control authorities into believing that the milk is not diluted and has adequate protein content. It is not eliminated during pasteurization and its high nitrogen content makes it very dangerous when ingested because it could lead to damage in kidneys and urinary tracts.
Osteoporosis is most common in countries where Diary is consumed most!
Contrary to popular belief that milk is an essential component in the diet of growing infants, it was shown that increased milk intake in infants below the age of 1 increases their susceptibility to developing type 1 diabetes mellitus. Increased consumption of milk in children also puts them at risk for obesity and development of heart disease. They can also suffer from iron deficiency since processed milk have lower amounts of iron compared to that of the mother’s milk.
Find safer alternative nutrient sources
Studies show that increased milk or dairy consumption is more harmful than beneficial. Nutrient deficiency can be easily avoided by incorporating fruits and vegetables in diet. Obtain calcium through increased intake of leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli, beans and fruits. The body utilizes calcium better if it is obtained from natural sources. They also contain zero cholesterol and saturated fat making them a very healthy choice of food. If at risk for osteoporosis, it can be avoided through regular exercise.
Vitamin D on the other hand can be obtained from other sources as well. Sunlight helps our skin to synthesize vitamin D3 after going out in 5-15 minutes of sunlight. The foods that are rich in vitamin D are sardines, mackerels, salmon and fish liver oils.
Buy calcium and vitamin D fortified food like cereals, bread, orange juice, or soy. Prevent the risk of developing heart problems by decreasing consumption of food high in cholesterol and saturated fat like dairy.
Avoid giving cow’s milk to children below the age of 1 as per the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Breast feeding can provide more nutrients and antibodies and can ensure that the child is kept from ingesting contaminants and other harmful substances in processed cow’s milk.
 Jaret, P. (n.d.). The pros and cons of milk and dairy. In WebMD. Retrieved fromhttp://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/dairy-truths
 (n.d.). Health concerns about dairy products. In Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/health-concerns-about-dairy-products
 Hyman, M. (2010). Dairy: 6 reasons you should avoid it at all cost or why following the USDA food pyramid guide is bad for your health. In Huffpost Healthy Living. Retrieved fromhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/dairy-free-dairy-6-reason_b_558876.html
The connection of milk in regards to osteoporosis