Guest blog by Vicky Ware
Have you ever thought that dairy foods might be bad for you? It wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t. If you grew up in the UK, it is likely you were encouraged to drink milk at school and have seen government guidelines which advise you to consume dairy products as part of a healthy diet.
Dairy is an option at every meal time, making it easy to eat in a way which feels varied but as far as your body is concerned contains a lot of one thing: milk from a cow.
The scientific evidence behind the health benefits of milk are now being questioned and the evidence that it is actually bad for health mounting up.
Milk is strongly associated with strong bones because it contains calcium. However, the government guidelines for calcium intake are now so high it is almost impossible to get enough from anything other than milk .
Humans survived for thousands of years without milk before the introduction of farming. In fact, the genetic ability to drink cow’s milk is generally only found in people of European ancestry. Around 75% of the world’s population cannot digest lactose, the sugar found in milk .
People who consume a lot of animal protein have weaker bones than those who get their protein from plant sources, this is the case even when they eat three times more calcium.[3,4]. It seems that eating too much dairy could actually be weakening our bones, not strengthening them.
Increasing alkaline foods, such as Lucy Bee raw coconut oil, with protein intake could help protect bones from the damaging effect of eating too much animal protein .
Worryingly, cow’s milk consumption in infants and toddlers is associated with intestinal bleeding and subsequent iron deficiency anaemia. The anaemia is thought to be due to not just the bleeding but reduced intake of other foods due to the high calorie nature of milk (which is low in iron) [5,6].
Milk is also one of the only foods known to make a difference to those suffering from acne.
Eliminating dairy from your diet could result in an improvement in acne symptoms . Eating raw coconut oil seems to help some people with their acne, because it is anti-inflammatory and protective against acne causing bacteria . Replacing some of your dairy calories with Lucy Bee coconut calories might be a good way to clear up your skin.
Research suggests milk consumption in a society is linked to levels of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes [9, 10]. People who eat oily fish and very little milk seem less likely to get multiple sclerosis [11, 10, 12].
It seems the omega-3 fats are important for prevention of autoimmune disease, which is further linked to modern milk which is low in these fats as discussed below . There are too many factors for definitive answers as to the cause of autoimmune diseases such as this, but the association with milk is certainly interesting.
Professor Campbell, who researches Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University has stated “cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed” .
It does seem that cow’s milk consumption is associated with increased risk of some types of cancer. It increases levels of a hormone called IGF-1 which is strongly linked to increased cancer risk .
Part of the problem seems to be the type of milk we are consuming.
Most milk comes from large dairy farms where the cows are often fed largely on grains, rather than their natural food source: grass. This results in altered composition of the fats in their milk, making it less healthy for human consumption with fewer omega-3 fatty acids and more omega-6 .
Cows are also producing milk for 10 months a year , including while they are pregnant. They are fed hormones to ensure this unnatural milk production, which make their way into the milk you are drinking with largely unknown affects. However, there are worries surrounding increased chances of breast cancer, along with male reproductive abnormalities [18, 19, 20].
Unfortunately, many cows have mastitis, an infection of the udder caused by constant milking. White blood cells (basically pus) from the infection find their way into the milk and are a source of inflammation as our immune systems react to them, as well as altering the nutritional quality of the milk .
Around 70% of the protein in cow’s milk is in the form of casein. Casein is digested into casomorphin, which causes histamine release in the body . Histamine is an inflammatory molecule which will be very familiar to people suffering from allergies such as hayfever. Increasing the level of histamine in the body increases the level of inflammation, leading to increased chances of many inflammatory diseases .
The physical structure of casein is different in cows which have been bred to produce lots of milk. Older breeds such as Jersey cattle produce a different kind of casein . The natural form of casein is known as A2 casein, with the newer form known as A1 casein.
A1 casein is digested differently to A2 casein. The A1 milk metabolites act on opioid receptors in the immune system, nervous system and endocrine (hormone producing) system, having diverse and largely unknown effects . However, it is thought that these opioid effects may cause the sleepiness associated with drinking milk, followed by feelings of anxiety and paranoia [26, 27].
In fact, consumption of A1 milk is associated with not only development of, but increased severity of symptoms in schizophrenia and autism . A1 milk consumption is also associated with increased risk of Type 1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis and sudden infant death syndrome .
Rather than just cutting dairy out of your diet completely, it is important to look at what you eat and consider where you’re going to get your calcium and other nutrients from.
Foods high in calcium include sesame seeds, tofu and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli .
No one food is going to replace milk, but getting a more varied diet along with eliminating the problems caused by milk might bring with it a whole host of health benefits.
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve cut out dairy and seen any benefits!
Vicky has a degree in Biological Sciences with a focus on biochemistry and immunology and is currently studying for a MSc in Drug Discovery and Protein Biotechnology. She is also an endurance athlete.
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