Is Milk Really Healthy for You?

A lot of people are asking one common question “is milk healthy for me or not”

More and more people today are coming to believe that milk is not good for you. The widely accepted notion that we need three servings of dairy food per day is also being challenged.

Perhaps this shift in thinking is not surprising, since the health benefits of milk have been grossly exaggerated for many years by conventional sources. Only recently has it become more widely known that lactose intolerance affects more than half of all adults, making dairy food difficult to digest and often causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Further, the vast majority of adults worldwide have some degree of lactase deficiency after infancy and are therefore unable to digest lactose without symptoms.

Most humans stop producing significant amounts of lactase—the enzyme necessary to break down lactose in milk—by age four, when breastfeeding stops or is greatly reduced.

However, more than 95% of Asian-Americans, 70% of African-Americans, 53% of Mexican-Americans, and 14% of Caucasian Americans are lactose intolerant.

So, what’s the truth? Is milk healthy or not?

In thiѕ аrtiсlе, we will see if milk is hеаlthy or not. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of milk, as well as some alternatives you may want to consider if you can’t tolerate milk or choose not to drink it.

Is Milk Really Healthy for You?

The Pros of Drinking Milk

Some research shows that drinking milk can have certain health benefits, especially for children. Here are some reasons why it may be smart to drink milk:

Calcium

Though it’s well established that calcium is necessary for building strong bones, there are actually few studies that show milk consumption leads to better bone health.

One study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found no link between drinking milk or taking calcium supplements and lower rates of osteoporosis or broken bones.

Another study, which looked at dietary habits and bone density in more than 75,000 women ages 35 to 79 over a 12-year period, found that milk consumption was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture.

Instead, researchers found that older women who drank one glass of milk or less per week were slightly more likely to have better bone density than women who drank two or more glasses per week.

Protein

Milk contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a good source of high-quality protein.

Many studies show that consuming adequate amounts of dietary protein can help maintain your body’s lean muscle mass and make you less likely to experience age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. It seems that protein consumption may be particularly important in the elderly and in people with diabetes, both of whom tend to lose muscle mass as they get older.

Vitamin D

Milk is one source of vitamin D, which supports calcium absorption and can help prevent broken bones and osteoporosis. Some studies suggest that deficiencies in vitamin D may play a role in the development of certain cancers.

Riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc

Milk provides riboflavin (vitamin B2), phosphorus (essential for making DNA and RNA), magnesium (required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body), and zinc (needed for producing testosterone).

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

Milk contains CLA, which is thought to reduce your risk of certain cancers.

Lactoferrin

In addition to being a source of high-quality protein, milk contains lactoferrin, an iron-binding glycoprotein that can help protect you from developing iron deficiency, a common cause of hair loss.

Short- and medium-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)

SCFAs help prevents the build-up of harmful bacteria in your colon and promotes colonic health, which can decrease your risk for certain diseases.

The Cons of Drinking Milk

There are several reasons why drinking milk may be unhealthful, including concerns about lactose intolerance, milk allergies, hormones in milk, and the pasteurization process.

Lactose intolerance

The vast majority of humans are born with the ability to digest milk. However, most people lose that ability by age five because their bodies stop producing an enzyme called lactase—the enzyme necessary for digesting milk sugar (lactose). As a result, lactose intolerance is fairly common.

People who are lactose intolerant may experience gas, bloating, cramps, nausea, and diarrhea when they drink milk. The good news is that there are many non-dairy beverages made with calcium-fortified soy or rice milk—soy milk has one-third more calcium than cow’s milk!

Milk allergies

Some people are born with an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk; others can develop allergies to dairy products later in life. Allergies to dairy products cause your body to release immunoglobulin E (IgE), which triggers inflammation and histamine release (histamine causes hives, itching, and swelling).

You may be able to drink milk or eat dairy products if you have a milder form of allergy that just involves occasional inflammation.

Hormones in milk

Compared with those from 20 years ago, today’s cows are more genetically engineered and produce much higher quantities of growth hormone for faster muscle development—and more fat is secreted as well. In addition, they are often given antibiotics to prevent infection from the added stress of being bred at unnaturally high rates.

These hormones can pass through their bodies into your glass or bowl of ice cream!

Pasteurization process

The process of heating milk to destroy potentially damaging microorganisms is known as pasteurization. Pasteurization kills bacteria, but it also denatures (alters) some of milk’s proteins. Denatured proteins can be difficult to digest and may make allergies worse.

The bottom line

Milk is an excellent source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), short- and medium-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), lactoferrin, and more—which are all great reasons to drink milk.

However, there are good non-dairy alternatives available that have the same nutrients as cow’s milk without the potentially harmful effects of hormones or the pasteurization process. If you do choose to consume dairy products:

  • Look for organic brands that don’t contain added hormones or antibiotics.
  • Keep in mind that the calcium in milk is not actually absorbed very well without vitamin D, so make sure your milk contains vitamin D.
  • Drink milk that has been fortified with vitamins A and D, since it is very difficult to get these vitamins from other dietary sources alone.
  • Make sure to get the calcium your body requires by eating calcium-rich foods in addition to drinking milk.
  • Try goat’s milk, which may have many of the same health benefits as cow’s milk, but with less lactose.
  • Try non-dairy milk (soy, rice, almond). Most are calcium-fortified and take advantage of the health benefits of soy.
  • Opt for yogurt, which tends to be easier to digest than milk. • Make sure your yogurt is probiotic—it will contain helpful bacteria that may help some of the digestive issues linked with dairy.
  • Don’t drink too much milk; our bodies were not designed to drink this much.
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice is another healthy option for increasing calcium in your diet.
  • Supplements are available if you don’t like taking pills, and they may be helpful.

Recommendations: According to The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, cow’s milk is not necessary to have adequate amounts of calcium in your body. Your bones will suffer if you drink too much milk because you will lose calcium from your bones to compensate for the excess. In addition, Vitamin D can be found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, eggs, and mushrooms.

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