This blog was written by Kristy Cooper who used to manage our office. Kristy was a valuable member of our team with great insight and we wanted to share her interesting perspective on consuming milk with you! Originally posted on March 24, 2015.
From a young age we are taught that it's important to "drink your milk" as it's a major source of calcium and vitamin D necessary to promote growth along with strong bones and teeth. I have come to wonder if this is particularly true. I've heard many things painting dairy in a negative light, ranging from dairy causing acne, to vocal performers avoiding dairy due to its mucus causing effects, to the strange idea it is that we are the only species that drinks the milk of another. It also puzzles me that milk is used to increase growth and body weight in infants of all species but unlike others we continue to drink it the remainder of our lives. Based on this concept, I as an adult no longer desire growth or an increase in body weight, have been turned off by the consumption of milk in recent years. This is a personal choice and not a one size fits all, so in no way do I hope to turn the dairy activists into non-believers, but I do hope to explore the debate.
Milk is believed to be good for you based on findings of three key nutrients: calcium, vitamin D and potassium. A 2005 increase in the USDA's recommendations for dairy intake from two to three servings was aimed at increasing the amount of potassium in the American diet. Although potassium is found in fruits and vegetables the USDA believed Americans would not eat more fruits and vegetables but were more likely to consume more dairy. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health has stated that these recommendations are a "step in the wrong direction." Stating that it's unclear really how much calcium we need and if dairy is really the best source of this. A few critical points from Harvard's Calcium and Milk: What's Best for Your Bones and Health?
"While calcium and dairy can lower the risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer, high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer."
"Plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones."
"Good, non-dairy sources of calcium include collards, bok choy, fortified soy milk, baked beans, and supplements that contain both calcium and vitamin D (a better choice than taking calcium alone)."
See the link below for the full article on Harvard's study of milk:
I tend to feel doubtful of the promotion of milk in the modern diet as it is highly invested promotion on the part of both the Canadian and American governments. The Canadian Government has a National Dairy policy which places taxes on the sales of all Canadian dairy products along with limiting dairy production, a way of controlling the supply chain. This policy also includes tariffs on imported dairy products of up to 200% even on countries with which we have a Free Trade Agreement. It seems as though Canada has an untouchable setup of dairy policy in which products are heavily taxed and subsidies given to farmers. A controlled system that would be threatened by any outside sources. It seems fitting that the government would then promote the consumption of dairy products as a key component to a healthy diet as they receive a reported 2.4 billion in taxation dollars that are then allocated to dairy farmers. There is a monopoly on dairy that controls the entire system and aim de-arms any outside threats.
Not only does the conceptual idea of milk consumption turn me off but also the skewed recommendations brought forth by the government and their vested interest in the dairy market. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. From my personal experience with diets such as the Paleo they don't believe in the consumption of dairy. The Paleo diet stands to reason that a diet of adequate protein, vegetables and fruit provides enough calcium for strong bones when combined with weight bearing exercise. I do think this is a valuable point, that weight bearing exercise will increase bone density greater than any glass of milk. There are many testimonials you can find that demonstrate a Paleo lifestyle to be that of optimal nutrition.
If we explore the side of the pro milk debate there is talk about it being a great source of calcium to aid bone health and in the prevention of cancer. Milk is also a good source of potassium to improve heart health, and a good source of Vitamin D as it has mood stabilizing effects when producing serotonin in the brain. Benefits also include the protein content of milk as an aid in muscle building and weight loss. There are redeeming qualities to milk but I do believe it should be consumed in moderation past infancy and noted that it is not necessarily the preferred source of necessary vitamins and minerals.
For more info see:
The Globe and Mail's "How Dairy Farmers Milk Canada's Taxpayers"
The BBC's "Study Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Milk"