As a child, you likely grew up with your parents reminding you to drink your milk in order to have strong, healthy bones. After all, milk is one of the most widely recognized sources of calcium, a necessary vitamin for building bone density. The 1990’s even featured a well-known ad campaign featuring a host of celebrities asking the memorable line, “Got Milk?” If your favorite TV stars and athletes were touting the benefits of milk and proudly sporting milk mustaches, how could you not indulge in a cold glass of milk too?
However, in recent years the necessity of milk and the rest of the products in the dairy category have been called into question by various groups, which leads us to our initial question: is dairy bad for you?
Why Are People Against Dairy?
There’s both health and moral reasons that explain why people avoid dairy. On the health side, there’s lactose intolerance, dairy allergies and a possible increased risk of some cancers associated with dairy consumption. Morally, people have begun to take notice of the inhumane practices in the dairy industry, leading to an increase in veganism. Both sides are quick to declare that milk and other dairy products are not necessary for humans to consume past the early stages in life and could even be potentially bad for you.
But Does Dairy Cause Cancer?
You may have heard reports that the growth hormones used in the American dairy industry have led to an increase in breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. While it’s a possible cause, the scientific research is not complete and there’s no proof that dairy is to blame. In fact, there’s some studies that believe that dairy may even protect against certain cancers.
So, Is Dairy Bad For You?
There’s no denying that dairy products still have some health benefits, and are widely consumed as part of a healthy breakfast. In fact, dairy milk is the only variety of milk that covers all nine essential nutrients. To start with, it contains high levels of calcium and vitamin D. Dairy also includes protein, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamins A and B12. It’s generally believed that as long as you don’t have a dairy allergy or an extreme case of lactose intolerance that it’s okay to consume dairy in moderation.
Let’s break down the reasons why dairy may not be appropriate for some people:
- Lactose Intolerance – Up to 65 percent of adults will become lactose intolerant as they age, according to the National Library of Medicine. That rate skyrockets to 90 percent for Asians. The reason that many people lose their ability to process dairy boils down to the fact that the enzyme that allows humans to digest milk fades over time. While humans are born with the ability to consume and process breast milk as infants, there’s no evolutionary reason for people to continue to drink milk as adults. If you find that you are lactose intolerant, you don’t have to give up dairy completely. Many people can handle small amounts of dairy without distress so just keep your cheese and ice cream consumption to a moderate level.
- Dairy Allergies – There’s a big difference between being lactose intolerant and having an actual allergy to dairy. People who are allergic to dairy can have symptoms ranging from hives to the serious and potentially deadly anaphylaxis, which causes blood pressure to drop and airways to narrow. Left untreated, anaphylaxis can kill within minutes. Luckily, less than one percent of adults have a dairy allergy while the rest may just suffer discomfort due to being lactose intolerant.
What Are The Options For Replacing Dairy?
Contrary to popular belief, dairy products are not your only source of calcium and vitamin D. Broccoli, tofu, sardines and almonds are also good ways to get your daily dose of calcium. Some orange juice is also fortified with calcium for an added boost. Vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium, is often added to dairy products but it’s also naturally found in egg yolks, fatty fish and beef liver. Plus, it’s also added to some food, like fortified orange juice and cereal. Other options include dairy-free milks, like soy, coconut or almond milk.
However, unless you are lactose intolerant, have an allergy to dairy or are morally opposed to the dairy industry, consuming milk products in moderate amounts is still okay for your health.