Dairy: It’s Not As Bad As You Think

Remember the time when top-notch celebrities like David Beckham and Heidi Klum humorously persuaded the average consumer to have more milk– with viscous milk moustaches painted on their faces? Well, it turns out they weren’t completely off the mark.

Critics believe that the “Got Milk?” campaign of the 90s was bogus and funded by the dairy industry. In fact, milk has garnered quite a sinister reputation since that period, and people are now shifting to dairy-free alternatives more than ever– such as plant-based milk like soy, coconut, almond, hemp, rice and more.

Detractors claim dairy is not as good a calcium source as it is made out to be, or that consuming dairy can increase the chances of ovarian or breast cancer, or even cause puberty to occur at an earlier age. On the other hand, proponents of dairy believe it to be a great source of nutrients and protein. They also believe it can reduce the risk of cancer.

The debate is on-going and remains unresolved, but which of these claims are backed with solid proof? Let’s deconstruct 5 misconceptions surrounding the consumption of dairy.

Myth 1: Lactose-intolerant individuals must avoid all sources of dairy completely

The proportion of lactose-intolerant individuals in the world is alarming. It is estimated that around 75% of the world’s population is intolerant to lactose. The enzyme that breaks down the protein lactose in milk is called lactase; it is lost during the period of weaning in lactose-intolerant individuals.

Despite the sobering data, it’s important to remember that not everyone suffers from lactose-intolerance to the same degree. Most lactose-intolerant individuals will feel bloated or ‘gassy’ after a glass of milk while only a minute percentage will develop a serious allergic reaction.

The good news is that there are certain dairy foods that people with lactose intolerance can ingest safely, without eliciting a reaction. Take yogurt for example – the live bacteria present in it are able to digest lactose, for your body. Similarly, people with this intolerance can explore options like lactose-reduced milk, aged cheeses, and kefir– all of which can be consumed in moderate amounts.

Myth 2: Growth hormones found in milk are bad for your health

It is common knowledge that dairy cows are given hormones such as the recombinant form of Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to increase their production of milk. Many people believe that this hormone is harmful to both the growth and reproductive health of mankind– especially given the ban on rBGH dairy products in the European Union. Some even believe that these hormones can increase the chances of cancer.

Synthetic hormones such as rBGH have warranted a fair share of paranoia and that’s perfectly understandable. But it’s not as bad as you think. According to the FDA, neither the naturally occurring nor the recombinant forms of BGH have any significant biological effects in humans. What’s more, the use of rBGH is still authorised in the US, though there is less demand for its products. In fact, studies have revealed that the milk treated with rBGH is also identical to regular milk, and does not pose a risk to our health. To date, no unanimous agreement has been reached in the scientific community with regards to the link between rBGH and cancer.

Myth 3: Milk is “too processed” to be healthy

Recall your seventh-grade science books. We’ve all learned that milk goes through the process of pasteurisation and homogenisation to ensure it is safe to be consumed. Recently, however, raw milk has acquired a bad reputation, albeit unfairly; some individuals are prone to think that milk is unsuitable for human consumption since it goes through multi-step processing.

But this processing isn’t bad for milk; in fact, pasteurisation is necessary to kill harmful bacteria in milk to make it suitable for ingesting. It does not reduce its nutritional benefits. In fact, milk is even fortified to make it tastier.

Myth 4: Milk contains alarming amounts of antibiotics that make it unsafe

There’s no denying that dairy farm animals are treated with medication and even antibiotics to make sure they are as healthy as humans. This fact makes critics believe that milk has high antibiotic levels and should not be consumed by humans.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are well aware of this important issue, and there are laws put in place that tightly regulate the contents of every milk tanker. Milk is first tested for the level of antibiotics present; if found high, the milk is discarded and the relevant farmer is answerable to state law. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore has similarly put in place a surveillance programme to test milk for the presence of such antibiotics on a regular basis.

Myth 5: Organic milk is much healthier than regular milk

The sale of organic products has skyrocketed in recent years because they are believed to be more nutritious. This might be true for some organic products, but dairy is not necessarily one of them.

The nine basic nutrients found in organic milk including vitamin D, calcium, and potassium, are likewise found in regular milk. Hence, the nutritional value of regular milk is no less than that of its organic counterpart.

Should you consume dairy?

Here’s the cheesy truth: dairy has been desecrated as being unhealthy; its consumption almost likened to a cardinal sin in recent times. There are, however, proven benefits of dairy that simply cannot be ignored. It’s important that you make a balanced decision about consuming milk, in light of the information presented above.


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