Is Dairy (Milk / Yogurt / Cheese) Healthy or Bad? Critical Review
According to the new Disc of Five food advice, we have to eat dairy every day, including milk or yogurt. But is dairy really as healthy as they make us believe?
I entered the scientific studies and searched it out. I like to share my findings of dairy in this critical review about dairy.
What you will learn:
- Background information about dairy
- Why some people can not tolerate dairy
- What is healthy about dairy
- Which disorders or illnesses are associated with dairy
- Alternatives for dairy
Background information about dairy
Dairy is a term for milk or products made from milk.
Dairy cannot be ignored in most Western households.
For example, you will find milk, yogurt, butter, cottage cheese and cheese in the fridge of the average western person.
In addition, dairy products are:
- Fruit milk
- Drinky yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- chocolate milk
- Coffee drinks
- Ice Coffee
- Coffee milk
- Coffee cream
- Whipped cream
- Sour cream
- Creme fraiche
- Cook cream
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
- Various desserts
- egg cake
- Some kinds of cake and biscuits
- Some types of bread
- Some types of pastries
- Some sauces
- Milk chocolate and some kinds of candy
- Some breakfast cereals
- Some types of ready-to-eat soup
- Some types of meats and sausages
- Some types of chips
- Whey protein
In one way or another, it is sometimes thought that eggs also fall under dairy, but this is not the case. For example, eggs do not contain lactose so that they can be eaten with lactose intolerance.
Since when do we eat dairy?
Man only started drinking milk when livestock farming and agriculture made their appearance. That was roughly 10,000 years ago.
Why some people can not tolerate dairy
With the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry, our diet changed drastically. We started drinking milk, eating grains, using salt and probably eating more mammals’ meat.
Before agriculture and cattle breeding made their appearance, we ate like hunter-gatherers. You’ve probably heard of the paleo diet. This is a diet based on the eating pattern of the hunter-gatherers.
The general view is that milk is good for the bones. Research shows, however, that the hunter-gatherer (who did not use milk) had stronger bones than we have today. Later on, I will go deeper into dairy and bone decalcification.
Of course, milk from the cow is not meant for people at all. It is meant to allow the calves to grow quickly.
The weight of a calf at birth is 40 kilograms, after which it is fully grown in 2 years and weighs 600 kilograms. So you can safely say that milk is nutritious.
People have survived harsh times thanks to milk. It provided us in times when little or no food was available with the necessary proteins, fats, sugars, minerals and vitamins.
It is also said that it is unnatural to drink milk because man is the only mammal that drinks milk from another mammal. In my opinion a bit of a weird argument because a buffalo will never allow her to be milked by, for example, a lion. And how does a lion milk a buffalo? Sitting on a stool with a bucket?
From an evolutionary point of view, we do not need milk for our health at all. We lived millions of years without cow’s milk and we survived that too. But that too is not in itself an argument why milk would be bad for people.
We are also the only mammal who prepare his food by cooking it or baking it and see where that has brought us. What it comes down to is that we show more of this kind of deviant behavior as a mammalian species. That does not make it unhealthy or healthy.
Genetically speaking, however, humans are not suitable for digesting milk.
In areas where people have been drinking milk for thousands of years, studies show that we have genetically adapted to dairy products. This mainly concerns the Northern Europeans and of course the descendants in North America, Canada and Australia.
For us, drinking milk may be the most normal thing in the world. However, the fact is that most of the world’s population can not tolerate milk at all. 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant.
Lactose is a carbohydrate form which is in milk. These milk sugars consist of two simple sugars: glucose and galactose.
As a newborn, our body makes the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose from the mother’s milk.
Most Northern Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their lives and are therefore able to tolerate dairy products well.
With most world citizens, the possibility to make lactase disappears, however, as adults grow. As a result, lactose can no longer be broken down and lactose becomes intolerant.
In Northern Europe, an estimated 0% to 15% of the population is lactose intolerant. While this is more than 80% in large parts of Africa, South America and Asia!
With lactose intolerance, you suffer from digestive problems. This can translate into complaints such as:
- Abdominal cramps
- A bloated feeling
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Throwing up
The diarrhea is caused by undigested lactose which enters the small intestine. As a result, fluid is attracted to the digestive tract.
In the large intestine, intestinal bacteria ferment the lactose which causes gas formation. This gives a bloated feeling, can cause abdominal pain and provide flatulence.
The precise complaint picture differs per person and depends on how much lactose you can tolerate and how much you have eaten.
If you have lactose intolerance then you better not eat dairy or at least avoid it as much as possible.
Many people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose and, for example, tolerate fermented dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, butter and kefir.
Kefir is made by fermenting milk with kefir grains from the ‘yogurt plant’. With kefir and yogurt, the bacterial cultures live on lactose.
As a result, yogurt and especially kefir contains much less lactose than regular milk.
As a result, kefir and yogurt are often tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
Some people with lactose intolerance suffer less when they drink milk which is raw and / or comes from cows that walk around freely and eat grass.
If cows can roam freely and eat grass, this has an effect on the composition of the milk they give.
Cow’s milk allergy
A cow’s milk allergy is something other than lactose intolerance. With a cow’s milk allergy, it is not the lactose that is the culprit but a certain protein in cow’s milk.
A cow’s milk allergy mainly occurs in babies, after which they can grow over it again.
Some children and adults keep a cow’s milk allergy.
The only solution is to not eat anything that contains cow’s milk.
What is healthy about dairy
Provided you do not have lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy, dairy can contribute to your health.
I would like to point out here that dairy products have a number of negative effects on health, as a result of which I am not in favor of the structural use of dairy products. I do not believe that dairy products contribute to optimal health.
You can read about the negative effects on health dairy under ‘Conditions or diseases that are related to dairy’.
Health benefit # 1: full dairy helps against obesity
Studies show that people who consume full dairy products (such as whole milk) are less often obese than people who use low-fat dairy products.
Another study found that people who consume the most full-fat dairy had less belly fat, had lower triglyceride levels and had better insulin sensitivity.
It may sound strange to you that people who eat more fat actually suffer less from overweight.
However, fat-rich diets such as the low-carbohydrate diet and the ketogenic diet are more effective in losing weight than low-fat diets. How you can read that in my article about the low-carbohydrate diet.
Health benefit # 2: lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes
The studies mentioned under health benefit # 1 also show that people have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if full dairy is used.
However, there are also studies that show no correlation between the use of whole dairy and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
All in all, not really a convincing health benefit.
Health benefit # 3: a lot of nutritional value
Milk is nutritious. It contains 3 grams of proteins per 100 grams which contain 18 of the 22 amino acids.
Milk is also rich in calcium, vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, potassium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.
And milk contains fatty acids. Fats that are often removed after which the milk is sold as skimmed milk or used as a basis for low-fat dairy products.
This may save calories but it is less healthy. Especially in the fat component of milk are good substances.
If you drink milk, you should always opt for full milk instead of skimmed milk.
Because the milk is fattier and more calorific, it also makes for a more saturated feeling, so that you will eat less of other things.
It is a false assumption that you are getting fat from full dairy products and not from thin. It is rather the reverse thanks to the saturation you have after eating full dairy.
The fat in milk contains about 400 kinds of fatty acids, a large part of which are saturated fatty acids.
Cows that eat grass give omega 3 fatty acids and more fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin K1 and K2.
Vitamin K2 is important for your calcium metabolism and good for your heart and bones.
Vitamin K is not or hardly in skimmed dairy products!
Health benefit # 4: whole milk lowers the risk of heart attack
You might think that whole milk increases the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the saturated fatty acids.
We grew up with the idea that saturated fatty acids increase your cholesterol and thus increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In recent years, however, it has come to light that there is no scientific link between eating saturated fat and risk of a heart attack.
Why it was thought that saturated fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease comes from the Keys study from the 1960s.
In the Keys study, cherry picking was done and only the countries in the conclusions were included which confirmed the suspicion that saturated fat causes heart disease.
The way in which cows are kept determines to a large extent the composition of the milk.
A cow that can walk around in the pasture and eat grass gives milk that much more omega 3 and C.L.A. contains. These are important for the prevention of inflammation and help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
In countries where cows are examining grass, the use of whole dairy products reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and a heart attack.
A meta-study on 10 studies showed that whole milk reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Although the risk of cardiovascular disease was not significantly lower.
In another study, in which only women participated, there was an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the use of full dairy products.
In Australia, where the cows mainly eat grass and roam free, the risk of cardiovascular disease is clearly lower when people eat full dairy.
Health benefit 5: lowers blood pressure
In different areas, it appears that the milk which is given by cows which eat grass is healthier. For example, dairy products from grass-fed cows have a blood pressure lowering effect.
Conditions or diseases that are associated with dairy
Let’s start with the biggest misconception about dairy: that it is good for your bones.
# 1: Osteoporosis
Advertising campaigns of the dairy industry were and are often aimed at ensuring that milk is good for the bones. This is because of the calcium in milk.
Milk would, therefore, be important for children to be able to grow. And for anyone who is out of the growth, it would prevent fractures.
In Western countries, osteoporosis is the main cause of bone fractures among the elderly.
A deficiency of calcium causes osteoporosis. Osteoporosis means that the bones become brittle. They get a lot of holes that affect the density, structure and firmness. Someone with osteoporosis will contract a bone fracture earlier than usual.
It is absolutely true that calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis, without a doubt. And since calcium is calcium in milk, it is not such a strange idea that milk is good for the bones.
However, and now it becomes interesting, it is true that in countries where dairy consumption is the lowest, osteoporosis is least likely to occur!
And in countries such as the United States, where a lot of dairies is used, osteoporosis is the most common.
Investigating which analyzes what is eaten in a country are always a bit cunning. In the United States, people eat a lot of dairies, but they also eat other things than in Japan, for example, where little dairy is used.
For example, in Japan people eat more vegetables and fish than in the United States and less junk food. You should therefore not draw any firm conclusions from this type of research. But at least it can be called striking.
In another study, a group of more than 40,000 people between the ages of 40 and 70 was followed for 8 years. The participants who drank 2.5 glass or more milk had fractures just as often as the participants who drank no or almost no milk.
In a study carried out for 18 years among more than 72,000 women in the menopause, milk did not appear to reduce the risk of bone fractures. Vitamin D supplements were found to reduce the number of bone fractures.
Vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium
Calcium is certainly needed for the bones. The question then is how dairy products do not have the positive effect on the density of the bones that you would expect.
There are several explanations for this.
The Health Council is of the opinion that if you receive too much calcium, this can lead to a delayed bone formation and a less strong bone structure. The Health Council advises vitamin D so that calcium is better absorbed.
Another explanation is that a certain calcium-phosphorus ratio is necessary to properly absorb the calcium. Breast milk has a calcium-phosphorus ratio of 2: 1 and is an ideal ratio.
However, the ratio in cow’s milk is almost 1: 1. Therefore extra calcium is needed to adjust the ratio. Your body has calcium reserves for this, which appeals to that.
And now it comes: these calcium deposits are stored in your bones! This could, therefore, explain very well why osteoporosis is so prevalent in the countries with the highest dairy consumption. After drinking milk, your body gets calcium from the stocks in the bones to adjust the calcium-phosphorus ratio.
Osteoporosis, by the way, does not only have to do with your diet. Osteoporosis mainly occurs in women of age. After the menopause, the hormone system changes, which is partly responsible for bone loss.
Also, the use of the contraceptive pill can have a negative effect on the density of the bones.
By regularly exercising or exercising, bone decalcification can be prevented.
And to complete the confusion about milk and osteoporosis, there are also studies that show that milk is good for the bones.
The dairy industry makes good use of such research to substantiate their claim that milk is good for your bones. However, if you look a bit further, you will see that these are old and small-scale studies.
# 2: Poor calcium/magnesium balance increases the risk of thrombosis
The body needs twice as much calcium as magnesium.
Due to the consumption of a lot of calcium-rich foods such as milk, this ratio is out of balance.
If this is not compensated with magnesium-rich food, there is an increased risk of thrombosis.
Rich in magnesium are bananas, avocados, spinach, chard, black beans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, figs and dark chocolate.
# 3: increased risk of type 1 diabetes in children
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic cells. As a result, the body can no longer produce insulin, which is necessary to be able to absorb glucose from the blood.
Because the intestines of small children are still developing, lactose can be a problem.
Lactose can be absorbed by the blood and enter the bloodstream.
This can elicit a response from the immune system which in some cases may result in type 1 diabetes if the pancreas is attacked by the immune system.
In diabetes type 1 patients, therefore, it can be seen that they have antibodies against cow’s milk proteins.
Sounds perhaps far-fetched? Well no, not really. Children who drink little milk appear to have a lower risk of diabetes type 1 from studies.
This does not mean that your child will get type 1 diabetes if they drink milk or do not receive it if they do not drink milk. The chance is simply greater. 1.5 times as big to be precise.
It is generally known that you can breastfeed better and that you have to wait as long as possible with bottle-feeding.
Infants who are breastfed are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than infants who are bottle-based on cow’s milk.
# 4 low-fat dairy increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease
In Parkinson’s disease, a group of brain cells has been damaged and died. These cells can then no longer produce dopamine.
Dopamine is involved in keeping our body movements under control. People with Parkinson’s vibrate and therefore have difficulty talking. They also suffer from stiff arms and legs.
Research shows that 3 or more servings of skimmed milk per day increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease (by 34%) compared with people who consume 1 or fewer portions of dairy a day.
This study also showed that drinking one portion of milk per day increased the risk compared to one portion of skimmed milk per week.
# 5: increased risk of certain types of cancer
Dairy increases the production of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 or insulin-like growth factor).
IGF-1 is also seen as sports doping because it works the muscle strengthening.
IGF-1 also ensures organ growth and the values are highest during puberty. High IGF-1 values can have adverse effects.
Some studies suggest a correlation between prostate cancer and high IGF-1 values.
While other studies suggest a lower risk of colon cancer at high IGF-1 values.
In another large-scale study, the link between lactose and an increased risk of ovarian cancer was demonstrated.
Other studies show that it is the unnoticed lactose intolerance which increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
There are also studies in which no link is found between IGF-1 and a higher risk of cancer.
# 6: Acne
Eating dairy is associated with acne. This could be explained by the higher IGF-1 values.
# 7: endorphin is slowed down
There are exorphins in milk. These are substances that inhibit the action of endorphins. Endorphins act as a neurotransmitter. This blocks the release of serotonin and dopamine.
Other sources of exorphins are gluten, soy and spinach. Milk is not about the lactose but about the casein proteins that are responsible for exorphins.
Some people are sensitive to exorphins. Normally, the enzyme DPP-IV ensures the neutralization of exorphins.
But because the amount of gluten in the wheat has increased considerably and because milk comes from cow breeds which give a lot of A1 beta casein (more about that), some people are no longer able to neutralize the exorphins.
The result is that the action of endorphins is inhibited and thus the release of serotonin and dopamine.
This can cause all kinds of psychological complaints. Ranging from depressions, eating disorders, ADD, ADHD, attention deficits, compulsive behavior, addictions to psychoses.
# 8: milk increases the risk of mortality
A large study, which was held in Sweden, recently showed that drinking 3 or more glasses of milk per day increases the risk of premature death.
This study also showed that people who drank a lot of milk more often had bone fractures.
Also, the largest milk drinkers had higher blood levels that mark inflammation and oxidative stress.
There are suspicions that milk may play a role in the development of Crohn’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. These diseases are incurable.
The evidence that milk plays a role in the development of these diseases is not convincing and there are other factors that play a role in this.
A2 milk is currently being marketed as the healthier choice and you may already have seen it in the store.
Ordinary milk can be called A1 milk. I will explain the differences between regular milk and A2 milk.
About A2 milk is claimed to be better digestible for people with lactose intolerance.
Milk consists of 3% of proteins, 80% of which consist of casein. Casein is an important protein because your body can easily break down into essential amino acids and can use it for the synthesis of other proteins.
There are different forms of casein. Beta-casein is the second most common form and there are 13 forms of beta-casein. The most common beta caseins are A1 beta casein and A2 beta casein.
A1 beta casein comes from certain cow breeds that originate from Northern Europe. These cow breeds are held in Europe, North America and Australia. The milk of these varieties contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein. This is the ‘ordinary’ milk as you buy it in every supermarket.
Certain cows breeds (Guernsey and Jersey cows) produce milk that contains only A2 beta casein. Milk from these cows is sold as A2 milk.
Goat, horse and sheep milk also do not contain A1 beta casein.
Now there are studies which indicate that it is precisely the A1 beta casein in milk that has certain negative effects on health.
To digest A1 beta-casein, the pancreas makes an enzyme (elastase). This is released in the digestive tract BCM-7 (Betacasomorphine-7). This is a strong oxidant and opioid that is believed to be responsible for many complaints when it enters the blood.
Various studies have shown that BCM-7 is harmful to health. For example, there is a link with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, cot death, digestive problems and autism.
A recent study shows that A2 beta casein does not trigger the inflammation that triggers A1 beta casein in people with lactose intolerance.
There are still a lot of uncertainties surrounding BCM-7 and the risk of diseases and illnesses. This is because in adults no BCM-7 is found in the blood after drinking milk while this is the case in infants.
All in all, it is not entirely clear whether A2 milk is healthy or not. Studies indicate that it is better for you than A1 milk. In doing so, you have to take into account that some studies are (in) directly financed by companies that put A2 on the market.
Alternatives for milk
After reading this article it may be clear that milk is not exactly healthy for you and that you do not need it to be healthy.
Even the most important argument (that it is good for your bones) to drink milk does not stand up. Research shows that in countries where most milk is consumed, the population most often has bone fractures.
Calcium can get better from legumes, vegetables and nuts. This is better absorbed by your body and provides a better calcium-magnesium balance.
In general, you can conclude that drinking a lot of milk involves risks to your health, especially drinking low-fat milk.
If you use dairy products, you can use the full dairy-fed cows, where you limit yourself to 1 glass per day. The fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat of the milk and many health problems occur in people who drink a lot of milk.
If you want to use less dairy or no dairy at all, you will have to look for alternatives. And despite the large supply of vegetable milk replacers that you find in the supermarket, that is not that easy either.
A major disadvantage of many vegetable milk replacers is that sugars are often added.
If you choose a soy drink with a flavor then there are5.9 grams of sugar per 100 ml. With 3 glasses a day that is good for no less than 35 grams of sugar per day. The profit that you achieve for your health by replacing milk for a vegetable variant is then canceled out by all the sugar that you get with it.
Fortunately, you can also buy unsweetened soy drink.
This is the best option if you want to use soymilk, so you avoid arriving because you get extra sugars unnoticed.
You may have noticed that I am talking about almond drink and not about almond milk. This is because since recently only milk from cows and goats can be called milk.
The disadvantage of rice drink is that it does not contain proteins. So you can not use the proteins that you normally replace with milk. Rijstdrink is not suitable for children younger than 5 years because in rice drink the poison arsenic can occur.
Nut drinks such as almond drink contain small amounts of fiber and good fatty acids. You should not expect too much from this. For a pack of almond drink, 3 to 9 almonds are used. It therefore also contains few proteins.
Oatdrink gives you the necessary dietary fiber. This helps you keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. Also in oatdrink are hardly any proteins.
Coconut drink is made from water in which a small amount of coconut milk is dissolved. Coconut drink has the taste of coconut that you must keep. Coconut drink also contains few proteins.
For all plant-based milk replacements, you should carefully read the ingredient list. Sugar is often added. Unless you have to arrive you can therefore best go for the unsweetened varieties.
Another alternative for cow’s milk or dairy is goat’s milk, goat’s yogurt and goat’s cheese.
The advantage of goat milk is that it is easier to digest than cows milk and less often gives gastrointestinal complaints.
It also contains less lactose so that it is better tolerated for people with lactose intolerance.
Another advantage of goat milk is that it does not contain A1 beta casein.
It also contains less lactose so that it is better tolerated for people with lactose intolerance.
Another advantage of goat milk is that it does not contain A1 beta casein.
A1 beta-casein is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, cot death, psychomotor development, digestive problems and autism (under the heading A2 milk it’s discussed already).
A1 beta-casein can also cause digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, leaky bowel syndrome, acne, eczema and autoimmune diseases such as colitis and perhaps even Crohn’s disease.
Because goat milk does not contain A1 beta-casein, it can also be drunk by people with cow’s milk allergy.
The minerals, fatty acids, proteins and vitamins from goat’s milk are also better absorbed by the body than from cow’s milk.
All goat milk then? Indeed, it seems that goat milk could be a nice alternative to cow’s milk.
The effects of goat milk on health have been examined less well than the effects of cow’s milk on health. Although cow’s milk is drunk most in the western world, goat’s milk is drunk in other parts of the world.
If you do not want to use any dairy products at all, you might want to be advised by a dietitian. By having your diet and lifestyle checked against the light, you can check whether you do not have a shortage of, for example, vitamin B12 or proteins.
Dairy and the Disc of Five
People who are consciously occupied with their health have known for a long time that they should not indiscriminately accept everything that the Nutrition Center preaches. Another part of the population is following the advice of the National Nutrition Center. And then you still have the people who just eat what they like.
What the Nutrition Center preaches I find quite worrying. This is because a part of the population applies the recommendations properly because they trust that the Nutrition Center has done thorough research.
The Nutrition Center recommends 450 to 650 ml dairy per day – depending on age and gender. It is advised to opt for lean variants because of the saturated fatty acids in the full variants. This is, to put it mildly, a curious opinion because studies show that the lean dairy alternatives are the greatest risks to health.
And that saturated fatty acids are bad has also long been outdated.
And the advice to include milk at all in the Schijf van Vijf also makes me frown. If you have read this article carefully then I do not have to explain why.
Important: Leave your reaction and any additions below.
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