Is Milk Good For You?
Probably one of the most controversial topics of recent years is if milk, and other dairy products, are good for your health and fitness goals, or just even if they are safe to consume for humans!.
Today we review the literature and research, and there is a lot of it about dairy, says about safety for human consumption, intolerance, and if you choose to include them in your diet if they can benefit or harm your weight loss goals.
Is Dairy safe to consume by humans? The neverending complexity of an answer we can’t find.
There have been a lot of controversies and a lot of detractors of milk consumption have a wide variety of claims against milk and dairy products. Ranging from a very high-fat content, relation to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Not to mention lactose intolerance and a bunch of gastric symptoms.
But there are a lot of things to take into consideration here. Is all milk bad? There are a lot of different products around the world that have some form of milk from many different animals: Goat milk, Buffalo milk mozzarella, yak butter, fermented horse milk, etc. Milk is basically a compound of proteins, sugars, minerals, vitamins and water, and fats and the proportions of all of these vary depending on the animal and on the way it was fed and raised, so to add a bit more to the complexity of this topic: not all kinds of milk are equal and not all milk products are the same.
And not to mention the differences between different products derived from milk, different types of yogurts, cheeses, low-fat milk, low lactose milk, whey protein, casein protein, etc. Add so much complexity to the subject that there are no definitive answers as to whether all types of dairy are harmful or beneficial to every single person.
However, there is no discussion of all the nutritious content of dairy that can be obtained from adding it to our diet, provided that it doesn’t cause more harm than good depending on our individual digestion.
To add one more layer to this whole puzzle, the individual characteristics of every person’s digestive system and gut biome which make it completely safe for some and really hard to digest for others. However, for people who don’t have a specific intolerance to dairy research shows that most of these claims might not be as scary or true as we might believe:
Cardiovascular disease: Recent research fails to find a significant and clear association between regular consumption of dairy and cardiovascular disease or stroke
Hormones in milk: yes there are some hormones in milk, after all, it comes from an animal that was pregnant, that we ingest when consuming dairy products, however studies made in rats with much higher doses show no increase and showed no increment in estrogen in the blood. This is because the liver does great work at breaking down these hormones. Some further study in humans is needed, however.
Cancer: research in humans has not found enough evidence of an association between estrogens in milk and cancer incidence or recurrence.
Gut and digestive issues: some people simply have issues digesting and processing dairy. In this population, symptoms can vary from mild digestive issues to compromise of the immune system, inflammation, skin rashes, etc. So observation and caution are always good to determine how dairy, or any other food or supplement, affects your individual organism and make adjustments accordingly.
It is important to note that most of the research done, either in favor or against dairy consumption, is observational and not under controlled double-blinded conditions so they should always be taken with a grain of salt and are not definitive for all people.
Research shows that actually there can be several health benefits to the consumption of diverse dairy products, in people that have no intolerance:
Some dairy products are highly pre and probiotics like kefir, yogurt, kumis, and others have an abundant supply of probiotic organisms,), bioactive lipids (produced by the probiotic organisms)
lower levels of lactose and sugar (since the bacteria digest the sugars), a protein that is easier to digest, and higher quantities of vitamins and other great nutrients
Nutrients in milk, like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D can help improve or maintain bone health. Although it is by no means necessary to ensure strong healthy bones, there are plenty of other ways to get all the same nutrients from other foods, supplements, exercise, and sun exposure
Dairy and Weight Loss
Let’s start by remembering the number one rule for weight loss that can not be avoided, and everything we try to do to achieve weight loss has to comply with this rule: Caloric Deficit. Which basically means, burning more calories than you’re consuming.
And dairy can be a good tool to achieve this for a few reasons:
High-quality content of Proteins like whey and casein.
Satiating effect due to the protein content
High vitamin and nutrient content
High levels of probiotic bacteria which are beneficial for gut health
There are many dairy products with low caloric content, low-fat content, and high protein content
So all of these resumes into a positive effect on health and body composition for individuals that have no issue digesting dairy or that have found products that they can consume without any digestive or health issues, and that the consumption is in moderation maintaining the caloric deficit.
Takeaways and Practical Advice
Do some research on different dairy products, their content, and which ones can be beneficial to your individual digestive system and to your health and fitness goals. And always read labels in products to see the content of sugars, fat, and other elements that you might not want to consume.
Milk can definitely be a bit more helpful to people trying to gain some weight and muscle mass due to the high-calorie content. For weight loss, other dairy products low in fat and calories are recommended.
Listen to your body and experiment! Try some of the dairy products mentioned or others you can find and see the effect they have on you. If they cause gastric distress or other unwanted effects on your health then you can either try different products or just live with dairy altogether. There are plenty of other nutritious foods to try. If on the other hand no negative effects appear and you enjoy them, keep them as a staple in your diet.
As always moderation is the key here, consuming dairy products sporadically in appropriate portions and assessing the effects on your body.
Always see the big picture and keep a good perspective, a single food or supplement can not make up for an overall poor diet and is only one piece of the whole puzzle. Always focus on nutrition that includes a great variety of wholesome, nutritious, and delicious food, that makes you feel great and strong.