Milk is one of the most consumed foods in the world, but it is also object of research and discussion. Doctors, nutritionists and scientists around the world have been trying to answer the question: is drinking milk bad or healthy? And why is milk such a controversial subject?
Undoubtedly milk is a very precious food. Rich in nutrients, milk is essential for children, and not only for them! Within a well-balanced diet, this complete and healthy food may be very helpful in order to maintain good health.
Why is drinking milk healthy?
#1 – Milk helps prevent osteoporosis in adulthood
It is so thanks to the presence of large amounts of high-quality calcium, which gets absorbed more quickly than the type of calcium you may find in other foods. The proper calcium intake is very important, because it prevents bone fractures caused by mineral deficiency.
Definitely there are other calcium sources, such as broccoli, beans, poppy and chia seeds, though they can’t fully replace milk calcium.
#2 – Milk is a valuable source of protein and vitamins
Research was carried out in Harvard Medical School, which confirmed that not only milk and dairy products are important sources of calcium, but they are also loaded with protein, potassium and vitamins, such as vitamin E, K and C, folate and vitamin B9.
Milk contains all of the 20 amino acids, which promote protein synthesis in our body; this is the reason why it is so hard for vegetable protein (legumes and seeds) to compensate for them. These amino acids work as mineral carriers, such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
#3 – Milk helps prevent the onset of cancer
Research has shown the nexus between milk consumption and the reduced risk of developing colon cancer (which is one of the most spread type of cancer in modern society) and bladder cancer.
Evidence has been collected showing milk may also prevent breast cancer in women older than 45, because of the presence of calcium and vitamin D.
#4 – Milk is a valuable source of energy
Milk contains lactose – a ready-to-use saccharide as a source of energy in our body. Additionally, lactose is essential for nervous tissue development in the early months of our life.
#5 – Milk helps growing up
If assumed at an early age (children from 10 to 60 months), milk promotes growing taller. In this case it is not just thanks to milk protein, but also to the presence of the IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), a growth regulator, which is found in large amounts in individuals who often drink milk.
When and why is drinking milk bad to our health?
Professor Karl Michaelsson, from Uppsala University (Sweden), carried out research which has shown high milk consume doesn’t decrease bone fracture risk, and it may even increase death rate. It is true milk is packed with calcium, though it is also loaded with fat, which promotes inflammation and an increase in the heart disease risk.
The Swedish team tested 61.433 women between 39 and 74, and 45.339 men between 45 and 79. In 20 years of research, 15.542 women died and 17.252 had bone fractures. As concerns men, in 10 years 10.112 died and 5.066 had at least one bone fracture. Among those who had died and had had bone fractures there were more milk “enthusiasts”.
According to this research study, drinking too much milk (which is also rich in lactose) may increase oxidative stress, which in turn increases the bone fracture risk.
Does milk make you age faster?
Swedish research has also proved that the antioxidant properties of certain foods are reduced to zero if such foods and milk are matched together. For instance, there is no point in drinking green tea or eating berries (both being extremely rich in antioxidants), if you then add milk or cream. Your taste will probably be satisfied, but your health won’t benefit from such a combination.
Can drinking milk make you ill?
It has been shown that drinking large amounts of milk may increase the risk to develop diabetes and heart diseases. According to recent research, individuals who drink more than one and a half liter of milk a day prove to be more vulnerable to ovary and prostate cancer. Women who have had breast cancer before, should avoid drinking milk.
What is more, there are lots of individuals who are intolerant to lactose, which causes such symptoms as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal cramps.
How much milk is ok to drink and how much is bad?
As with any other food, if you love milk, the golden rule is moderation. Even though we might have heard “three glasses of milk a day keep the doctor (orthopedic) away”, one or two glasses of milk or yoghurt a day are just the right requirements.
On the contrary, if you wish to increase the intake of milk and dairy products, it is advisable to choose skimmed or semi-skimmed products, with reduced fat contents, yet containing the right amount of calcium.
As concerns individuals who are intolerant to lactose, luckily there are different brands of lactose-free milk. If you are slightly intolerant to lactose, you may want to eat yoghurt instead (rich in bacteria that digest sugar), or hard cheese, which contains less lactose than milk. Parmigiano Reggiano, for instance, is lactose-free and perfect for children and intollerant people.
Considering everything you have just read above, the answer to the question “is drinking milk bad or healthy” largely depends on how much milk we drink every day. Drinking milk (if you are not intolerant and don’t have other health disorders) may definitely be good for your health, provided that you don’t drink too much of it, especially in adulthood.
Resources and studies to refer to:
- Insufficient milk supply and breast cancer risk: a systematic review.
- Clinical applications of bioactive milk components.
- Milk nutritional composition and its role in human health.
- Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies
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