THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DAIRY

Utsav Agrawal
Utsav Agrawal

 | 1 minute to read
Nutrition

In this age of outrage and WhatsApp forwards masquerading as the truth, there’s one argument that refuses to die down: should humans consume dairy?

This is one of those hot-button topics that elicits strong emotions and even causes altercations between people. Don’t believe me? Check YouTube. With so much already being said on the subject, I’ve decided to jump in the fray with something really unprecedented: the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts. Let’s lay these myths to rest, once and for all! THE MYTHS #1: We Are The Only Species That Consumes The Milk Of Another Animal I assume I'm not the only one who's heard this vague statement being put forward by proponents of the “No Dairy” movement. This is a myth and 100% incorrect and here’s why: As part of a census study, researchers tagged various northern elephant seals at Playa Norte, Isla de Guadalupe. During this process, they observed feral cats and western gulls opportunistically stealing milk from elephant seals. Nevertheless, it would be unwise (maybe even idiotic) to structure our eating habits on that of other animals. After all, animals such as chimps, dogs, rabbits, and dung beetles have been observed eating their own faeces as well as that of other animals. I’m sure no thinking human would ever consider doing such a thing! #2: Drinking Milk Isn't Natural. The natural food movement claims that humans should not eat anything “unnatural”, viz. factory-produced or processed food of any kind. Firstly, there is no objective definition of what "natural" food is. Besides, just because something isn't quote-unquote natural doesn't mean that it isn’t beneficial for human use and consumption. For example, human-made antibiotics have the potential to save lives in the right situations, despite the fact they are not "natural." Inversely, apple seeds are as "natural" as they get, but if you ate enough of them (hundreds), you could die. Apple seeds are covered with amygdalin, which, when chewed and digested, degrades into hydrogen cyanide which is exceptionally lethal at high doses. Just because something is "natural" doesn't necessarily make it good or bad. #3: Dairy Causes Inflammation “Inflammation” - the favourite buzzword of every social media fitness influencer. But what is inflammation? Inflammation is an entirely rational response to a nutritional insult or an acute/chronic injury; it's the body's way of eliciting an immune system response in order to promote healing and recovery. Sadly, the term is thrown around to create fear and make someone ditch dairy! The research is very clear: studies have shown that dairy has pronounced anti-inflammatory properties and humans, unless they are allergic to milk, can safely consume it. Fermented dairy products such as kefir and certain types of cheese, in particular, are good. In fact, dairy consumption has been shown to create an even greater anti-inflammatory response in people with metabolic disorders. To further illustrate the point, a systematic review was carried out of over fifteen randomized controlled trials over the past five years. It looked at specific markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, various cytokines and other blood markers of inflammation. The study clearly shows that the consumption of milk or dairy products does not create a pro-inflammatory effect in healthy subjects or individuals with metabolic disorders; the majority of studies documented a significant anti-inflammatory effect in both healthy and metabolically abnormal subjects. #4: Dairy Causes Cancer Now before anyone objects to this discussion, let me clarify that I am not advocating the addition or elimination of something from your diet. I am also not saying that you should not follow standard medical practices (yes, people do this on social media). Cancer is a devastating disease, and you should 100% consult a certified medical practitioner for medical treatment. What I am doing is merely presenting the science in a clear and digestible manner. When it comes to the research on dairy and its associations with cancer, the outcomes favour the consumption of dairy. A review looked at the evidence from meta-analyses (the study of studies), observational studies and randomized controlled trials with the aim of assessing the scientific evidence on dairy and its association with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, all-cause mortality, etc. About dairy and its impact on cancer, the review found neutral and even positive effects on pancreatic cancer, ovarian lung cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer. The only negative outcome was prostate cancer, and even this was neutral to adverse depending on the data set that you were observing. However, when you take averages amongst various populations, dairy appears to benefit people. Now, these associations could perhaps be entirely correlational; the truth is we don't know and we may never know for sure. But I am confident that a social media influencer isn’t your best source for advice. #5: I Cut Out Dairy, And I Feel So Much Better A staple argument of the non-dairy movement. While there is some credibility to the statement, I would argue that it doesn't stem directly from the complete abstinence of dairy products. Comments such as this make it sound as if there was only one reason for feeling better, whereas in reality, there can be multiple reasons why you’re "feeling better," For example, some dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, butter, etc. are rather high in calories, so it is possible that when someone chooses to eliminate dairy, they also significantly reduce their calories intake. As a result, they lose weight and "feel better." Furthermore, when someone decides to eliminate certain foods from their diet, their goal typically is weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. This elimination is usually accompanied by many other healthy habits such as exercising, limiting alcohol intake, limiting sugar intake, sleeping more, perhaps quitting smoking, etc. These additional variables can also play a role on someone's physical and mental well-being and make them “feel good". Lastly - and don't overlook this one - there is the placebo effect. People have a false perception that dairy is "bad", so when they eliminate it, they think they’re ditching a bad habit. No matter the reason, unless you are lactose intolerant, merely the absence of dairy alone isn’t the reason you "feel better." #6: Funding Bias I agree that there are some negative practices within the scientific community. In full transparency, I did cite studies that were funded by segments of the dairy industry, but this doesn't discredit the research. Typically if there is a conflict of interest or bias within an area of research, the results won't be reproducible; this is not the case with dairy consumption. There have been dozens of privately funded studies that have shown that there are no adverse health associations for people that consume dairy and many other studies that have shown a positive health association for people that do. #7: What About Lactose Intolerance? According to many sources, around 65% of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose (the sugar found in milk). This doesn't mean you are completely intolerant. There may be a dependent dose-response as to how much lactose you can assimilate at a given time. This "intolerance" is highly correlated to ancestry, as it is most common amongst Asians and least prevalent amongst Europeans. I am noting this lactose intolerance in populations because it is typical to see anti-dairy cults use this as ammunition to support their bias and falsities. It is essential to monitor your response to the different kinds of dairy you consume and observe if you have a limiting factor when it comes to dairy consumption. Moreover, many dairy sources are nearly or entirely lactose-free, such as whey, cheese, butter, ghee, cream, some yogurts, etc. You can get tested to see if you are lactose intolerant or to what degree you are intolerant. This test should be conducted by an allergist via a skin prick test or an oral food challenge, NOT by an idiot on social media manifesting generic symptoms to sell their program. If you think you have an intolerance, then get tested; the more you know, the better you can adjust your diet and dairy sources to work for you. Now that we’ve busted these myths, let’s examine the reasons why it could be a good idea to include dairy in your diet. Reason 1: Dairy Is Highly Satiating The hallmark of a practical, sustainable diet is its ability to keep you satiated while you are mostly under-eating, which is precisely what you do on a diet. . Research supports the fact that protein, which is high in many dairy products, is a very satiating macronutrient and people who consume high protein diets (0.7-1.2g/lbs BW) on average are leaner, have more lean body mass (LBM) and show improved health biomarkers such as blood pressure and blood lipids. Dairy also falls in this category of providing satiating effects. In a randomized controlled trial exploring appetite control during weight loss, groups were given a milk-based supplement or an iso-energetic (matched Calories) placebo supplement. Measurements of various appetite regulatory hormones such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin were measured, and it was found that while both groups lost weight, the group consuming the milk-based supplement showed a lower-than-predicted decrease in fullness and a smaller increase in the desire to eat as well as overall hunger. Let’s look at another example: one study demonstrated that consuming yogurt snacks containing a high amount of whey (a protein found in dairy) resulted in people eating 200 calories less at lunch, as compared to people eating a lower protein yogurt. At the end of the day, if you're not satiated while eating less, your diet will ultimately fail. In this regard, dairy provides a significant benefit. Reason 2: People That Consume Dairy Have Better Health Outcomes This one is true and supported by a plethora of research. A meta-analysis looking at 29 reviews found no associations in all-cause mortality or heart disease for people consuming dairy. On the contrary, it showed that fermented dairy could be preventative when it comes to cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, research shows that people who consume dairy are leaner, have more lean body mass, and have better health outcomes than people that don't. One study even showed that dairy improved bone health and lean mass gain when dieting and calories were restricted. The simple fact is that people who consume dairy are, on average, "more healthy" than people that don't; the multitude of studies and decades of research demonstrate this. This is not to say that if you choose not to consume dairy, then there is something inherently unhealthy about it. I’m merely saying that when you look at averages amongst populations, people that consume dairy show correlations to better health and body composition. Parting Thoughts I hope the information in this article is enough to change the narrative on dairy consumption or, perhaps, change what you previously thought to be accurate or untrue. As I've stated, people have a need to belong, to feel that they are a part of a larger community. We're all humans with very tribal instincts at the end of the day. That said, with the proliferation of social media, some people have found a platform for spreading wrong information and strengthening their cult-like ideology. It is no mystery why such false stigmas exist about dairy and its consumption. After reading the research, if you still don't want to consume dairy for ethical reasons, intolerance reasons or any other reasons, that's completely fine. But for the rest, the abundance of evidence which shows that dairy consumption has a positive impact on health may be reason enough to pour some milk into a glass every morning instead of a latte. Cheers to your health! Reference- 1.http://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=402336261005 2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036282/ 3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21205360 4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26394259 5.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2014.967385?scroll=top&needAccess=true& 6.https://academic.oup.com/advances/article-abstract/10/suppl_2/S239/5489433 7.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27882862 8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28374228 9.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23075559/?fbclid=IwAR1A9CcI_twokxT_Mh5h6BWk6Hs_H036TLgIP6D9uOuBEu4jAVC3JUj_d2o 10.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22301838/?fbclid=IwAR0SwVQeJxwoJNzKbcdBslcfatpmxshKjxXQAB7oisyzQgxY9gW4EhOgOfQ 11.https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/?fbclid=IwAR34peFpbY7Nz4PvQbzREpR3WtY0bxKv_e_ACyN9N4pZtCARYEys6D9NKE4 12.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26378576

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