In science and research, multiple groups of scientists work on different facets of the same problem. While some researchers may focus on the benefits of dairy, others may report the harm in consuming it. This isn’t to say that dairy is definitively good or bad, nor does it mean that different research groups have different interests. It simply means that dairy is both good and bad.
In other words, how dairy affects us depends on our body. That said, most research done on dairy consumption points to the beneficial effects of dairy and dismisses the harmful claims. Let’s look at the pros and cons of dairy consumption in detail.
1. Dairy Products Provide Vitamin D
Apart from sunlight exposure, dairy products are the only other significant sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D serves several functions: it can increase calcium absorption in the body, keep our bones strong, and improve the symptoms of depression.1 2
Even though milk may not be considered a significant source of calcium, it is considered to be a good source of vitamin D along with other dairy products.3
2. Dairy Helps You Lose Weight
As compared to the consumption of other drinks and beverages such as soda and canned juices, dairy consumption may help people lose weight. While any healthy food would serve the same purpose, the protein in dairy also keeps us full for longer and has the potential to reduce cravings. A small amount of weight loss has been reported in people who consume dairy frequently.4
3. Dairy Doesn’t Increase Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Those who oppose the use and consumption of dairy products claim that butter, cheese, and ghee can increase cholesterol in the body and lead to heart disease. However, we must remember that a lack of exercise also plays a significant role in how these foods are metabolized.5 So, dairy alone cannot be blamed for bad heart health. Any foods that cause an increase in free cholesterol, especially when the individual does not work out enough, poses the same dangers.
4. Dairy Might Not Be Bad For Lactose Intolerance
People with lactose intolerance often avoid all milk and milk products to avoid triggering gastrointestinal symptoms. However, even these individuals can tolerate some amounts of fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Hence, dairy may not be completely bad for this subset.6
Fortified plant milk is usually used as a substitute for dairy products. However, the benefits of using plant milk exclusively have not been studied in depth in humans.7
5. Dairy Might Reduce The Risk Of Cancer
In a hotly debated discussion, some dairy opponents suggest that milk consumption is linked to the development of breast and prostate cancers. This is because bovine milk contains insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a hormone that acts as a growth factor on the body and causes uncontrolled cell growth or cancer.8
However, other independent studies have found that there is no link between the development of most forms of cancer and milk. For other forms such as colorectal, bladder, and gastric cancers, milk consumption has actually helped lower their risk!9
6. Dairy Can Reduce Childhood Obesity
We are yet to come across a child who readily drinks a glass of milk. However, once they have been weaned off breastmilk after the prescribed time period, dairy products and milk are the best way to help increase bone mineral density in children and reduce cases of childhood obesity. Milk is considered to be a complete food as it contains a host of other vitamins and minerals and is essential for the growth and development of children.10
Additionally, it is important to discuss the potential harm in consuming “industrialized” dairy. Natural cow’s milk is not available in sufficient quantities to feed the face of the earth. Hence, these animals are often injected with hormones to fool their bodies into lactation and often experience several inhuman conditions. Some of these hormones also may make it into the milk we consume and cause unknown effects in the human body. So, milk from local milk producers who encourage grass-fed cow rearing is a healthier option, both for us and the animals.
|↑1||Grant, William B., and Michael F. Holick. “Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review.” Altern Med Rev 10, no. 2 (2005): 94-111.|
|↑2||Jorde, R., Sneve, M., Figenschau, Y, et al., Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med, 2008. 264(6): p. 599-609.|
|↑3||Lanou AJ, Berkow SE, Barnard ND. Calcium, dairy products, and bone health in children and young adults: a reevaluation of the evidence. Pediatrics. 2005;115:736–743.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑6||Rozenberg, Serge, Jean-Jacques Body, Olivier Bruyere, Pierre Bergmann, Maria Luisa Brandi, Cyrus Cooper, Jean-Pierre Devogelaer et al. “Effects of dairy products consumption on health: benefits and beliefs—a commentary from the Belgian Bone Club and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases.” Calcified tissue international 98, no. 1 (2016): 1-17.|
|↑7, ↑9, ↑10||Thorning, Tanja Kongerslev, Anne Raben, Tine Tholstrup, Sabita S. Soedamah-Muthu, Ian Givens, and Arne Astrup. “Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence.” Food & nutrition research 60, no. 1 (2016): 32527.|
|↑8||Koh, K. A., H. D. Sesso, R. S. Paffenbarger Jr, and I. M. Lee. “Dairy products, calcium and prostate cancer risk.” British Journal of Cancer 95, no. 11 (2006): 1582.|