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The trouble with dairy

Some myths about dairy products and calcium in health and disease

Should you consume a lot of dairy products?

Many experts say no!

Some important health issues with dairy products

  • Calcium
    • People drink milk or eat cheese because they are convinced that a high intake of calcium is important for bone health.

      Well, an optimal intake is necessary but a high intake is not necessary. In fact the huge Nurses' Health Study of around 122,000 individuals, funded by the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and overseen by the Harvard University School of Public Health, found that "individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week"
      Link: The Nutrition Source [Harvard University]
      There are other critical components and these include Vitamin D, Vitamin K, getting an optimal amount of protein but not too much, getting enough Vitamin A but not too much, getting the right amount of calcium but not too much.

      The amounts recommended for daily calcium intakes are:

      1,000 milligrams/day for those age 19 to 50
      1,200 milligrams/day for those age 50 or over

      For other age groups and pregnancy see:
      Linus Pauling Institute: Calcium
  • Glycemic Index [GI] & Insulin Response Dissociation
    • The glycemic index of milk or skim milk is low at around 30. However, the insulin response is greatly exaggerated in relation to the glycemic index. Most foods have a fairly predictable insulin response but not milk.
    • This hyperinsulinaemic response may put the type-2 diabetic at risk --- why? The concern is Pancreatic Exhaustion or as the American's call it Beta-Cell Burnout.

      The beta cells of the pancreas which produce insulin in response to elevations in blood glucose [blood sugar], seems to have a finite amount which can run out. This heavy demand for insulin caused by milk proteins [not fat] - [Hoyt et al 2005], may just speed up insulin depletion in these cells making this individual insulin dependent from then on.

  • Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 [IGF-1: A Cancer Risk
    • IGF-1 is a powerful growth factor that is produced in the liver by the stimulation of growth hormone [GH]. Growth hormone is produced by the anterior pituitary gland at the base of the brain.
    • IGF-1 not only has a powerful effect on cell proliferation but also is a potent inhibitor of programmed cell death [apoptosis]. What this means is that damaged cells may live longer and perhaps undertake cancerous change due to the action of IGF-1.
    • Insulin and IGF-1 have a close relationship and the following free tutorial describes how insulin can increase IGF-1 receptors in the the tissues of the body. See Tutorial: IGF-1
    • The exaggerated insulin response to both whole and skim milk is a cause for concern with regard to IGF-1 action.
    • High insulin levels have been associated with many cancers with compelling evidence with regard to breast cancer but also to prostate and bowel cancer.
  • Chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis: An Osteoporosis & Muscle Loss risk 
    • Your body needs to keep itself within very narrow pH limits.
    • The Nobel Laureate, Albert Szent-Gyögyi, the discoverer of vitamic C noted:
      "The body is alkaline by design but acidic by function."
      What this means is that the body's metabolic and food processing functions, is geared to produce vast quantities of organic acids in the body.
    • This concept has great scientific validity extending back a century in the medical literature but more recently to the work of Remer an Manz and the understanding of Potential Renal Acid Load [PRAL]20.
      This is explained further in the following free tutorial: Acid Alkali Foods
    • Dairy products create high acidic loads in the body from mildly acidic milk to highly acidic hard cheese like cheddar and softer cheeses like mozzarella and camembert providing very high acid loads that the body needs to neutralize.
    • A balanced diet that included a high intake of fruits and vegetables providing the organic minerals --- in particular potassium, magnesium and calcium, would help to neutralize this acid load.
    • However, around 90% of the Australian population have fewer than 3 servings of vegetables and fruit and consume large quantities of acid forming grain and animal flesh foods.
    • If dairy products are consumed in small quantities and with other highly alkaline foods, then there should be no problem with bone and muscle loss.

  • High calcium intake and the risk of prostate cancer.
    • From the Harvard School of Public Health [HSPH]:
      "In a Harvard study of male health professionals, men who drank two or more glasses of milk a day were almost twice as likely to develop advanced prostate cancer as those who didn't drink milk at all16."
    • In a follow-up study of the large male Health Professionals Follow-up Study21 it was shown that:
      "men with the highest calcium intake—at least 2,000 milligrams a day—had nearly double the risk of developing fatal prostate cancer as those who had the lowest intake (less than 500 milligrams per day)."
      Dairy & Prostate Cancer HSPH
  • High lactose intake and ovarian cancer
    • In a pooled analysis of over 500,000 women18, it was found that women with lactose intakes equivalent to about 3 glasses of milk, had a modestly increased risk of ovarian cancer. This is thought to be due to galactose, a sugar released from lactose digestion. Lactose is also known as 'milk sugar' and is a disaccharide meaning it is made up of two sugar molecules --- glucose and
  • Hormones in dairy --- possible hormone cancer risk
    • As one article on the hypothetical risk of dairy and the risk of hormone sensitive tumours states:
      "The continued increase in incidence of some hormone-related cancers worldwide is of great concern. Although estrogen-like substances in the environment were blamed for this increase, the possible role of endogenous estrogens from food has not been widely discussed. We are particularly concerned about cows’ milk, which contains a considerable quantity of estrogens. When we name cows’ milk as one of the important routes of human exposure to estrogens, the general response of Western people is that “man has been drinking cows’ milk for around 2000 years without apparent harm.” However, the milk that we are now consuming is quite different from that consumed 100 years ago. Unlike their pasture-fed counterparts of 100 years ago, modern dairy cows are usually pregnant and continue to lactate during the latter half of pregnancy, when the concentration of estrogens in blood, and hence in milk, increases17."
    • The other driver of cancer is the exaggerated insulin response to milk products and the Insulin-IGF-1 link described above. Many cancers lay in a dormant state and factors like these may just be the match that lights the fire to make these cells undergo malignant change.
  • Saturated fat in dairy and cardiovascular risk
    • There is a significant amount of saturated fat in dairy products and this is a cardiovascular risk.
    • The Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health (OmniHeart) is a randomized trial that showed the benefit of replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with a diet lower in carbohydrates and an increase in unsaturated fats that were predominantly monuunsaturated fats could lower blood pressure, improve lipid [fat] levels in the blood and could decrease the estimated risk for cardiovascular disease19.
    • The importance of reducing saturated and trans fats in the diet is reinforced in Harvard's Nutrition Source article on Fats & Cholesterol --- this link also describes the OmniHeart trial mentioned above.

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