Dairy sparks controversy! Some claim that pasteurised, low-fat dairy is healthy and should be consumed two to three times per day , while others say that raw, full-fat dairy is a health food . Some, however, insist on no dairy at all . It is a complicated area!
Below is an overview of some issues to consider when deciding whether or not dairy is right for you and, if so, which type.
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Calorie for calorie, whole milk is actually quite nutritious. It contains a little bit of almost everything we need. Milk contains all the proteins, fatty acids and micronutrients needed to nurture a growing calf:
A single cup (244 grams) of milk contains :
• Calcium: 276mg (28% of the RDA).
• Vitamin D: 24% of the RDA.
• Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDA.
• Vitamin B12: 18% of the RDA.
• Potassium: 10% of the RDA.
• Phosphorus: 22% of the RDA.
• It also contains decent amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamins B1 and B6, Selenium, Zinc and Magnesium.
Given that human muscles, cells and organs are similar to a calf’s, it makes sense that dairy products are also a good source of nutrients for humans.
According to Dr. Willett, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on this topic, there are many reasons to pass on milk.
– Epidemiological studies of various countries show a strong correlation between the use of dairy products and the incidence of insulin dependent diabetes for infants and adults [5,6,7]. Researchers in 1992 found that a specific dairy protein sparks an auto-immune reaction, which is believed to be what destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
– Milk is touted for preventing osteoporosis, yet clinical research shows otherwise. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study  which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.
In fact, increased intake of calcium from dairy products was associated with a higher fracture risk. An Australian study  showed the same results. Additionally, other studies [10,11] have also found no protective effect of dairy calcium on bone. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
– One of the proteins found in dairy that weakens the immune system is casein. The study suggests that red meat and dairy products contain a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. Human cells absorb this compound, and over time the body produces antibodies against it.
After years of ingesting milk and meat, constant antibody production may trigger a mild, but continuous inflammatory immune response. Each person responds differently to the compound, says molecular biologist Ajit Varki. If you have cold symptoms or sinusitis, dairy won’t produce more phlegm, but drinking milk may make phlegm thicker and more irritating to your throat than it would normally be.
The whey protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA), is the suspected milk protein trigger of an autoimmune response  in genetically susceptible individuals and could be a problem for people with Hashimoto Thyroiditis, RA and PsA causing inflammation in the body.
– A potent link to dairy seems to exist for three hormone-responsive glands. Acne, breast cancer and prostate cancer  have all been linked epidemiologically to dairy intake.
Although mechanisms postulated here remain to be accurately defined, the likely link involves Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 as a general stimulant, synergized by the steroid hormones present in milk. High levels of galactose, a sugar released by the digestion of lactose in milk, have been studied as possibly damaging to the ovaries and leading to ovarian cancer, although more research still needed .
Some researchers have hypothesized, however, that modern industrial milk production practices have changed milk’s hormone composition in ways that could increase the risk of ovarian and other hormone-related cancers.
– Contaminants and Processing Is the Problem. Synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk  which increase in an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in the milk. Because the cows are producing quantities of milk nature never intended, the end result is mastitis or inflammation of the mammary glands.
The treatment requires the use of antibiotics, and traces of these and hormones have been found in samples of milk and other dairy products. Pesticides and other drugs are also frequent contaminants of dairy products. Pasteurisation used in commercially produced milk destroys valuable enzymes (lactase for the assimilation of lactose; galactase for the assimilation of galactose; phosphatase for the assimilation of calcium).
Without them, milk is very difficult to digest. The human pancreas is not always able to produce these enzymes; over-stress of the pancreas can lead to diabetes and other diseases.
In the beginning
From an evolutionary point of view, milk is a strange food for humans. Until 10,000 years ago we didn’t domesticate animals and weren’t able to drink milk. (Unless some brave hunter-gather milked a wild tiger or buffalo!).
Consider this: About 3/4 of The World is Intolerant to Lactose (see diagramme). The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase — the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk — sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize milk after they have been weaned.
Where do you fit in?
If you’re not sure where you stand with dairy, the best approach is to remove it for 30 days and then reintroduce and see what happens. Elimination/reintroduction is still the gold-standard for determining sensitivity to a particular food. Remember not all milk is created equal.
There is a big difference between raw and pasteurized dairy. Raw dairy is a whole food, and pasteurized dairy is a processed food.
In my opinion dairy is not crucial for good health. I encourage you to go dairy-free and see what it does for you. Try making your own nut milk, it’s simple, easy and delicious.
What changes — for better or worse — have you experienced if you’ve tried eliminating dairy?
1. MyPyramid.gov – Inside The Pyramid – How much food from the milk group is needed daily? February 3, 2011. Available at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/milk_amount.aspx#
2. FAQ – Dairy. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Available at: http://www.westonaprice.org/faq/784-faq-dairy?qh=YTo5OntpOjA7czozOiJyYXciO2k6MTtzOjc6InJhd25lc3MiO2k6MjtzOjQ6Im1pbGsiO2k6MztzOjc6Im1pbGtpbmciO2k6NDtzOjU6Im1pbGtzIjtpOjU7czo2OiJtaWxrZWQiO2k6NjtzOjg6Im1pbGtpbmdzIjtpOjc7czo2OiInbWlsayciO2k6ODtzOjg6InJhdyBtaWxrIjt9
3. The New Four Food Groups. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Available at: http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vsk/4foodgroups.pdf
5. Scott FW. Cow milk and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: is there a relationship? Am J Clin Nutr 1990;51:489-91.
6. Karjalainen J, Martin JM, Knip M, et al. A bovine albumin peptide as a possible trigger of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med 1992;327:302-7
7. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes
8. Feskanich D, Willet WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health 1997;87:992-7.
9. Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ. Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:493-505.
10. Huang Z, Himes JH, McGovern PG. Nutrition and subsequent hip fracture risk among a national cohort of white women. Am J Epidemiol 1996;144:124-34.
11. Cummings SR, Nevitt MC, Browner WS, et al. Risk factors for hip fracture in white women. N Engl J Med 1995;332:767-73.
14. Ganmaa D, Sato A. The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian, and corpus uteri cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2005; 65:1028–37
15. Science blogs, Aetiology June 19, 2012
Read more from Expert Dr Vilma Brunhuber