Myths about Dairy Foods

Ten Common Myths about Dairy Foods

Zey Ustunol
Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Milk and dairy foods provide the diet with at least ten essential nutrients which include high quality protein, carbohydrate, vitamins A, D, B12 and riboflavin, and minerals: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Three servings of milk or equivalent will provide the recommended daily intake of calcium for most people. In addition fermented dairy foods such as yogurt are considered excellent carriers of probiotic organisms and prebiotics which are known to be important in gastrointestinal health.

Although, awareness on health benefits of dairy products is increasing, there are still a number of commonly held misconceptions about dairy foods. The following section addresses 10 common myths about dairy foods and provides the facts.

Ten Common Myths
1Myth: Consuming dairy products can lead to weight gain.
Fact: Weight gain occurs when one consumes more calories than the body can burn as energy. Contrary to this common myth, research both in animals and humans suggest that including three servings of low fat dairy foods in a calorie controlled diet may help achieve greater weight loss (Zemel, 2005).

Clinical trials have also shown a strong correlation between increased calcium intake and reduced body weight, body fat percentage and waist size (Zemel, 2005).

2 Myth: Spinach is as good a source of calcium as milk.
Fact: There is more calcium in 1 cup of milk than there is in 16 cups of spinach. One will need to eat more than 48 cups of spinach to get the recommended daily intake of calcium (USDA, 2010). Furthermore, milk contains Vitamin D which enhances calcium absorption (Wasserman, 2004).

3 Myth: People with lactose intolerance should avoid dairy foods.
Fact: Lactose intolerance is often confused with milk allergies. Lactose intolerance is not an allergic reaction to dairy foods. Rather it is the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose. Lactose-free milk and yogurt are good alternatives to drinking milk for people that are lactose intolerant. Aged cheeses such as Cheddar and Swiss are also low in lactose. Many people with lactose intolerance can drink up to 1 cup of milk daily without problems (Miller et al., 2000).

4Myth: Milk causes asthma.
Fact: While infants with milk allergies are more likely to develop
asthma later in life, there are no scientific data that support that consuming dairy foods makes a person asthmatic.

5 Myth: Consuming dairy foods can increase the risk of heart disease.
Fact: A diet high in saturated fat regardless of the source will likely cause heart disease and not dairy foods. Recently, it was reported that the evidence linking saturated fat intake to heart disease is lacking (Siri-Tarino et al., 2010).

Furthermore, today saturated fat from butter is believed to be not as bad as transfat filled hydrogenated vegetable fats such as margarine and other so-called ‘healthy’ spreads. Those still wishing to reduce their fat intake can consume low fat dairy foods and receive the nutritional benefits of dairy foods without the high fat (Berner, 1992; Miller, 2000).

6 Myth: If you take calcium supplements you don’t need milk.
Fact: Milk isn’t only a good source of calcium but it also provides other high quality nutrients such as high quality protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin; zinc; potassium and magnesium.

Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt also serve as an excellent carrier of probiotic organisms and prebiotics, which are important for gastrointestinal health.

Taking supplements does not provide the enjoyment of drinking a cold glass of milk; pouring cold milk on a bowl of cereal for breakfast; eating a creamy delicious bowl of ice cream on a hot summer day; or enjoying the pleasure of a creamy cheese sauce on nachos, or melted cheese slices on a hamburger.

7 Myth: Milk causes mucus.
Fact: After drinking whole milk or eating ice cream some people mistake the thin coat or residue in their mouth and throat for mucus.

This is the normal creamy texture of milk fat which melts near body temperature and not excess mucus. A study conducted by Pinnock and co-workers (1990) reported that there is no association between milk and dairy products intake and mucus production in healthy as well as rhinovirus infected individuals.

8 Myth: Humans are not designed to drink cow’s milk.
Fact: Humans are designed to eat plant as well as animal products such as meat and dairy products. Domestication of cattle (and consumption of milk and dairy foods) date back to 6000 BC.

We are equipped with the lactose enzyme in our gut that aids in the digestion of cow’s milk. Consequently humans have enjoyed consuming dairy foods over many, many centuries.

If we were restricted to consuming milk only from our own species, we would not enjoy many of the dairy foods we enjoy today; such as blue cheese on our salads, ice cream on apple pie, sour cream on baked potatoes, Mozzarella cheese on pizza, shredded cheese on our tacos, and buttermilk in our pancakes.

9 Myth: Drinking milk can cause kidney stones.
Fact: Milk may actually protect against the formation of kidney stones (NHS, 1990). It was suggested that the calcium in milk may bind to oxalates in food so that they can no longer be absorbed by the body, reducing the risk of kidney stones.

10 Myth: Eating cheese and high fat dairy foods can cause acne.
Fact: Science does not support any link between acne and dairy foods. Importance of vitamins A and D in skin health is well established. Milk is a good source of vitamins A and D in the diet (Miller et al., 2000).

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