How Healthy is Milk?

Milk used to be considered a pick-me-up, but it is now the subject of controversial debate: Is milk good for the bones or is it more of a risk factor for lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, allergies, or cancer? One thing is certain: milk and milk products are important for daily nutrition in many countries around the world and contain a number of important components such as protein, vitamins B2 and B12, calcium, zinc, and iodine.

Milk is vital after childbirth

After birth, milk forms the basis of nutrition for all mammals when the digestive tract is not fully developed. In the days and weeks after birth, antibodies and proteins that support the immune system are also passed on through breast milk.

For more than 8,000 years, changes in the course of evolution have made it possible for adult humans to drink milk from other species (e.g. cow’s milk). However, tolerability varies worldwide.

Does milk make your bones strong and perky?

There is a lot of calcium in milk and dairy products. This is an important building material for bones. However, dairy products only provide limited protection against osteoporosis. Because the effect on the bones depends on when in our lives we consume milk, yogurt, or cheese. Studies show that children and adolescents who drink more milk develop stronger bones than those who drink less or no milk. It’s different with adults. Higher consumption does not protect against bone loss and fractures in old age, because osteoporosis is a complex disease in which vitamin D, among other things, also plays an important role. Adequate care is often not available to older people.

But even if dairy products do not protect older people from bone loss, they have another positive effect. Because milk provides easily usable protein that we need to maintain muscle. From the age of 50 and then again from the age of 70, a strong muscle loss takes place.

Is milk bad for digestion?

Milk coffee, cheese casserole, whipped cream – delicious, but a burden on the intestines. Is this widespread gut feeling correct? The fact is: that 10 to 15 percent of Germans suffer from lactose intolerance. This means they cannot digest the milk sugar lactose. Therefore, the lactose ferments in their intestines. The result is flatulence and diarrhea. According to a report by the US National Institutes of Health, people who are lactose intolerant can consume up to 12 grams of lactose (about a cup of milk) in one serving without adverse effects. There is also research that suggests that by slowly increasing lactose consumption, sufferers can tolerate it better.

One percent of adults suffer from a cow’s milk allergy, i.e. they cannot tolerate any dairy products at all. And even people with irritable bowel syndrome sometimes get problems because of the sugars contained in the milk ferment.

All other people don’t have to worry – on the contrary: Especially with cheese and yogurt do something good for their digestive tract. Because they contain a particularly large number of lactic acid bacteria. And they promote intestinal health.

Does milk increase inflammation?

The theory that milk promotes inflammation is very current right now, but it has not been scientifically proven. Nevertheless, individual tolerance always plays a role: According to nutritionists, it can make sense to try to avoid some inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, rosacea, or neurodermatitis, i.e. to reduce or omit cow’s milk products for a while in order to observe whether there is an individual improvement.

Does milk increase the risk of cancer?

Cow’s milk is mother’s milk and therefore contains small amounts of hormones and growth factors that are identical in humans and cattle. Milk critics therefore repeatedly claim that milk also promotes the growth of cancer. Researchers have conducted long-term studies to determine whether people who consume a lot of milk and dairy products are more likely to develop cancer. In women, there is no evidence that milk consumption promotes the development of breast cancer. Studies on men, on the other hand, show that those who drink a lot of milk, i.e. more than a liter a day, have a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer.

Important to know: The hormones and growth factors in cow’s milk have no effect on humans because they are broken down in the stomach.

Which is better: low-fat milk or whole milk?

Doctors have long said that low-fat milk is better than whole milk. Because whole milk contains more calories and more saturated fat. And that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, long-term studies with many thousands of participants have now shown that people who drink normal amounts of whole milk have no more heart attacks or strokes than people who do not drink milk.

And another assumption has been refuted: the fat from whole milk does not make you fat – on the contrary: full-fat milk does not lead to more weight, but rather even helps you lose weight. However, milk is not suitable as a thirst quencher. About a glass of milk and two to three slices of cheese a day are considered a sensible orientation value.

Adults can do without milk

Milk is one of the many foods that are eaten in normal amounts and is not harmful to most people. It is just one building block in a wholesome diet. And adults don’t necessarily need milk and dairy products for their health if the composition of the menu is otherwise consciously taken into account. Protein, calcium, and zinc are found in many other foods. You can cover the iodine requirement with fish or iodized salt, for example. Without meat and dairy products, however, it is difficult to get an adequate supply of vitamin B12.

If you want to do without me for ecological or animal-ethical reasons, you can use milk substitutes made from rice, oats, or soy. However, these products are not healthier. Only soy milk provides nearly as much protein as cow’s milk. Oat, rice, or coconut milk, on the other hand, has a very low protein content. In addition, vitamins and minerals are missing, these are often added.

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