by Kimberly Allen, RN
Milk, some love it, some hate it. Whatever your personal preference milk continues to be one of those things the experts just can’t seem to agree on. Though most do agree it does have it’s pro’s and con’s like many other foods. There are also certain things to consider when it comes to milk consumption. First of all, humans are the only mammalian specie that drinks the milk of other species. Each species has it’s own milk with proteins and nutrients specific to that specie. That includes cows milk. Another thing to consider is that humans are also to only specie to continue to drink milk after being weaned. Many experts believe that the reason so many people are lactose intolerant is because we weren’t meant to drink milk after being weaned.
There have been numerous scientific studies on the benefits of milk over the years. Amazingly more studies found that milk as well as other dairy products actually do not protect our bones from fracture than those that say it does. In fact there was a 12 year long study known as the Harvard Nurses Health Study involving 77,761 female nurses age 34-59 years showed that the participants that got most of their calcium from milk and dairy products broke more bones than those that drank milk only rarely. However, despite the numerous studies and statistics mainstream medicine continues to dismiss any evidence that milk is not the best source of calcium. However, the nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC states “the countries with the highest rate of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost non-existent.”
The Dairy Education Board states “milk is a deadly poison.” They even provide the website of an anti-milk special interest group. The web site has numerous articles purporting the evils of milk. Some of their biggest concerns include the hormones that cows are given to produce more milk than they are supposed to. The truth is that the hormone given to cows known as rBGH must be injected in order to have any effect. They can not be taken orally because the digestive process destroys it. Therefore if you drink milk from hormone treated cows the active form of the rBGH is not transferred to your body. Another concern is that many cows are given antibiotics. There are some experts that believe consuming milk from cows that are given antibiotics causes antibiotic resistance in humans. However, there is no evidence to prove this theory. If you’re not comfortable drinking milk from cows that have been given antibiotics or hormones there is antibiotic and hormone free milk available in specialty stores that sell organic foods.
There are also studies that indicate milk can be beneficial. One recent study showed that over a 6 month period participants that were over weight and drank 3 servings of milk and/or dairy lost more abdominal fat than the participants that were on a similar diet only without at least 2 of the servings of milk/dairy. Other studies have shown that milk is one of the best muscle building foods we have. The reason being is that milk protein is approximately 80% whey and 20% casein. These are both considered high quality proteins. The whey is broken down rapidly into amino acids and then absorbed into the bloodstream. On the other hand casein breaks down more slowly providing protein over a longer time period. This combination is ideal for muscle building and can be obtained by drinking one large glass of milk. There are also studies that indicate drinking 2-3 glasses of milk whether whole, skim or 2% a day reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. Drinking milk improves your cholesterol and triglyceride levels which in turn reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke.
In the end it’s an individual choice. I know people that love their milk and don’t care whether experts agree or not they’re going to keep drinking their milk. If you’re unsure there’s lots of research both pro and con online that you can read and judge for yourself.
Butter or Margarine?
The debate over butter or margarine continues and is a controversial as the milk debate. Is it any wonder you get confused when you’re standing in the butter aisle? Research regarding the association between saturated fats and heart disease has always produced conflicting results, however, in the 1950’s some researchers put forth a theory known as the lipid hypothesis. This theory makes a connection between saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet with heart disease.Then in the 1990’s the theory really captured the publics eye. All the commercials claimed margarine was the “healthy” alternative to butter. One of the things I find most interesting is that since the lipid hypothesis was published in the 1950’s people have been replacing the saturated fats in their diet with vegetable oils, yet obesity, heart disease and cancer as well as numerous other health issues has significantly increased. Personally I don’t feel anyone should be all that impressed by the results of decreasing the saturated fats in our diets while increasing the amount of vegetable oil in our diets. First of all most vegetable oils contain trans fats. However, when the effects of trans fats became clear to Drs the manufacturers of oils and margarine reformulated them to remove the trans fats. Remember, margarine begins as a vegetable oil that has been refined and chemically extracted. So if you read the ingredients on a popular margarine that is advertised as “healthy” and having a taste like butter you see; Ingredients: vegetable oils, Buttermilk (5%), water, salt(1.5%), Emulsifiers” mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, sunflower lecithin, Preservatives: potassium sorbate, vitamin El citric acid, Flavouring, Colour: beta-carotene, vitamins A and D. Notice that not only is the first ingredient vegetable oil but it’s a processed food. The ingredients in most brands of butter are butterfat and salt, and butter is not a processed food. Then there are those high quality healthy spreads. Here’s the ingredients for an “extra virgin olive oil” spread; Ingredients: Natural oil blend (palm fruit, canola, soybean, extra virgin olive, flax), filtered water, contains less than 2% of sea salt. pea protein, natural flavor (plant derived from corn), sunflower lecithin, lactid acid (derived from sugar beets) and annatto for color. Remember this is an “extra virgin olive oil” spread, but the extra virgin olive oil is the next to last ingredient in the oils which means there’s actually very little extra virgin olive oil in the spread. Also, palm fruit oil is a plant source of saturated fat so you are still getting some saturated fat.
Then if we take a look at butter one of the first things to remember is that the typical butter you buy in the store usually contains pesticides. Why? Because pesticides as well as other toxins concentrate in the cream and that’s what’s used to make the butter. So it’s important to buy organic butter. What gives butter that pale yellow color? Cows that eat fast growing green grass produce a cream that is more yellowish in color which then makes yellow butter. The reason the cream is a yellowish color is the high vitamin A content. Remember this is a naturally occurring vitamin A not the same as the artificial vitamins added to margarine. Butter is also a good source of vitamin E and selenium. Though there is some concern over the saturated fat in butter, there has been recent research indicating the saturated fat in butter may actually be helpful in many ways. Like everything else eaten in moderation, butter doesn’t appear to be as “unhealthy” as some want us to believe. Butter is also frequently one of the few dairy products that is well tolerated by people that are sensitive to other dairy products.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.