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Do You Know if Dairy is Good For You?

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Dairy is one of the most confusing topics in the nutrition world today. We all know the slogan, “Milk does a body good.” The National Dairy Council and probably your mother have told you for years to drink milk; it’s good for your bones and keeps you strong.

Some people say it helps you lose weight, while others say drink dairy if you want to become big like a cow. Some people are allergic to dairy or see dramatic results like less issues with asthma, acne or congestion when they reduce or eliminate dairy. Dairy makes some people constipated and makes other people go.

So what’s the right answer? Should you eat dairy or not?

The truth is every body is different, so each person has to decide what works for them.

Some people choose to eat it freely. Some people can tolerate small amounts of yogurt or kefir, fermented dairy products which include bacterial cultures making them easier to digest. And others choose to skip it all together.

A new documentary film called, “Forks Over Knives,” features two major experts in the field: Cornell University nutritional scientist T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic. Both men advocate for a plant-based, vegan diet with no dairy products.

Campbell is known worldwide for his best-selling book “The China Study,” which detailed his research looking at diet, lifestyle and disease in 65 mostly rural counties throughout China.

“I was raised on a dairy farm milking cows,” Campbell said recently at a lecture to doctors in Portland, Maine. “This became a little bit more personal than just professional.”

Campbell said that population studies consistently show that people who eat the most animal foods (including dairy) have the highest cancer rates, including breast, uterine and endometrial cancers. And it’s not about the fat. Some of his recent research showed that men who consumed the most skim milk had the highest rates of prostate cancer, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald.

Is there a difference between whole, half and skim milk?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat more low-fat and fat free dairy foods, but a recent article in Details Magazine touts the benefits of full-fat dairy products.

“It's becoming widely accepted that fats actually curb your appetite, by triggering the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which causes fullness,” wrote Paul John Scott in the article. “Fats also slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, reducing the amount that can be stored as fat. In other words, the more fat in your milk, the less fat around your waist. In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions studied the weight and milk consumption of 12,829 kids ages 9 to 14 from across the country. 'Contrary to our hypothesis,' they reported, 'skim and 1 percent milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.'”

One of the biggest arguments for drinking milk is bone health and women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis as we age.

“There's no solid evidence that merely increasing the amount of milk in your diet will protect you from breaking a hip or wrist or crushing a backbone in later years,” according to Walter C. Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Plenty of options are available for those looking to reduce or eliminate dairy from their diet, including milks made from almond, coconut, hemp, hazelnut and soy. If you want to experiment with foods that are naturally high in calcium go for your greens like kale, turnip, mustard and collard greens.

Suzanne Boothby is a Brooklyn-based wellness writer, certified health coach and co-founder of New York Family Wellness. Visit www.suzanneboothby.com to learn more.

Is Skim Milk Making You Fat?

Reviewed May 20, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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