By Brianna Siciliano
People always wonder about the health benefits and concerns with dairy. In the past, there have been drastic trending weight-loss programs designed to exclude dairy products from daily diets, like the Paleo Diet. Many people on the program lost weight, but in the long-run, their bones suffered. Dairy products provide sources of calcium and are essential for bone health, as most of us already know, but can dairy be harmful?
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, experiments on the benefits of drinking milk were conducted in Sweden to examine the relationship between bone fractures and mortality in men and women. Three large countries in Sweden participated in a study about milk nutrition facts, including about 61,433 women aging from 39-74 and about 45,339 men aging from 45-79. The people who ran this study concluded that higher milk intake was associated with higher fracture rates in women and higher death rates in men and women. Does this experiment regarding the benefits of drinking milk offer a reliable source to follow? That is questionable. No two people are exactly alike. Some of the people who took the experiment could have been lactose intolerant, some of the people could have genetically inherited bone issues that caused fractures, and some of the people could have suffered health issues that had absolutely nothing to do with their sources of calcium intake.
Although the Swedish study is trying to prove that dairy is bad for our diets, we have to keep in mind how nutritious dairy is for our bodies. Cow’s milk contains all the proteins, fatty acids, and micro-nutrients needed to nurture a growing calf. Human muscles, cells, and organs are very similar to a calf’s, which means that dairy products are a great of a source of nutrients for humans as they are for baby calf. A single cup of milk (244 grams) contains Calcium, Vitamin D, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Potassium, Phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamins B1 and B6, Selenium, Zinc, and Magnesium. All of these nutrients come in a glass that is filled with about 146 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 13 grams of carbs. Do the pros outweigh the cons calorie wise? Absolutely. If the vitamins and minerals are not convincing enough, consider the fact that one of the benefits of drinking milk is that milk is the best source of calcium. Many people, especially women, lack the proper amount of calcium in their diets. Including dairy products in your everyday diet will lower your risk of calcium deficiencies and insure that you are receiving substantial sources of calcium. With this said, it seems logical that dairy is extremely beneficial for bone health. Many mainstream health organizations recommend that people consume 2-3 servings of dairy per day in order to provide enough calcium for their bones.
The bottom line is dairy products are known to have a large impact on health, and the benefits of drinking milk strongly outweigh the consequences. Can dairy products kill you? Possibly. If you intake too much dairy, like some of the participants in Sweden’s study did, you will face major health concerns. At the same time, if you intake too much of any food, no matter what kind of food it is, health concerns will rise. The key to great health is knowing what your body can and can’t tolerate. Balancing every food group––including dairy––in your daily diet in moderation is the key to a long, healthy life.