Exposing Myths About Milk

“Drink your milk” is a phrase that many of us heard growing up. To our parents’ defense, they believed that they were doing the right thing by encouraging us to drink at least one glass of milk each day. Recent studies, however, have shown that milk might not be as vital of a beverage to drink nowadays. 

Lactose is the sugar found in cow’s milk, and lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose in our digestive system. Interestingly, human breast milk contains two times more lactose than cow’s milk does. As people get older, their lactase production tends to decrease, which makes sense if you think about the fact that most mothers stop breast-feeding when their children are around 6 to 18 months old. Most people are also genetically predisposed to produce less lactase once they are around 2 to 5 years old.

Lactose-intolerance occurs when people either do not produce any lactase at all or produce too little. It is common in both children and adults and is not seen as a medical emergency. In countries where milk is used as an ingredient in many dishes, it can be challenging to avoid consuming dairy, however, in parts of the world where milk is not as commonly used as an ingredient –such as in China, Japan, and Africa – an inability to digest lactose is much easier to manage.

What About Calcium?
“Milk’s main selling point is calcium, and milk-drinking is touted for building strong bones in children and preventing osteoporosis in older persons,” claims The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, “however, clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones.” Studies have been published in Pediatrics and the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that support the fact that milk does not provide protection against osteoporosis in older people and does not assist in the development strong bones among adolescents. Calcium is incredibly important for humans, however there are many better sources of this vital mineral than milk. Leafy greens, kale, broccoli, and beans all contain high levels of calcium as well as fortified breakfast cereals and beverages.

“Nature’s Perfect Food”
So is milk really “nature’s perfect food” as was proclaimed by many health professionals in the early 1900s? Yes. Milk is “nature’s perfect food” for baby mammals. However, is milk “nature’s perfect food” for human children and adults? No.

PCRM. (n.d.). Health concerns about dairy products. Retrieved from http://www.pcrm.org/search/?cid=252