The whole topic of whether milk products have more health benefits than drawbacks is hotly debated. Dr Marilyn Glenville puts forward the commonest arguments for reducing dairy intake.
Too high in animal fats – “Cows’ milk contains more of the ‘bad’ saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease than plant milks,” says Marilyn.
Difficult to digest – “Cows’ milk can aggravate IBS symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain,” she says. Fat molecules in untreated cows’ milk are large compared with goats’ milk, which can make it indigestible.
Promotes cell growth – Cows’ milk contains a growth-boosting protein called Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). “We produce IGF-1 naturally in childhood to help us grow, but as adults it can be a double-edged sword,” explains Marilyn. “IGF-1 in milk stimulates cells to divide and multiply, and prevents the ‘programmed cell death’ or apoptosis, which is our body’s safety net against cancer and other diseases.”
High in kilojoules – At 286 per 100ml, most alternatives are lower in kilojoules
Although some experts blame cows’ milk for the increased risk of health problems, others argue that its complex mixture of nutrients has health benefits.
Rich in calcium – Needed for strong bones and teeth, and a healthy heart. A 200ml glass of semi-skimmed cows’ milk provides 24 per cent of the adult reference nutrient intake (RNI) of calcium (700mg a day).
Contains good fats too – Milk boasts “good” fats that may lower heart risk, as well as conjugated linoleic acid, which helps reduce cholesterol.
Vitamins and minerals- Milk also contains plenty of vitamins, minerals and other biologically active compounds.
Iodine boost – A lack of iodine can contribute to hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormones that can lead to weight gain, fatigue and dry skin).
Weight control –Full-fat milk passes through the gastric tract slowly, which may help regulate blood sugar levels and appetite. This also applies to fermented milk products such as yogurt, which also contain probiotics – these are linked to a range of health benefits.
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