With more and more people going dairy-free for different reasons, and few know the consequences of doing so. Whether it be due to lactose intolerance, perceived benefits to improving acne, weight or it’s magical ability to “create mucus” – dairy (especially milk) is probably one of the most controversial food groups. With trends leaning towards going dairy-free and the staggering number of people (especially teenage girls) actively avoiding dairy – it is time to bust some dairy myths!
(1) Lactose intolerance
I am definitely not saying that lactose intolerance is a myth! In fact, so many people have some degree of lactose intolerance that can cause symptoms of gut discomfort and diarrhoea. With more and more people reporting lactose intolerance (up to 4% of the Australian population, most of them being women), it’s important to look at what it means.
Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the lactase enzyme in the small intestine which is in charge of digesting the sugar lactose primarily found in dairy foods. Without lactase, it remains undigested and can cause unpleasant symptoms. However, most people can tolerate about 1 cup of milk per day (spread out over the day). I also recommend looking out for lactose-free or calcium-fortified plant milks. More on that shortly…
(2) Dairy causes acne
With acne being the one most prolific dermatological skin conditions world, particularly among teenagers and young adults. It’s easy to turn to diet to look at its role in skin. Whilst the most effective way to eliminate acne is retinoid (a derivative of vitamin A) via prescription tablets or creams. Some old studies have shown a relationship between dairy intake (specifically milk) and acne in teenage boys and girls, the studies depended on self-reporting of acne severity and also of diet – pretty major limitations in this group who are at-risk of experiencing different views of body image and also eating more processed foods in general.
Overall, it’s not well-accepted or recommended to avoid dairy for acne treatment/prevention. If you’re concerned about your skin, see your GP and get a referral to a dermatologist. By the way, there’s no evidence to show a relationship between chocolate or sugar and acne either!Milk causes pimples and pimples are full of pus, so therefore milk is pus! *facepalm*
(3) Dairy causes weight gain
Let’s get one thing straight, it’s unlikely that one food or food group alone will lead to weight gain and/or overweight/obesity. Dietary patterns have the biggest impact on our health rather than singular foods.
Dairy is commonly a feared food when it comes to those trying to shed a few kilos. Is it justified?
Short answer – NO! Dairy has actually been found to help with weight loss, especially in women. With 3-4 serves a day in an energy reduced diet showing better weight loss and fat loss, whilst preserving muscle mass compared to those on a low dairy diet. This could be due to satiating effect of dairy and the role of calcium in reducing the amount of dietary fat that can be absorbed (by re-directing it to the toilet bowl). There’s also evidence to show a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease amongst people who consume dairy foods.
On the contrary, there’s actually plenty of evidence showing that dairy plays a role in the prevention of obesity.
(4) Milk is pus
I think someone decided to do some dot-to-dot with this one. Milk causes pimples and pimples are full of pus, so therefore milk is pus! *facepalm* Let’s move on…
(5) Magical Mucus-Making Milk
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s Mum told them not to eat yoghurt or cheese or drink milk when you have a cold or flu because it creates “more mucus”. This isn’t actually the case. The proteins found in dairy just clump your mucus together giving a sensation of more mucus. There is no magical button that dairy pushes in your body to just pump out lots more mucus.
(6) Skim or low-fat milk has added sugar
Whilst it is common for food companies to add sugar to low-fat products such as yoghurts and custards to improve the taste, this is NOT the case with low-fat or skim milk. The only extra process that skim milk and low-fat milk is that is spun to remove fat globules that naturally form when spun at high speeds. No sugar is added. Nope, none at all. If you prefer full-cream dairy, that’s okay too, the higher fat content can help you keep fuller for a bit longer and can help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. The saturated fat content found in full-cream dairy has recently been shown not to impact on blood cholesterol as much as we had previously thought.
Here’s some facts about milk and dairy
- Dairy is a nutrient-rich food-group providing the diet with calcium, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium and an excellent source of protein.
- 1 cup of full-cream milk provides you with: 178 calories (or 738 kJ), 9 grams protein, 270 mg calcium (Source: Calorie King Australia)
- Lactose found in milk actually increases the absorption of calcium in the body.
- Calcium combined with vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus are critical for strong healthy bones. Women especially need to ensure they meet their calcium needs during adolescence and early adulthood to build a sufficient store of bone density. This is because after menopause, estrogen hormones decline which increases the risk of calcium being released from the bones into the blood, leading to osteoporosis and increasing the risk of fractures!
- Calcium is also important for optimal muscle function, including your heart!
- If you do not consume dairy products (because you cannot tolerate it or for ethical reasons), look for a calcium fortified plant-milk with 100 mg of calcium per 100 mL.
- It’s true, cows produce loads of greenhouse gases, so dairy does have an impact on the environment.
- On average adults need about 1000 mg/day of calcium, more if you’re a woman over 50 or a man over 70 years old, pregnant or lactating (Source: NRVs).
- Pappas, A. (2009). The relationship of diet and acne. Dermato-Endocrinology, [online] 1(5), pp.262-267. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
- Adebamowo, C., Spiegelman, D., Berkey, C., Danby, F., Rockett, H., Colditz, G., Willett, W. and Holmes, M. (2018). Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. [online] Escholarship.org. Available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/77b9s0z8#author [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
- Adebamowo, C., Spiegelman, D., Berkey, C., Danby, F., Rockett, H., Colditz, G., Willett, W. and Holmes, M. (2008). Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, [online] 58(5), pp.787-793. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391699/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
- Stonehouse, W., Wycherley, T., Luscombe-Marsh, N., Taylor, P., Brinkworth, G. and Riley, M. (2016). Dairy Intake Enhances Body Weight and Composition Changes during Energy Restriction in 18–50-Year-Old Adults—A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients, [online] 8(7), p.394. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963870/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
- Rice, B. (2014). Dairy and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of Recent Observational Research. Current Nutrition Reports, [online] 3(2), pp.130-138. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006120/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].