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Milk – Myths busted?

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

One question I’m asked quite often is if milk is actually good for us humans? While avoiding the stereotypical answers such as: because that’s what is given to us as youngsters for development and growth, I have done some research to have a clearer answer. Although this has left me pondering anyway.

Did you know that humans are the only species that consumes milk in adulthood and the only one to drink the milk of other animals? Biologically, cow's milk is meant to feed a rapidly growing calf. Humans aren't calves and adults usually don't need to grow. The answer should be pretty obvious to me. So is it simply out of habit or the many marketing ads that keep us hooked?

Let’s take a step back. Before the agricultural revolution, humans only drank mother's milk as infants. They didn't consume dairy as adults which is one of the reasons why dairy is excluded from a strict paleo diet. From an evolutionary perspective, dairy isn’t necessary for optimal health.

That said, certain cultures have been consuming dairy regularly for thousands of years. Many studies document how their genes have changed to accommodate dairy products in the diet. The fact that some people are genetically adapted to eating dairy is a convincing argument that it’s natural for them to consume. Or no?

As an infant, your body produced a digestive enzyme called lactase, which broke down lactose from your mother's milk. However, many people lose the ability to break down lactose in adulthood. In fact, about 75% of the world's adult population is unable to break down lactose. This phenomenon is called.

Lactose, or milk sugar, is the main carbohydrate found in milk. It’s broken down in your digestive system, into its subunits namely glucose and galactose. In people with lactose intolerance, lactose is not fully absorbed and some or most of it passes down to the colon, where the residing bacteria start fermenting. This fermentation process leads to the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and gas, such as methane and carbon dioxide. Lactose intolerance is associated with many unpleasant symptoms, including gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.

So what is in a cup of milk (240ml)? We know you love your stats ☺

Calories: 149

Water: 88%

Protein: 7.7 grams

Carbs: 11.7 grams

Sugar: 12.3 grams

Fibre: 0 grams

Fat: 8 grams

Casein and whey are two families of proteins found in milk. Casein forms 80% while whey forms 20%. One important property of casein is its ability to increase the absorption of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Whey proteins have been associated with many beneficial health effects, such as decreased blood pressure and improved mood during periods of stress

So what about trans fatty acids found in milk?

Trans fats are naturally found in dairy products. In contrast to trans fats in processed foods, dairy trans fats, also called ruminant trans fats are considered beneficial for health.

Speculation aside, there is no consistent evidence on whether dairy fat helps or hinders heart health. If you tolerate dairy products and enjoy them, you should feel comfortable eating dairy. There is no compelling evidence that people should avoid it — and plenty of evidence of benefits. If you can afford it, choose high-quality dairy — preferably without any added sugar, and from grass-fed and/or pasture-raised animals. (Source: Healthline)

So what about milk and ageing?

All we were ever taught was that we should drink our milk for strong and healthy bones. With modern medicine and thankfully some bright scientific professors we can know a little more than this.

Research on 5,834 U.S. adults by Brigham Young University exercise science professor Larry Tucker, Ph.D., found people who drink low-fat milk experience several years less biological aging than those who drink high-fat (2% and whole) milk.

Tucker investigated the relationship between telomere length and both milk intake frequency (daily drinkers vs. weekly drinkers or less) and milk fat content consumed (whole vs. 2% vs. 1% vs. skim). Telomeres are endcaps of human chromosomes. They act like a biological clock and they're extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, humans lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older people get, the shorter their telomeres.

And, apparently, the more high-fat milk people drink, the shorter their telomeres are, according to the new BYU study. The study revealed that for every 1% increase in milk fat consumed (drinking 2% vs. 1% milk), telomeres were 69 base pairs shorter in the adults studied, which translated into more than four years in additional biological aging. When Tucker analysed the extremes of milk drinkers, adults who consumed whole milk had telomeres that were a striking 145 base pairs shorter than non-fat milk drinkers. (Source: Sciencedaily)

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