1 April 2010

Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

Myth: Dairy-free diets are better for you

Nicole Senior

Fact: Dairy foods are nutrient rich and low fat versions even better
Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) are nutrient rich and have assumed such importance in our diet as to warrant their own food group. This means that health experts and governments around the world have reviewed the evidence and concluded our health and wellbeing are enhanced by including dairy foods in our diets, and recommended us to eat them.

Along with their low GI status, there is a lot to recommend dairy foods. They are high in calcium needed for healthy bones and provide the majority of calcium in the diet. They also contain a bundle of other important nutrients including protein, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Regular milk drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, and emerging research is discovering beneficial ‘bio-actives’ in dairy such as lactoferrin which enhances bone and immune health.

With so much to recommend them, why are there so many “dairy-free” claims on food these days? Why do naturopaths seem to routinely suggest people avoid dairy foods? Why are there websites devoted to the “dangers of dairy”?

Even though whole dairy foods do contain mostly saturated fat, this is easy to avoid by choosing low fat versions, and limiting hard cheese. Although some still believe milk is fattening, studies have demonstrated dairy foods may actually help with weight loss. The Asthma Foundation in Australia says that sufferers should not eliminate dairy without proper medical advice because food affects less than 5% of people with asthma. The idea that milk causes mucus has been studied in controlled conditions and has not stood up to scientific scrutiny.

Milk allergy affects 5% of children at most (and more likely 2%), and 1% of adults. Lactose intolerance is an issue for some people however complete dairy avoidance is not usually necessary. The anti-dairy argument is hard to reconcile with the idea that millions of humans have been eating dairy foods for several thousand years, and even today, the Masai in Tanzania live principally on milk, blood and meat.

Why do anti-dairy myths persist? Food myths are prevalent in societies where food is abundant and choices are practically endless. Are we fussy with our diets because we’re too well fed? Are we desperately clutching at ideas to narrow down our food options because they are now overwhelming? Are we looking to fix our broader dis-ease with hectic modern lifestyles? For those who have chosen the dairy-free path, I’m sorry to say there are a plethora of websites also attacking the safety and goodness of soy milk as well ...

If you’d like quality information on heart health and great recipes check out Nicole's website HERE.


mizwell said...

I dropped dairy from my diet because of the contaminants of hormones, antibiotics, feces, and cattle feed that are so prevalent in America's mass produced foods. I also have doubts about the integrity of the organic certification process as the government is working to weaken and corrupt the standards and practices to favor large corporations.

We buy local and avoid mass produced foods as much as possible.

electrotone said...

not to forget that pasteurization and homogenization of raw milk basically destroys all enzymes, vitamins and minerals present in the milk as well. therefore the dairy companies are fortifying the milk with the very nutrients that are destroyed from the aforementioned processes, and then touting those additions through crazy marketing campaigns.
calcium and protein can be derived from much healthier and less bastardised products, and vitamin d is produced by the body naturally under a good dose of free sunshine.
sorry not convinced.....
if you want milk, get a cow, get it raw - how it should be.

GI Group said...

Hi Mizwell and Electrone, we will be passing readers posts on this story on to Nicole after the Easter break so that she can comment.

Anonymous said...

I have seen - from repeated trials - that dairy products cause me increased joint and other pains.

goodie said...

After 8 years of trial and error and two visits to a pediatric allergist we found that our son was allergic to cows milk - not the anaphilactic type, but the slower delayed version. This caused swelling of face and lips, red lips, rashes, migraines, nausea, exercise induced asthma - sometimes up to 12 hours post ingestion. He also started developing secondary allergies to other allergens such as dust mite, feathers, cat/dog hair etc. We cut out the cows milk & replaced with nonhomogenised, non pastuerised goats milk. Result? No more allergy symptoms. Specialist opinion post test-results? No need to elliminate cow's milk. I say go with what you're body's telling you but make sure you replace with an equally healthy alternative - we all need calcium, carbs & protein for continued good health.

Anonymous said...

We,(the public) are being advised to consume low fat milk and ditch the full fat variety for health reasons. A look at the nutritional details on both the low and full fat milks reveal that the low fat variety has less fat but more sugar and higher calories and I would assume a higher GI. Question: How can replacing fat with sugar in milk,benefit someone on a low GI diet ? Check the labels next time your at the supermarket. I've changed to soy milk. Enjoy the newsletter. Thanks J.

GI Group said...

Re low-fat milk, here's what our dietitians say:
"Per 100ml (about 3 1/2 fl oz), skim milk has 0.36g more sugar – lactose (which is there naturally and not added), and 30.91 less Calories (130kJ) than full cream milk. Both skim and full cream milks are low GI (in fact very low) the GI of skim milk is 32 whereas it is 27 for full cream milk. Skim milk has 10.5mg more calcium per 100ml than full cream milk. On balance, skim milk is a better choice nutritionally for most of us."

Anonymous said...

The real myth is that Masai don't live on milk, blood and meat.
Check the internet. Dairy is an important cause of breast, prostate cancer and osteoporosis. Nicole, you should shame yourself. Dairy is dangerous. No animal is drinking milk as an adult. Many Asian cuisines (chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese) contain no milk or dairy products
Amy Joy Lanou Building bone vitality (for meta-analysis of milk and osteoporosis), Neal Barnard The Cancer survivor guide and T. Colin Campbell The China Study

GI Group said...

Nicole replies to your posts:

Re Mizwell's post:
"The Australian Dairy Industry (not sure about the US) follows strict Quality Assurance systems to ensure that the milk we drink is safe, nutritious and of very high quality. In Australia the practice of using hormones to enhance milk production is banned and comprehensive quality control systems at farm and manufacturer level ensure milk does not contain antibiotics, faeces, cattle feed or any other contaminants."

Re Electrone's post:
"Pasteurisation is the process whereby milk is heated to 72°C for approximately 15 seconds and then cooled immediately. Minerals are unaltered by heat treatment; therefore all milk’s natural minerals such as calcium are unaltered by this process. Pasteurisation results in very minimal decreases (around 5%) in thiamine, folic acid, Vitamins B12 and C. Pasteurisation ensures that milk is safe for consumption by destroying harmful bacteria and extends its shelf life by in-activating some of the enzymes that cause spoilage of the milk. Consuming raw milk straight from the cow is not an option for most people."

Re Calcium and protein can be derived from much healthier and less bastardised products, and vitamin D is produced by the body naturally under a good dose of free sunshine.

"Three serves of dairy every day will provide most people with their daily calcium requirement plus significant amounts of other essential nutrients, including; protein, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin and carbohydrate. Whilst other foods such as vegetables and nuts do contain some calcium, few foods provide as much absorbable calcium per serve as dairy foods. Research has shown that it is difficult to rely on plant foods to meet daily calcium needs.

To get the same amount of calcium as one serve of dairy, you need to eat 32 Brussels sprouts, 21 cups of raw chopped spinach, 11 cups of diced sweet potato, 6 cups of shredded green cabbage, 5 cups of cooked broccoli or 1 cup of dry roasted almonds. In contrast to the US, Australian dairy foods do not need to have vitamin D added, however some manufacturers are doing this voluntarily to address the issue of vitamin D deficiency in Australia (despite our plentiful sunshine)."

GI Group said...

Nicole replies to your posts:
Re Dairy is an important cause of breast, prostate cancer and osteoporosis. Nicole, you should shame yourself. Dairy is dangerous. No animal is drinking milk as an adult.

"There is no convincing scientific evidence to link dairy foods with causing any of the conditions you mention. In fact, dairy foods contain a range of nutrients with anti-cancer properties and some studies suggest that increased dairy consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of breast cancer. The Cancer Council (in Australia) encourages the consumption of at least three serves of dairy foods every day, as part of a varied and nutritious diet. This advice is consistent with that of the Dietary Guidelines for Australians.

In relation to osteoporosis, the link between dietary calcium and bone health is well established. Adequate calcium intake is critical for building, maintaining and reducing the rate of bone loss over a lifetime and dairy foods are the major source of calcium in the Australian diet. Again, scientific research has shown that eating adequate amounts of dairy foods positively benefits bone health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Furthermore, dairy foods provide more than just calcium – they contain a whole package of bone friendly nutrients, such as protein, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc."

Anonymous said...

Neal Barnard wrote:
Evidence from international, case-control, and cohort studies suggests that men who avoid dairy products are at lower risk for prostate cancer incidence and mortality, compared to others. In case-control and cohort studies, the relative risk of prostate cancer among subgroups with the most frequent milk consumption, compared to those at the lowest consumption levels, falls in the range of 1.3 to 2.5. These findings raise two important questions: Does the observed relationship represent cause and effect, and is available evidence sufficient to justify a recommendation that milk-drinking men alter their dietary habits?

Findings supporting a cause-and-effect relationship include the relative consistency of this association in diverse populations, evidence of a dose-response relationship, plausible biological mechanisms that underlie the observed associations, and no reasonable alternative explanation for these findings. Perspective is lent to the second question by a comparison with evidence linking alcohol use and breast cancer risk. Although somewhat fewer studies have addressed the association between milk and prostate cancer, their demonstrated effect strength and consistency of evidence approach those relating alcohol to breast cancer risk, an association that is now widely accepted and incorporated into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.[44] A pooled analysis of cohort studies showed that the adjusted relative risk of incident breast cancer for women consuming 2-5 drinks (30-60 grams of alcohol) per day was 1.41 (95% CI, 1.18-1.69).[45] In a 1997 review by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, six of eleven cohort studies and fifteen of thirty-six case-control studies found such an association.[46]

Men who choose to avoid dairy products reap other nutritional benefits, such as a reduction in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol intake. Unless they replace dairy products with calcium-fortified products or calcium supplements, they are likely to reduce their calcium intake in the process. However, a reduction in calcium intake may be an important mechanism by which reducing or avoiding dairy products reduces prostate cancer risk. Moreover, there is no apparent risk to moderate reductions in calcium intake. There is little evidence to suggest that a high intake of calcium from dairy or other sources reduces the risk of osteoporotic fractures among men. Few studies have examined the effect of dietary calcium on osteoporosis risk in adult men independently of vitamin D intake.[47] There has been some indication that a higher intake of calcium, including that from dairy sources, in the context of an omnivorous American diet, is associated with reduced recurrence of colonic adenomatous polyps.[48] However, in Africa, in the context of a low-calcium, low-dairy diet, both adenomatous polyps and colon cancer are much rarer than in Western countries.[49] Some studies suggest that calcium, including that in dairy products, may reduce blood pressure, but the effect, if any, is small (on the order of <2 mm Hg systolic and <1 mm Hg diastolic), far smaller than the effect of adding vegetables and fruits to the diet.[50-51]

In conclusion, several lines of evidence indicate that consumption of dairy products is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer incidence and mortality. Avoidance of these products may offer a means of reducing risk of this common illness.

Nicole read the books of Lanou, Barnard and Campbell and never, never, never ..... write again that there is no proof of milk causing cancer. There are a lot of scientific articles about milk as a cause for cancer