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The Dairy Dilemma


It’s a sad fact in 2019, but diet has taken over religion for many people, we’re all human at the end of the day and we have innate tribal and communal instincts, we all want to belong to something. Treating your diet as a religion breeds cult like behaviours and diet ideology, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, this often leads to strict rules which manifests black and white thinking and a “good vs bad” attitude about nutrition. Having coached hundreds of people over half a decade I have seen first hand, the damaging effects that strict rules and black and white thinking can have on a persons physical and mental well-being. Sadly, this tribal, cult like behaviour can be seen in the complete avoidance of dairy products, dairy has such terrible falsities attached to it, blanket handwaving statements that are full of nebulous inaccuracies. The consumption of dairy has even incited very emotional altercations between people, seriously search YouTube, people literally fight over another persons choice of dairy consumption. With all this said, I am going to give you the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts in this article, I should hope that after reading this article you can view dairy consumption with an objective eye and not through the eye of someone with a harmful cult like vendetta.

We Are The Only Species That Consumes The Milk Of Another Animal

I assume I’m not the only one who’s heard the nebulous statement above, let me bust this myth utterly, as it is 100% incorrect. In a censusing study researchers tagged various northern elephant seals at Playa Norte, Isla de Guadalupe during this process they opportunistically observed the stealing of elephant seal’s milk by feral cats and western gulls(1). Even if this statement were true, which it isn’t, structuring our eating habits on that of other animals would be idiotic, for example. Chimps, dogs, rabbits and dung beetles have been observed eating their own and the feces of other wildlife, it would be unbeknownst to me why any thinking human would partake in this practice.

Drinking Milk Isn’t Natural

Firstly, there is no objective definition as to what “natural” food is, secondly just because something isn’t quote unquote “natural” doesn’t mean it can’t be beneficial for human use and consumption. For example man made antibiotics have the potential to be life saving in the right situations despite the fact they are not “natural”. Inversely, apple seeds are as “natural” as it gets and if you ate enough of them (hundreds), you would die. Apple seeds are covered with amygdalin which when chewed and digested degrades into hydrogen cyanide which is extremely lethal at high doses. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t make it necessarily good or bad.

Dairy Is Highly Satiating

A staple to any effective sustainable diet is its ability to keep you satiated while you are essentially under eating, which is what a diet is, controlled starvation. Research supports the fact that protein, which is high in many dairy products, is a very satiating macronutrient and people that consume high protein diets (0.7-1.2g/lbs BW) on average are leaner, have more lean body mass (LBM) and show improved health biomarkers such as blood pressure and blood lipids(2). Dairy also falls in this category of providing satiating effects, in a randomized controlled trial exploring appetite control during weight loss, groups were given a milk based supplement or an iso-energetic (matched Calories) placebo supplement. Measurements of various appetite regulatory hormones such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin were measured and it was found, although both groups lost weight, the group consuming the milk based supplement showed a lower than predicted decrease in fullness and a smaller increase in the desire to eat as well as overall hunger(3). Another example, one study demonstrated that consuming yogurt snacks containing a high amount of whey (a protein found in dairy) resulted in people eating 200 Calories less at lunch compared to people eating a lower protein yogurt(4). At the end of the day, if you’re not satiated while eating less, your diet will ultimately fail, dairy provides a great benefit in this regard.

Dairy Causes Inflammation

A very common buzz word thrown around by your local social media influencer, inflammation, but what is inflammation? Inflammation is a completely normal response to a nutritional insult or an acute/chronic injury, it’s the bodies way of harbouring an immune system response to promote healing and recovery. What it is not is a fancy buzz word to fear monger someone to ditching dairy! The research is very clear when it comes to dairy and its anti-inflammatory benefits, in fact this study showed pronounced anti-inflammatory properties in humans, not suffering from allergy to milk, especially when it came to the consumption of fermented dairy such as kefir and particular cheeses, there was an even greater anti-inflammatory response for people with metabolic disorders(5). To further illustrate, a review study was done, systematically looking at over fifteen randomized controlled trials over the past five years, they looked at specific markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, various cytokines and other blood markers of inflammation. It was shown clearly that the consumption of milk or dairy products does not show a pro-inflammatory effect in healthy subjects or individuals with metabolic disorders, in fact, the majority of studies documented a significant anti-inflammatory effect in both healthy and metabolically abnormal subjects(6).

(Upwards Arrow=Negative Association) (Downwards Arrow=Favourable Association) (Across Arrow=Neural Association)

Dairy Causes Cancer

Now I’m not going to sit here advocating someone should add or eliminate something from their diet and I am most certainly not advocating the avoidance of standard medical practice (yes people do this on social media). Cancer is a devastating disease and you should 150% consult a certified medical practitioner for medical treatment. What I am doing is simply presenting the science in a clear and digestible manner, when it comes to the research on dairy and its associations with cancer, the outcomes greatly favour people that consume dairy. A review looked at the evidence from meta-analyses (study of studies), observational studies and randomized controlled trials, the review was aimed to assess the scientific evidence on dairy and its association with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, all-cause mortality, etc. In relation to dairy and its impact on cancer, the review found neutral and even positive impacts on pancreatic cancer, ovarian lung cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer and breast cancer. The only negative outcome was prostate cancer and even this was neutral to adverse depending on the data set that you were observing(7). Now these associations, both positive, neutral and negative could perhaps be entirely correlational, the truth is we don’t know, and in my opinion, we’ll never know for absolute certain. What I am confident in saying is listening to the biggest idiot on social media telling you “dairy causes cancer” (yes I’ve seen this as well) is simply not supported by the research and when you take averages amongst various populations, dairy appears to benefit people in regards to cancer.

People That Consume Dairy Have Better Health Outcomes

For a fun change, this one is actually true and supported by a plethora of research. Studies such as this meta-analyses, looking at 29 studies the study found no associations in all-cause mortality or heart disease for people consuming dairy, it even showed that fermented dairy could be preventative when it comes to cardiovascular disease(8) . Furthermore, research shows people that consume dairy are leaner, have more lean body mass and have better health outcomes than people that don’t, one study even showed that dairy improved bone health and lean mass gain when dieting and Calories were restricted. The simply fact is, people that consume dairy are on average, "more healthy” than people that don’t(9)(10), the multitude of studies and decades of research demonstrate this. Not to say if you choose not to consume dairy there is something inherently unhealthy about it, simply saying that when you look at averages amongst populations, people that consume dairy show correlations to better health and body composition.

Lactose Intolerant

According to many sources such as this one(11) around 65% of the global population has a reduced ability do digest lactose (sugar found in milk), this doesn’t mean you are completely intolerant, there may be a dependent dose response as to how much lactose you can assimilate at a given time. This “intolerance” is highly correlated to ancestry, it is most common amongst Asians and least prevalent amongst Europeans . I am noting this lactose intolerance in populations because it is highly common to see anti-dairy cults use this as ammunition to support their bias and falsities, it is important to monitor YOUR own individual response to the different kinds of dairy you consume and observe if you have a limiting factor when it comes to dairy consumption. Moreover, many dairy sources are nearly or entirely lactose free, such as whey, cheese, butter, ghee, cream, some yogurts, etc. You can get tested to see if you have a true lactose intolerance or to what degree you are intolerant, this can be done by an allergist via a skin prick test or an oral food challenge, NOT by an idiot on social media manifesting generic symptoms to sell their program. If you think you have an intolerance, you should get tested, the more you know the more you can adjust your diet and dairy sources to work for you.

I Cut Out Dairy And I Feel So Much Better

Stop me if you’ve heard this line before, while yes there is some credence to the statement, however, I argue that it doesn’t stem directly from the complete abstinence of dairy products. Statements like this often work on levels that are multifaceted, meaning there can be multiple factors that contribute towards you “feeling better”, for example. Some dairy products are rather high in Calories, such as cheese, sour cream, butter, etc, it is highly possible that when someone chooses to eliminate dairy completely they also eliminate a large amount of Calories they used to consume, in doing so they may experience weight loss and “feel better”. Furthermore, typically if someone is eliminating something from their diet completely, the reasoning is aimed towards weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, this elimination is usually accompanied by many other healthy habits such as exercising, limiting alcohol intake, limiting sugar intake, sleeping more, perhaps quitting smoking, etc, these other variables can also play a role on someones physical and mental well-being and can attribute greatly to a persons good “feeling”. Lastly, and don’t overlook this one, as I have seen it work anecdotally as well as in the research, placebo effect. People have a false perception that dairy is “bad”, they eliminate it and associate the elimination as ditching a bad habit, whatever the mechanism, it probably isn’t the absence of dairy that’s making you all of a sudden, “feel better”.

Funding Bias

Now yes, I would agree that nefarious things happen within the scientific community and in full transparency, I did cite studies that were funded by segments of the dairy industry but this doesn’t discredit the research, if we focus on finding sources on why a study is bad, we can throw out every study ever done in human history. Typically if there is a conflict of interest or bias within an area of research the results won’t be reproducible, this is simply not the case with dairy consumption. There have been dozens upon dozens of studies, some privately funded, such as this one(12) showing no link to negative health associations for people that consume dairy and positive health associations for people that do.

Ending Thought

I hope the information I’ve poured into this article is enough to change the narrative on dairy consumption or perhaps, change what you previously thought to be true or untrue. As I’ve stated, people need to belong, to be a part of a community, we’re all humans with very tribal instincts at the end of the day. That said, with the proliferation of social media giving a platform to people to spread wrong information and strengthen their cult like ideology, it is no mystery as to why such false stigmas exists about dairy and its consumption. If after observing the research you don’t want to consume dairy for ethical reasons, intolerance reasons or maybe you simply just don’t like it, that’s completely fine, but don’t be naive towards the abundance of evidence that supports the consumption of dairy as a positive impact on our health.

By: Peter Baboulas

IG: babs302

Facebook: 302Fitness














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