Ads used to say 'milk does a body good'—but does it?

Should you drink milk?

Cow’s milk was once touted as the perfect food, supplying the body with a lot of carbohydrates, fats, protein and calcium.

We are often reminded by dairy consumer groups that we should drink milk daily to be healthy and get our daily calcium requirements. However, we should be aware we are the only species on Earth that continues to drink milk once we are weaned as infants.

Lactose is the primary sugar derived from milk. Lactose is actually two sugar molecules stuck together by a chemical bond. The enzymes lactase helps to break the bond and release the two individual sugars, glucose and galactose. Lactase is located in the wall of the small intestine. The enzyme breaks down lactose into two simple sugars that are then easily absorbed and burned for energy.

Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of lactase enzyme and therefore an inability to break down the sugar lactose. A hereditary deficiency of lactase occurs in 70% to 90% of people of Asian descent and 70% to 80% of people of Arab decent and Indigenous peopleTen per cent to 20% of Scandinavians and 10% to 15% of people of European Caucasian descent have a hereditary deficiency of lactase.

Lactose intolerance usually manifests itself between infancy and early childhood. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pains, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, gas and stomach aches. Many of those symptoms are created by bacteria in the gut that are able to digest and breakdown lactose. During the breakdown process, the sugars are fermented. The bacteria release large amounts of gas that results in many of the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

One cup of whole milk contains 12 grams, or 30%, of lactose by weight. One cup of 2% milk contains 13 grams or 41% and once cup of skim milk contains 11.4 grams or 57%. Two ounces of cheddar cheese contains about one gram or 2% of lactose by weight. Cheeses are generally better tolerated by many lactose intolerant individuals, but are considerably higher in fat content.

Milk contains more than 60 different proteins and at least 35 of these proteins have been documented to cause allergic reactions in humans. Two highly allergic proteins in milk are casein and lactalbumin.

Approximately 50% of the protein in milk is from casein. Casein is a rather large protein molecule that is used primarily to make curds and cheese. It was once believed casein was too large to be absorbed through the small intestines. More current research suggests considerable amounts of casein are directly absorbed from the intestines into the blood stream.

Once in circulation, intact casein molecules combine with other larger sugar molecules to form slimy complexes that increase mucous in the body. Milk is considered to be a mucous-forming food. Many individuals notice an increase in mucous production following the ingestion of milk and other dairy products. Nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, recurrent ear infections, lung congestion, gastro-esophageal reflux can be a consequence of increased dairy intake.

Milk is high in fat. Forty eight percent of the total calories of one glass of whole milk is from milk fat. Thirty one percent of the total calories of one glass of 2% milk is from milk fat. Fifteen percent of the total calories of one glass of 1% milk if from milk fat and 5% of the total calories of one glass of skim milk is from milk fat.

One glass of 2% milk weighs about 240 gram and contains 145 calories. Two percent of 240 grams equals about five grams of milk fat. One gram of fat equals 9 calories. Therefore, five grams produces 45 calories of energy per glass of 2% milk. That equals about 31% of the total calories.

One glass, or 250 millilitres, of cow’s milk contains about 300 milligrams of elemental calcium. Other vitamins in cow’s milk include some vitamin A, small amounts of B vitamins such as vitamin B12 and folic acid, and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. It should be pointed out the calcium content between whole milk, 2%, 1% and skim milk is about the same. The difference between these milk products is the fat content.

The recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is between 800 and 1200 milligrams per day. One glass of cow’s milk supplies about one-third, or 300 milligrams, of elemental calcium. Cow’s milk is a good source of dietary calcium.

If you are not lactose intolerant or allergic to casein or other milk proteins, or suffer from copious amount of mucous and phlegm, it is likely OK to consume milk in moderation.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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