One of the more important nutritional debates in recent times has been the one over the benefits (or otherwise) of the human consumption of milk.
Most of us have been brought up on the message that milk is great for you, associated as it is with strong teeth and bones and a healthy lifestyle. As children we have had the health benefits of milk drummed into us and those of us old enough may remember when milk was provided free at schools. But is drinking milk that good for us? Is there any evidence that we shouldn’t be drinking milk?
Just as important is the question: can other products substitute for the nutrients in milk?
The industrialised, sweetened and added-to milk that we consume today is far removed from that made for calves and consumed by people for centuries. Indeed the added sugars and chemical additives of the recommended intake of three glasses a day may even contribute to such modern day health scourges as childhood obesity and diabetes. Extra sugars added in flavoured milk and pitched at young adults by marketing companies as a health drink have only increased the problem.
But its not just the sweetened milk that has been shown to be detrimental for your health. Recent studies have found that health claims of the consumption of even natural, “raw” milk are overblown and too much may be bad for our health. Leading the way is a Harvard study by Dr. David Ludwig and Dr. Walter Willett which found no evidence to support the common claim that dairy consumption results in stronger, healthier bones and teeth and improved health in general.
This then asks the question: should humans drink cow’s milk at all? There are a number of beneficial nutrients contained in milk including calcium and protein which is good for elderly people and the young. However if these properties are negated by the added sweeteners and preservatives — and the detrimental effects of drinking milk perhaps it may be be better to obtain these from other sources?
In this series of articles, we’ll look closely at cow’s milk, the history of human consumption and what it has meant for our society throughout our history. We’ll examine the claims of health risks of consuming milk and look at how our relationship to the product has changed over the years. From the lactose tolerant gene variation that enables most of us to digest lactose to the present day methods of marketing milk as a low-fat, healthy, “power” food and drink.
Finally we’ll show that there are a number of other natural food sources where people can obtain the beneficial ingredients of milk without having to consume the product.