Diet

Is Dairy Bad for You?
Looking at the Health Benefits

The Inside Scoop On Dairy: Is It Actually Good For You?
Isaac Robertson
Written by Isaac Robertson

You’d be surprised at how polarizing the topic of dairy can be! We all grow up drinking milk and being told that it is good for us, especially for our bone health. Drinking one glass of milk is even recommended daily.

But nowadays, more and more people are claiming that dairy could have adverse effects on our bodies- even linking it to illness and cancer!

With all the talk of its effect on the human body, it’s hard to tell what is truth and what is just a myth. It’s even harder to determine if you need to cut it out of your diet completely. All anyone wants to know is: “is milk bad for you?”

To help you understand where you stand on this whole diary debate, we have compiled this helpful guide answering whether dairy is bad for you, or actually healthy.

Is it Natural for Humans to Consume Milk?

The truth about milk is that it is actually not natural for humans to consume. In fact, humans are the only species to drink another animal’s milk when we drink cows milk.

When asked, “why is milk bad for you?” this is one of the main factors people cite.

In the animal world, animals only consume milk during infancy to promote healthy growth, another difference in how humans consume dairy. 

Little calf drinking milk from the bottle

There are currently 98.4 million cattle in the USA.

Humans drink milk long into adulthood where other species do not, even when there is no more need for growth.

​Before the agricultural revolution, our ancestors did not drink milk after infancy. Dairy is not a necessary component in our diets to maintain optimal health. This is one of the main reasons dairy is not consumed in a strict paleo diet.

Important Facts About Dairy

There are a lot of facts and myths available on dairy, but it is hard to distinguish one from the other.

People say some pretty ridiculous things about dairy, but we’re here to clear the air and help you get to the bottom of things.

Here are some myths and facts on milk, and the logic behind them. We also answer the question you are dying to know: is milk healthy? Or is milk bad for you?

Milk in a bottle and a glass with funny face

Fancy a glass of milk?

1. Everyone’s Allergic or Intolerant

The myth that everyone’s allergic or intolerant to dairy is false. While milk is linked to aggravating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and 75% of people cannot properly digest milk and other dairy products, also known as lactose intolerance, there is still 25% of the world’s population that can consume milk without any discomfort.

The high rate in lactose intolerance can possibly be linked to losing the lactase enzyme we are born with to help us digest our mother’s milk as we age. Even those who are lactose intolerant can still comfortably consume milk in moderation. (1)

2. It Does Not Makes You Gain Weight (In Moderation)

After it became known that milk contained saturated fat, something linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer, many people were quick to assume that milk makes you gain weight. But this is simply false.

Milk does not cause weight gain.

If you think that using low-fat or fat-free dairy products like skim milk will keep you from gaining weight, think again. 

measuring fat tummy

When items are replaced with reduced fat options, the fat is typically replaced with more refined sugars which do not reduce the risk of heart disease.

​Not to mention, small amounts of the fats found in whole milk can be good for weight loss because it can help you feel full. So if you ask yourself, “is whole milk good for you?” The answer is yes!

3. Calcium May Raise Cancer Risk

The truth behind this is still unknown. The line of thinking behind researchers who think that milk consumption is behind the high rates of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer is that the hormones used by farms to produce milk cause this. Other people think that refined sugars and saturated fats in milk are to blame.

While both of these things are a possibility, there is still no definitive or conclusive information on a link between milk, calcium, and cancer. In fact, there are just as many studies being performed on how dairy is actually beneficial to your health.

4. Calcium Does Not Prevent Bone Fractures

Many people believe that the calcium in milk is the number one health reason to drink it since it’s good for our bones, but some studies show that this may not be as beneficial to our bones as we once thought.

In a study of vitamin D and calcium consumption in over 72,000 postmenopausal women, it was actually found that vitamin D was associated with a lower risk of hip fractures.

Yogurt and fruits in a pot

Yogurt was probably discovered by accident.

​In fact, they concluded that “neither milk nor a high-calcium diet appears to reduce risk [of hip fractures].” (2)

​Vitamin D supplements, with or without calcium, have been shown to reduce falls and fracture​ risk in this population. A small number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that increased 25-OHD levels with a loading dose of vitamin D may improve falls and fractures.

​Jenson Mak, IntechOpen

​4 Reasons Why You ​Keep Dairy On Your Diet

1. You May Not Meet Your Nutrition Needs

Believe it or not, milk is actually loaded with nutrients. First and foremost, milk is high in protein, especially whey protein, which promotes muscle growth and organ growth. That’s why chocolate milk is always recommended as a post-workout drink. Protein also helps keep you full longer.

Milk is also high in calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.​ Research shows that a lower risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes can be linked to dairy.

​It has even been found that getting these through dairy is the best and most efficient way to do so because it also has natural substances that help your body absorb these vitamins.

2. Your Good Gut Bacteria Might Suffer

Gut health is often something that people overlook. Your stomach naturally has bacteria and microbes that regulate digestion and other products.

Fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir can give your good bacteria boost and help out your overall health. 

christian bale

Removing dairy from your diet could throw this balance out of whack and your good gut bacteria might suffer.

​As long as you are not suffering from bloat or indigestion from consuming dairy or being lactose intolerant, it may be more healthy to keep it in your diet than remove it.

3. Your Immunity Might Take a Hit

Vitamin B12 is also found in milk and is a big part of regulating your immune system. The vitamin D found in milk is also an important part of fighting off unwanted bacteria and infections.

The combination of these vitamins in milk makes it a powerful drink.

If you cut dairy out of your diet, you may find yourself getting tired quicker and even getting more colds. (3)

​While there is no direct link between illness and a lack of dairy in your diet, the essential nutrients you consume while drinking milk may very well help prevent you from getting sick.

4. It Might Mess With Your Mind

Completely restricting an entire food group may do more harm than good. There is some sort of psychological effect that restricting entire food groups has on our brains.

In fact, research shows that the reward and pleasure centers in your brain light up more when tempted by restricted foods than when tempted by foods you don’t consider off-limits.

Kefir on a plate

Kefir - delicious carbonated fermented milk beverage.

This could eventually lead to binging on the restricted foods and episodes of overeating. Unless your body has a negative physical reaction to dairy, such as being lactose intolerant, you may be putting it in more danger by cutting it out completely.

4 ​Reasons Why You Should Give Up Dairy

1. To Achieve A Smoother Skin

There are certain hormones in cows milk that don’t go well with our own hormones and can lead to an increase of sebum production in our skin.

Sebum is something that clogs pores and causes outbreaks.

That’s not to say that one bite will lead to an outbreak, but it’s possible.

It’s even more likely for people who regularly consume dairy. (4)

thin models in the beach posing

​Cutting dairy out completely could result in less sebum production and, therefore, clearer and smoother skin. It out may also reduce other symptoms such as eczema.

2. To Have Fewer Digestive Troubles

As mentioned before, lactose intolerance is something that affects 75% of the world’s population. If you find yourself feeling experiencing bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, or even diarrhea after drinking milk or eating an extra cheesy pizza, you may have a lactose sensitivity yourself.

​Without the lactase enzyme that helps break down dairy, it can be hard to digest cow’s milk and switching to substitutes such as almond milk may be beneficial.

​And don’t forget to consult a doctor if you think you are lactose intolerant or have any negative reaction to certain food groups.

3. ​To Be More Energized

Many foods containing dairy, such as cheese pizza or creamy pasta sauce, can be very heavy on your stomach.

Eating these kinds of foods on a regular basis can make you feel perpetually sluggish, so cutting out dairy may result in you having more energy.

Not only that but when you start replacing dairy with healthier alternatives, those foods might increase your energy naturally, as well!

women in the gym

​For instance, if you stopped eating dairy but still wanted to eat calcium-rich foods, you should eat more kale and spinach and those foods help your body produce more natural energy!

​4. To Relieve Headache

If you suffer from regular headaches or migraines, you may want to consider cutting back on dairy. Dairy contains a natural substance called tyramine that can lead to headaches and migraines in some people. Cutting back would lead to less tyramine and potentially fewer headaches!

However, dairy also contains vitamin B2. A lack of vitamin B2 is also linked with migraines and cutting it from your diet might reduce your B2 levels and cause more headaches. If you choose to cut out dairy as a way to try and control your migraines, make sure you are getting enough B2 by eating more mushrooms, spinach, and almonds.

The Bottom Line on Dairy

So, is milk healthy?

The answer is there is no right or wrong way to look at dairy.

There are numerous benefits as well as cons to consuming it. Basically, what it comes down to is how your own body reacts to dairy.

If your body reacts negatively to dairy, stay away from it. If your body can tolerate dairy, eat it as you wish. No matter how or if you consume it, moderation is key. 

Cow and milk fun picture

Is dairy even worth eating?

After all, even those who are lactose intolerant can consume dairy in moderation.

The next time you are drinking milk, take note of how your body reacts. Are you sluggish or bloated? Or do you feel normal?

No matter what, do what is best for your body!


​References

​1. Genetics Home Reference, Lactose intolerance, retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance

2. Jenson Mak, Optimising Vitamin D Levels after Hip Fractures, retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/books/a-critical-evaluation-of-vitamin-d-basic-overview/optimising-vitamin-d-levels-after-hip-fractures

3. Jeffrey Traister, Does Dairy Impair the Immune System?, retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/542095-does-dairy-impair-the-immune-system/

4. Christian Allaire, I Gave Up Dairy—And My Adult Acne Vanished in Under a Month, retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/dairy-cause-of-acne-skin-health-diet-lactose-intolerance

About the author

Isaac Robertson

Isaac Robertson

I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits. You can read more about me here​.

  • Thanks for this. I ain’t giving up dairy products because of its health benefits. How about you Isaac? What’s your personal take on this?

    • Hi Lori! I consume dairy products too. I believe that most foods have pros and cons, if not all. There are people who are allergic to some foods, and the rest can eat almost anything. It all boils down on how we control what we eat, and in this case, our dairy consumption.

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