For most of us dairy is an important source of calcium, protein, potassium and (depending on the dairy food) Vitamin D. However, some people have problems with eating diary and then we hear of other concerns. So are dairy foods healthy or not?
Bones – Milk critics have believed that eating animal protein, including dairy protein, causes our bodies to leach calcium from our bones. However, several studies have shown that people who eat more animal protein have higher bone mineral density than those eating the least protein. Studies by the USDA and the University of Connecticut found that eating diary foods does not make women lose calcium more.
Neutral – Dairy foods do not appear to harm bones.
Colon Cancer – The World Cancer Research Fund and the American institute for Cancer Research concluded recently that “Milk probably protects against colorectal cancer.” (This finding was not applied to yogurt or cheese.) They have concluded that those who drink at least one cup of milk a day have a lower risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer than those who rarely drink milk.
Plus – Milk seems to protect against colon cancer.
Prostate Cancer – According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research milk and dairy products show limited evidence as a cause of prostate cancer. The evidence is inconsistent which makes it difficult to make recommendations to men.
Blood Pressure – Research has shown that dairy products have a modest effect on lowering blood pressure. This modest effect may help prevent some people from progressing to full-blown hypertension from pre-hypertension. In the Women’s Health Study those who averaged at least two servings of low-fat dairy foods a day had about 10% lower risk of developing high blood pressure over those who averaged two or less servings a week. Calcium supplements had no effect on lowering the risk.
Plus – Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and low in saturated fat lowers blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension or hypertension.
Weight Loss – Although you may have heard many commercials about how diary helps you lose pounds a new study concluded that including dairy in a weight-loss diet does not help you lose more pounds or fat than just cutting calories. The study did find that the group that consumed the least dairy saw a loss of bone mineral in the hip as well as markers of bone loss. The group who eat a high-dairy diet didn’t have the bone loss.
Neutral – Dairy does not help you lose more weight or fat while you cut calories.
Conclusions – Dairy foods help lower blood pressure, seems to protect against colon cancer and don’t harm our bones (may help our bones as in study under weight loss). Dairy does not help with weight loss and the jury is still out on prostate cancer. For most of us dairy foods are an important source of calcium, protein, potassium, and Vitamin D. (Reference: Schardt, D. . Dairy- Hero or Villain? Nutrition Action Healthletter, 38 (6), pp.9-11)