Doctor's Appointment | Dairy milk: To drink or not?
Milk has been a staple in our traditional diet, especially in rural communities. But in recent times, several alternatives have been popularised. They include almond, coconut, flax, hemp, rice, and soy, to name a few. This so-called superfood has also been at the centre of one of the oldest debates on whether the best milk is the kind harvested from cows.
For this week's appointment, Dr Marjorie Vassell, who is a general practitioner at the Operation Friendship Compound in Kingston, helped us to make sense of what we know about this concept of 'real milk' and its relationship with humans.
According to Dr Vassell, there are more beneficial effects and advantages to consuming rather than opting not to consume dairy milk. However, this is most valid once the golden rule 'everything in moderation' is applied.
Some of the recorded benefits to drinking whole cow's milk include:
1. BONE HEALTH Calcium, a very important nutrient that assists with growth and development of bones, is found in cow's milk, which has 275.7mg per cup. On average, the human body requires 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.
2. HEART HEALTH Cow's milk is a source of potassium, which is useful in enhancing vasodilation and reducing blood pressure. Cow's milk has 322.1mg per cup. An average of 4,700mg is required by persons below age 19 years, and five, and 100mg for those over 19 years.
3. CELL HEALTH Proteins are needed for the generation, growth and to repair to the body's building blocks cells. With each glass of cow's milk, we absorb eight grams of protein. Approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound, is required each day. That is, 56g for the average sedentary man and 46g for the average sedentary woman.
4. Boosting the immune system, normal thyroid function, and healthy skin development.
5. Prevention of diabetes, excessive weight gain, hypertension and inflammation. The body is instructed by the LCT gene to create an enzyme known as lactase that speeds up the process for breaking down lactose. Over time, that gene may become less active, which results in the development of an inability to properly digest and absorb the contents of milk.
This is understood as lactose intolerance. This difficulty can begin at two years old, but may not become symptomatic until the individual reaches adolescence or adulthood.
Symptoms include vomiting, flatulence and diarrhoea. Lactose-free alternatives, with nutrients intact, can alleviate these.
Depending on what cows eat, the milk produced may also expose consumers to various hazards. Grass, fed cows, Dr Vassell noted, give the safest milk output. However, there is the danger of pesticides and other chemicals released in the soil.
Additionally, as the demand for cow's milk expands, various solutions have been created to increase the amount of milk that can be harvested. These include bovine, growth hormones, and antibiotic-growth promoters.
Chief Executive Officer of The Jamaica Dairy Development Board; Hugh Graham, said, however, the agency is committed to collaborating with dairy farmers across the island in ensuring cow's milk remains a safe, nutritious and viable option for consumers.
While substitutes for cow's milk may capture some characteristics of milk, they are not milk in its truest form. They contain inadequate amounts or, in some cases, are devoid of nutrients that infants, small children, adolescents, the elderly and the ill require.
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