Some people believe milk is dangerous like Kryptonite, and they go to heroic lengths to avoid it. But the truth is as long as you aren’t made of steel – or from another planet – you can benefit a great deal from daily consumption.
There’s a lot of contradictory information flying around about whether or not milk is good for you, but in reality, people have been relying upon milk for high quality nutrition for a very long time, and lots of good quality science confirms its value.
But like all things nutrition and health, context is important, and it’s possible to react badly to milk (often only temporarily), even if ironically milk is one of the best things to consume, to help improve your health. It can be a bit of a conundrum.
Most of the time the reason for bad reactions is because of different things that are added into milk, or because of problems arising due to the consumption of other ingredients in your diet, interfering with digestion. Sometimes it’s just because of the particular diet of the cow, or because you have a poorly functioning metabolism and inflammation. There are a number of studies attached below which go into more detail about ‘lactose intolerance’.
All that aside for now, when it comes to promoting health, or for protection against the effects of stress on metabolic function, I think milk is more important today than it has ever been.
Why would I say such a thing? The simple answer is that the world has changed significantly over the last century. The concept of stress has taken on a whole new meaning, very different to what still comes to mind for many people, when that word is used.
Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) consumption, radiation, environmental estrogens, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, dangerous pharmaceuticals, the wrong kind of light, sleep issues and numerous other harmful things have a cumulative stress promoting, metabolism interfering effect, that likely has never been seen before. Anti-sugar hysteria makes things significantly worse.
These things, especially when added together, promote increasing levels of chronic inflammation, and thyroid and energy metabolism dysfunction. And they promote them in such a way as to be able to prevent ease of return to normal function when stress reduces.
If you put the idea of ‘genes’ as the cause of all problems aside, you’ll discover that degeneration and disease is always at the very least, exacerbated by stress, inflammation and thyroid dysfunction.
Once you are already suffering from the effects of ongoing stress, including chronic inflammatory issues and suppressed energy system function, your ability to assimilate the nutrition necessary for healing is interfered with, and your food options can be limited.
If you want to recover from or avoid illness, there are a number of reasons why you have less of a choice these days, but to include milk in your diet.
Milk is a fairly easily digestible, high calcium, high protein, low iron, reasonably low phosphorus food, with milk sugar (lactose), mostly saturated fat, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. This is a really good thing when it comes to protection against stress and inflammation.
“…association between consumption of dairy products and…inflammatory markers among adults with no evidence of cardiovascular or other chronic disease…We observed that C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) levels of individuals consuming between 11 and 14 servings of dairy products per week were almost 16%, 5%, and 12% lower…while those consuming more than 14 servings per week had 29%, 9%, and 20% lower levels…”
The calcium in milk is almost enough of a reason not to go without milk in your diet. The importance of calcium can hardly be overstated. Calcium is an anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, anti-obesity, anti-allergy, pro-metabolism substance.
Insufficient calcium can cause PTH (parathyroid hormone) to rise, which pulls calcium out of the bones into circulation causing an excess of calcium inside cells.
Even though calcium plays a crucial role in cellular metabolism, improper regulation of calcium is central to stress, inflammation and disease. Sufficient calcium intake helps keep PTH low, ensuring the vast majority of calcium stays in the bones, and the amount of calcium required to be in the cell remains properly regulated for optimal metabolic performance.
“Interestingly we found a strong inverse correlation between dietary calcium intake and S-iPTH [parathyroid hormone]…suggests that calcium intake in the subjects of the present study was far from sufficient…low calcium intake, coupled with long periods of elevated calcium requirements as well as high S-iPTH concentrations…and low peak bone mass could lead to a very high risk of osteoporosis…”
“…there is a strong theoretical framework to explain the effects of dietary calcium on energy metabolism. The supporting mechanisms include dietary calcium-correcting suboptimal calcium intakes, thereby preventing the endocrine response (parathyroid hormone [PTH] and calcitriol), which favors adipocyte energy storage and inhibits adipocyte loss via apoptosis…Dietary calcium appears to be responsible for approximately 50% of the antiobesity bioactivity of dairy foods…”
High PTH is itself an issue which promotes inflammation and disease. PTH stimulates the production of inflammatory cytokines, inhibits oxidative metabolism, and encourages the production of lactic acid instead of carbon dioxide, pumping up stress. Rising PTH has been shown to increase cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension and all cause mortality.
“A low calcium intake increases…parathyroid hormone (PTH), causing calcium influx into vascular smooth muscle cells…New research indicates that dairy peptides may act as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, thereby inhibiting the renin angiotensin system with consequent vasodilation. A growing evidence base shows that dairy product consumption is involved in the regulation of BP [blood pressure].”
There are some other ways to get sufficient calcium, however there is evidence showing that calcium in milk or dairy is the easiest to assimilate, a factor which is likely to become even more important as stress rises, metabolism is suppressed and the digestive system is inflamed and sub-optimal.
“Obtaining sufficient amounts of absorbable dietary calcium…is difficult…without the inclusion of dairy foods…Lactovegetarians are able to meet recommended calcium intakes and do not have compromised bone mineral densities. Few other foods provide concentrated sources of absorbable calcium.”
Alternative sources of calcium often worsen digestive irritation and may end up adding to the severity of high PTH, inflammatory, calcium dysregulation issues, rather than achieving their anti-stress objective. I’m not saying it isn’t doable, but it may not be ideal at a time when the right results can be crucial.
Being able to satisfy nutritional requirements as easily as possible, with food that is highly palatable, removes another layer of stress getting in the way of the potential to avoid inflammatory conditions, or heal from illness.
Apart from being very high in calcium, milk provides quality protein, and protein deficiency is another thing which causes PTH to rise, suppresses liver function and thyroid energy metabolism, and generally increases stress, inflammation and disease.
“…significant decreases in systemic lipid peroxidation as demonstrated by decreased plasma MDA with the high-Ca diet, with a significantly greater effect on the milk diet…The high-Ca diet also resulted in significant suppression of inflammatory cytokines…dairy foods appear to exert a beneficial effect on circulating CRP and adiponectin levels independently of changes in body weight…”
“The dairy-supplemented diet resulted in significant suppression of oxidative stress (plasma malondialdehyde; 8-isoprostane-F(2alpha)) and lower inflammatory markers (tumor necrosis factor-alpha; interleukin-6; monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) and increased adiponectin, whereas the soy exerted no significant effect.”
Ironically, thyroid dysfunction and inflammation can interfere with the ability to digest protein, making it hard for some people to fix a protein deficiency by eating protein. There are some good ways to approach this (potato juice and BCAAs for example) but in many cases, lowering stress and inflammation and improving liver function is a reasonable idea.
A large amount of the protein in milk is casein, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory protective effects.
Apart from milk and dairy, no other protein source that I am aware of, offers as much easy to digest, easily assimilable protein, whilst at the same time being low in iron, low enough in phosphorus and high enough in calcium (to help maintain a good phosphorus to calcium ratio), and low in pufa. This all goes a long way towards making milk one of the best foods around.
“Epidemiological evidence shows dairy consumption to be associated with a decreased prevalence of metabolic related disorders, supported by experimental studies showing milk protein decreases the prevalence of individual metabolic risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidaemia, and mild hyperglycaemia.”
Excess iron, too much phosphorus (relative to calcium), and the over consumption and storage of PUFA, are three of the most biologically relevant and scientifically backed drivers of chronic inflammation, stress, aging and disease. Limiting the impact of these issues has been demonstrated to reduce many kinds of symptoms, and to improve recovery from illness.
“Set against the proportion of total deaths attributable to the life-threatening diseases in the UK, vascular disease, diabetes and cancer, the results of meta-analyses provide evidence of an overall survival advantage from the consumption of milk and dairy foods.”
“…a 6-week period of milk supplementation induced a decrease in several biochemical variables compatible with diminished bone turnover mediated by reduction in parathyroid hormone secretion. This nutritional approach to postmenopausal alteration in bone metabolism may be a valuable measure in the primary prevention of osteoporosis.”
Grains, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat and many vegetables all have at least one (and in some cases all) of the above mentioned problems, and it looks like none of these foods, on their own can provide calcium and protein as safely and effectively as milk. Am I saying they can never be part of a healthy diet or that eating any of them means you can’t ever be healthy? No I’m not.
“…our findings suggest that calcium intake consistent with current recommendations is associated with a lower risk of total cancer in women and cancers of the digestive system, especially colorectal cancer, in both men and women.”
It is true that milk protein has some tryptohan content, and that particularly as a person gets older, it’s a good idea to limit intake if possible, as it has the potential to be inflammatory and to be converted into the stress substance, serotonin.
The good news however, is that tryptophan is more likely to be converted into niacin than serotonin, if stress is low, thyroid is functioning well, polyunsaturated free fatty acids are minimized, progesterone to estrogen ratio is good, and calcium to phosphorus ratio is optimized. Thankfully milk is a great food when it comes to achieving all these objectives.
So milk gives you lots of protein and calcium, minus issues associated with iron, too much phosphorus, and excess PUFA. When it comes to thyroid energy system metabolism, this is a bit like winning the lottery. And there’s more.
Milk also comes equipped with its own sugar, lactose, and there are a number of reasons why this is helpful. One reason is that it has been shown that lactose increases calcium absorption, and that this is true even when there is a deficiency of lactase.
The sugar or lactose content in milk is another factor which can be understood to provide energy and protect against stress, increasing carbon dioxide production, reducing free fatty acids, keeping PTH low and improving calcium regulation. Sugar, by lowering stress, can also help to reduce calcium requirements. Stress reduction is beneficial for disease in general, and this includes weight loss and blood sugar related issues.
“…lactose enables maintenance of glucose and insulin equilibrium, avoiding high postprandial peaks achieved with glucose or corn syrups in milk fed at 3 hr intervals. We propose an important metabolic homeostatic role for lactose as carbohydrate source in human milk…”
“…diets that include ≥3 daily servings of dairy products result in significant reductions in adipose tissue mass in obese humans in the absence of caloric restriction and markedly accelerate weight and body fat loss…”
“Dietary patterns characterized by increased dairy consumption have a strong inverse association with IRS [insulin resistance syndrome] among overweight adults and may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Milk consumption has been shown to lower cortisol, helping to minimize the release of the inflammatory amino acids (including tryptophan) into circulation.
The combination of milk and sweet fruit (or milk with added sugar) can be a great way to minimize negative effects from amino acids (including the possible low blood sugar effects of protein). The addition of gelatin or glycine into the diet can also be protective against any inflammatory effects from excess tryptophan. It appears that casein may also be able to protect against tryptophan absorption.
There is plenty of science which demonstrates that ‘lactose intolerance’ symptoms can be dealt with by fixing inflammatory thyroid related digestive issues, and that small amounts of milk with food or with added sugar can almost always be tolerated, and symptoms can completely go away over time.
“…evidence at this time suggests that…regular consumption of DFs [dairy foods] over a prolonged period (which may be as little a 3–4 weeks) improves aspects of LI [lactose intolerance] symptoms. There are suggestions from the literature that over a prolonged time…persons may naturally become totally asymptomatic.”
In my experience, removing inflammatory things and gradually increasing your intake of pro-metabolic foods over time is an effective way to lower stress and get rid of digestive issues that interfere with the assimilation of milk. Perhaps milk cannot work like a ‘superfood’ until the real Kryponites are dealt with.
Bacterial endotoxin (LPS) is a major factor driving inflammation and metabolic suppression, and endotoxin becomes more of an issue as a result of calcium dysregulation and protein insufficiency, and all the other things that go along with and promote chronic stress and thyroid issues.
PUFA, iron and endotoxin powerfully interact causing or worsening inflammatory issues (including diabetes and metabolic syndrome) and milk is a very helpful food to replace the foods that are largely responsible for increasing the likelihood of these interactions.
“A 6-week cross-over study design was used to determine the effect of increased dairy consumption in typically low-dairy consumers with metabolic syndrome (MetS) on systemic inflammation and hepatic enzymes…We conclude that three dairy servings per day improved both liver function and systemic inflammation in subjects with MetS.”
“…evidence indicates that dairy components that alter mitochondrial function, promote gut microbial population shifts, or influence inflammation and cardiovascular function should be considered as possible mechanistic factors linking dairy intake with lower risk for T2D.”
High fat intake in general can interfere with energy metabolism, and the fat, (which stores some beneficial nutrients) is also the place of storage for toxins and heavy metals. Skim milk has been shown in some studies to protect against disease more than whole milk, and it’s worthwhile experimenting with the lower fat milks (especially as you age) to avoid excess PUFA and other problematic things, if you are consuming large quantities everyday.
“Data from this study show that an increase in dairy intake…(≈3.5 servings/day) significantly attenuates both oxidative and inflammatory stress in metabolic syndrome…data…show a strong inverse association between dairy consumption and abnormal glucose homeostasis…the development of the insulin resistance syndrome…a higher intake of low-fat dairy appears to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes…”
Estrogen levels in milk (especially low fat milk) are minimal, and they are counteracted by good quantities of progesterone. Even if this were not the case, it would still be a non-issue in comparison to the estrogenic effects of high iron, high PUFA, high phosphorus, low calcium, low protein, digestion interfering, bacteria feeding, liver overloading foods that replace milk and some other dairy foods.
There is very little way around this that I know of, and the addition of sugar or sweet fruit to a milk based diet also helps to protect against estrogen excess, as well as free fatty acid release, serotonin, endotoxin, cortisol, calcium dysregulation, and inflammation in general.
I’m not saying that milk is the be all and end all solution to every health problem, but I haven’t seen any evidence that has convinced me that removing dairy from your diet, and eating green veggies and flax seed oil is a good idea when it comes to chronic stress and inflammation.
“Epidemiological data for the most part suggest that there is an inverse correlation between dairy consumption and MetS [metabolic syndrome]…Clinical studies have also shown associations between increased dairy intake and lowering of one or several parameters of metabolic syndrome including weight and waist circumference, blood pressure, dyslipidemias, and hyperglycemia. Additional benefits have been shown in maintaining vascular function and decreasing hyperglycemia, inflammation, and reductions in type 2 diabetes…”
Milk makes meeting nutritional requirements simple, and the last thing anybody needs when they are sick, is to spend their days trying to make difficult to digest things palatable and digestible. Chocolate milk with lots of sugar or with coffee is easy and delicious.
Milk also comes with other pro-metabolism anti-stress anti-inflammatory things like magnesium, potassium, B-12 and riboflavin, but even milk is not a perfect solution in today’s environment. And diet is not the only factor determining health outcomes, so things can get a little confusing if it’s assumed that all people who have longevity are eating an optimal diet. Studies are unable to control for every variable.
“The evidence indicating healthful effects of milk and milk product consumption on prevention of cancers is considerably greater than those representing harmful impacts. In fact, there is certainly no evidence that milk consumption might increase death from any condition…there is ample convincing evidence through thousands of years of consumption that shows their definite impact on health, health maintenance, survival, and longevity.”
Milk has always been a good food, but there is good reason to suggest that the way things are today, it may be more important than ever. Regardless, milk can differ from one cow to the next (for many reasons), and metabolic conditions vary. Experimentation with different kinds, and with diet in general, is fundamental.
I often hear it said that ‘milk is meant for baby cows’, but all this does is make me wonder if seeds are meant for baby birds, or if leaves are meant for squirrels and moose.
“The totality of available scientific evidence supports that intake of milk and dairy products contribute to meet nutrient recommendations, and may protect against the most prevalent chronic diseases, whereas very few adverse effects have been reported.”
There’s a reason why Aquaman isn’t able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
See More Here
Effects of Dairy Products Consumption on Health: Benefits and Beliefs—A Commentary from the Belgian Bone Club and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases
Effects of calcium intake, milk and dairy product intake, and blood vitamin D level on osteoporosis risk in Korean adults: analysis of the 2008 and 2009 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Dairy consumption and the incidence of hyperglycemia and the metabolic syndrome: results from a french prospective study, Data from the Epidemiological Study on the Insulin Resistance Syndrome (DESIR).
Effect of increased calcium consumption from fat-free milk in an energy-restricted diet on the metabolic syndrome and cardiometabolic outcomes in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomised cross-over clinical trial
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