Is Dairy Healthy?

Posted by Erin Silva Winston on

Dairy's health benefits have been up for debate for some time. In the last two months, studies have been published that suggest that dairy-- to many poeple a foe, might actually be good for you.  In a study published in the Lancet this month, authors suggested that dairy consumption should not be discouraged but should even be encouraged.  So what should we be eating and drinking?  Milk? Cheese? Full fat? Low fat?  

Milk is tricky.  First, the bad: long associated with heart disease, full fat dairy has long been considered as the enemy.  Additionally, dairy, especially milk, seems to be hard for most people to digest.  And as if that isn't bad enough, many of the benefits of dairy to bone health might be up for grabs too.  Yes, everyone needs calcium, but no, that doesn't necessarily mean dairy and furthermore, no-- calcium might not be essential to good bone health afterall!  Is your head spinning yet?

All this already confusing information was turned on it's head once again this week in a study published in the Lancet, which found that people who eat 3 serving of dairy a day have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and early death than those who consume less. Futhermore, a second study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology and published last month found that individuals who ate yogurt and cheese had a lower incidence of dying during the study, than those who did not. 

So what does this all mean? Well, in many ways these results continue an ongoing debate without solving it.  To put it in perspective, in 2014 a 20 year study found that women who drink a lot of milk have twice the risk of dying early compared with those who do not consume milk. Studies continue to be made, and each one seems to come up with a different conclusion. 

What to advise?  In looking at the research, it does seem to be that fermented yogurts and kefirs offer many of the health benefits of dairy, without all the risk of plain milk. A meta-analyis of 12 studies found that milk consumption was associated with a 4% increase in chance of dying of heart disease while kefir/yogurt seemed to be associated with a 3% decrease in heart disease. The authors of this study suggest that calling dairy off completely might not be the right answer, however focusing on fermented forms of dairy might be the best way to go.  Personally, I will still be putting milk in my coffee.  And as for the rest of the gallon, I'll probably ferment it myself in my Instant Pot (really!). 

 

Sources

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31812-9/fulltext

Much of this information was first published in Health:  https://www.health.com/nutrition/is-dairy-healthy


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