Plant-based, Paleo, probiotics, prebiotics, antibiotics, GMO, gluten-free, organic, all-natural, cleanses, detoxification, supplement, don’t supplement. Pretty confusing right? What is truly healthy and what is not? What is missing in the healthcare system that can treat your pain safely and effectively? Weekly articles explore trending topics, dig into the science, and debunk myths while giving you a sustainable approach to eliminate pain and improve your long-term health, function and vitality.
By: Jonathan Tait, D.O.
We have heard it for years. Get your three servings of dairy each day. Got milk? Got a milk mustache? Milk is a great source of calcium. On and on.
What you probably haven’t heard. Got hip fracture? Die younger. Raise your cholesterol. Have more pain.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal last month is challenging the health value of milk, and it turns out that guzzling milk isn’t quite as healthy as maybe once thought. They looked at those with a high milk intake (three or more glasses of milk each day) compared with those consuming less than one glass per day. They found that high milk intake was associated with higher rates of death (during the 20+ year follow-up), as well as higher rates of fractures in women.
Wait. Higher rates of death? Higher rates of fracture? I thought milk “does the body good” and helps build strong bones. Not the case according to this study that followed more than 61,000 women and 45,000 men over more than 20 years.
Milk has been promoted for years as a convenient source to obtain calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D – all essential building blocks for healthy bones. However, what is lost in this recommendation is that the cows don’t magically produce these building blocks as some sort of internal chemical magic. The cows obtain these elemental building blocks from what they eat (or at least used to eat) including grass and other plants on the rolling hills where they graze and live a happy existence. (We know that idyllic visual is no longer the case with factory farms producing the bulk of dairy milk these days)
Getting back to the subject at hand, the researchers believe that the problem with milk specifically is D-galactose, a breakdown product of the milk sugar lactose. Research in many types of animals fed D-galactose induced accelerated aging thought to be caused by oxidative stress damage (think of this like rusting of a car), chronic inflammation (an underlying factor in almost every disease process), neurodegeneration (dying off of nerves), and decreased immune response (lowers your body’s ability to ward off attacks from illness, or recovery from injuries).
How much milk were the animals fed? What would be equivalent to about 1-2 glasses per day.
They went on to explain that the oxidative stress and inflammation produced as a result of chronic D-galactose exposure underlies other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone loss (osteoporosis) and muscle loss (sarcopenia).
Now before you milk-lovers start sending me emails telling me that this can’t possibly be true, and that dairy isn’t the only source of D-galactose in our diet, let me delve into this a little more. D-galactose is found in non-dairy sources. In fact it is found in many of the foods I recommend you eat on The Pain Free Diet, including vegetables, fruits, and some cereal grains. The amount however is miniscule compared to that found in a glass a milk.
One glass of milk = about 5 grams of D-galactose
¼ pound of fruits and vegetables = about 5-10 milligrams of D-galactose
Don’t fret however cheese and yogurt lovers. In the study they looked at the difference between high milk consumers, and those eating other dairy products such as cheese or yogurt.
They found out that the inflammatory markers in those consuming more of these foods (and less milk) were much lower. This was likely because of lower lactose and D-galactose content. Fermented products such as yogurt also may convey a positive probiotic antioxidant effect – meaning they can help maintain a better balance of normal, healthy gut bacteria. The subjects consuming cheese had a neutral effect on oxidative stress and inflammation.
Those consuming relatively more cheese and yogurt in their diet, compared to higher milk intake, had lower risks of fracture and death, lower cardiac risk factors, and better cholesterol profiles
So what do you do with this information?
In my book (2nd edition coming very soon!) you will see that I’m not a huge fan of dairy because of the high inflammatory potential, as confirmed by this research study.
More inflammation = more pain.
Less milk = less pain.
Food for thought:
If you choose to consume dairy, stick with the occasional high quality (preferably certified organic and grass fed) cheese or yogurt, and swap your dairy milk for almond, coconut, or rice milk instead. Your hips and your heart will thank you.
Committed to your health,
Michaelsson, K, Wolk, A. et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ 2014;349.