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So we are told by health and wellness gurus to one week ditch milk in favour of almond/coconut milk and then the next we are better of having full fat cow’s milk.
The reason we get conflicting advice is that the health and wellness industry is not only full of rogue traders but of those that are qualified will have their own take on what is right and wrong too, for instance a vegan nutrition coach would not promote the use of milk, and I understand this as they have a causes they are passionate about. However I spent my university years looking for evidence based research thanks to my inspiring tutors.
So with this in mind in relation to milk I can only tell you the factual stuff I know.
First of all the reason we have skimmed or semi skimmed milk is due to the fact that it was once believed that the content of fat in milk increased bad cholesterol in our arteries and therefor increased heart disease and obesity.
Low-fat milks may contain 1% or 2% fat, while whole milk contains 3.25% fat. Cup for cup, whole fat milk contains fewer carbohydrates than low-fat or skim because more of its volume is made up of fat.
However years of research later and the evidence now suggests that saturated fat in milk is not a factor of heart disease. Although drinking skimmed milk may have fewer calories and lower levels of fat it also reduces the consumption of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, K and E and may lead to an increase in carbohydrate intake.
There is also evidence that cutting down on fat leads to an increase in carbs and sugar, both of which we know large intake has a high risk of diabetes and obesity related illness (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
A 15 year study by Tufts University, Comprising of 3,333 people aged 30 – 75, found that those who drank full fat milk had a 46% lower risk of diabetes mellitus than those who drank semi or skimmed milk.
Another study that was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who ate high fat dairy products actually lowered their chance of obesity by 8%
Now there are some individuals who struggle to digest dairy products.
These people may find they suffer from bloating, wind and diarrhoea when they eat or drink anything dairy, this is because they struggle to digest the lactose (sugar) in the milk. There are also other people who are intolerant of the protein within cow’s milk.
In a world where we are self-diagnosing via the internet, I would strongly suggest you get an official diagnosis of this though as dairy comes with many benefits such as calcium for strong bones.
Cow’s milk is the highest in calcium and protein compared to nut milks and lactose free versions.
In relation to children The Department of Health recommends exclusively breast feeding your baby for the first six months of life – after that you can continue to breast feed alongside the introduction of your baby’s first “solid foods”.
From one year of age whole cow’s milk may be offered as a drink. Semi-skimmed is an option from two years and skimmed milk only after five years of age.
This is because young children require a high percentage of fat in their diet to develop and to grow both physically but also the brain uses up high amounts of fat to develop and learn.
There appears to be little evidence that low fat milk is healthier, but there is growing evidence to suggest that full fat or at least semi skimmed milk are a better choice.
Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, whose findings were published in the journal Circulation states: “There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”
He goes on to say that “We should be telling people to eat a variety of dairy and remove the recommendation about fat content.”
Both Walter Willet and David Ludwig who are Harvard school researches have been questioning dietary guidelines that promote low fat and skim milk for some time.
They also highlight in their research that some low fat alternatives are actually increasing the sugars to promote taste, sugar is one of the leading causes of diabetes, obesity and heart disease
My advice based on the evidence available would be to stick to full fat or at best semi skimmed milk if you drink quite a bit through the day, unless you have an allergy to it, and to stick to a varied diet whilst not consuming to much of any food group.
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