Harvard Scientist Urges People to Stop Drinking Low-Fat Milk
Most of us grew up believing that cow’s milk was good for us, and that our bones will crumble if we don’t drink enough of it. Harvard scientist David Ludwig has joined thousands of others who question the truthfulness of that. In his recent article, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, he specifically addressed the hype of reduced-fat milk.
When obesity reached epidemic proportions, low-fat products became very popular and widely advertized. However, it soon transpired that when fat is taken out, it is replaced by sugars that can be potentially more harmful than its fatty predecessor. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics soon formulated guidelines that urged people to limit their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but this recommendation didn’t extend to low-fat milk. People of most age groups are still encouraged to drink 3 cups daily. Dr. Ludwig questions the rationale for promoting low-fat milk, since surely all calorie-containing liquids should be treated with equal caution.
The first thing to consider is the necessity of milk (full-fat or low-fat) in our diets. Dr. Ludwig points out that humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk. Drinking milk is a relatively recent luxury, and early humans evolved and survived for millennia without it. In fact, if we look at it on a gram for gram basis, some other foods have more calcium than milk, for example, broccoli, kale, arugula, or spinach all have over 160 mg per serving. Good sources are also sardines, nuts, seeds, and beans (you can read more about it in my previous article about better sources of calcium than dairy products). So unless you are planning to grow into a big cow, you don’t really need to drink that much milk for the sake of calcium. You should instead look for other sources.
When it comes to reduced-fat milk (0% to 2% fat content), the argument becomes even clearer. According to Ludwig, there are few randomized clinical trials that would look at the effects of low-fat milk compared to whole milk in relation to weight gain and other health outcomes. On the contrary, some studies have shown that when people consume reduced-fat milk, they feel less satiated. Consequently, they compensate – or even over-compensate – by eating more of other foods and actually increase their caloric intake.
Also, some people fear full-fat milk for its content of saturated fat (60% of milk fat). This type of fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol connected with cardiovascular disease. However, saturated fat in milk also increases the good cholesterol – high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which has a cardio protective effect. An analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, concluded that there is no significant evidence that would link dietary saturated fat with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Full-fat dairy products might even promote heart health, control diabetes, aid in vitamin absorption, lower bowel cancer risk, and aid in weight loss.
All in all, there are scientists who believe that if you do go for milk, you might be better off drinking the whole fat version. If however you are lactose intolerant, you can always opt for milk substitutes, and you can even easily make them at home. Find here recipes of healthy and easy homemade milk substitutes.
By Jenny Hills