Many people consume dairy products thinking that it’s good for their bones and health. At least that’s what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would have you believe. The sad news is that research shows otherwise. Here are some of the reasons why you don’t want to consume dairy products. They are actually bad for your health.
Osteoporosis & Dairy Products
Many people believe consuming milk will prevent osteoporosis and reduce fractures, yet clinical research shows otherwise. Eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study,1 which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact, increased intake of calcium from dairy products was associated with a higher fracture risk. Other studies have also found no protective effect of dairy calcium on bone. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. 2
Cancer & Dairy
Several cancers, such as breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer, have been linked to the consumption of dairy products. The link to ovarian cancer is due to the way milk sugar lactose is broken down in the body into another sugar called galactose. Further broken down into enzymes, galactose can build up in the blood and affect women’s ovaries, tripling their risk of ovarian cancer over other women. 3 In a study conducted in Sweden, consumption of lactose and dairy products was positively linked to ovarian cancer.4
Breast and prostate cancers are linked in part to increases in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), a compound found in cow’s milk.5 IGF-I has been shown to occur in increased levels in the blood by individuals consuming dairy products on a regular basis.6 Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. 2
Dairy & Heart Disease
Dairy is a big contributor of cholesterol and fat in our diet because it can be full of saturated fat.7 Diets high in fat and saturated fat can increase the risk of several chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease. A low-fat vegetarian diet that eliminates dairy products, in combination with exercise, no smoking, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may also reverse it.8-9
Dairy is full of hormones
Synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk.10 Because cows are producing much greater quantities of milk than nature intended, the end result is mastitis, the inflammation of the mammary glands. Antibiotics are used to treat mastitis, resulting in traces of antibiotics and hormones in samples of milk and other dairy products. Pesticides and other drugs also frequently found as contaminants in dairy products.
Dairy is hard to digest
According to Dr. Willett M.D., Ph.D — the head of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, not everyone can stomach dairy. About 75% of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance. 2 See symptoms of lactose intolerance below.
Dairy, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and Migraines
People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and migraines may experience improvements by eliminating dairy products (and/or other offending foods) from the diet. Dairy products have been found to be one of the most common dietary triggers of migraines and arthritis pain, while even minor exposures to triggers can cause an attack.
Studies have that people with rheumatoid arthritis who eliminated dairy from their diets showed improvements in ability to function, a decrease in both joint tenderness and joint swelling scores, improved severity of morning stiffness, and a decrease in pain.11
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Have you experienced any of these symptoms after consuming a dairy product?
- stomach cramps
These symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming food containing lactose. Other issues can cause the same problems, so you can ask your health care professional to do tests to see if the problems are caused by lactose intolerance or by another condition.
The Healthier Dairy Option?
If you can tolerate dairy, many argue that raw, organic dairy products are actually OK for you. What I do is drink almond milk, eat goat cheese or goat’s milk yogurt and leave it at that. If you have unexplainable symptoms, try cutting out dairy products from your diet for a couple of weeks and see how you feel. Then, introduce them back into your diet and see what happens. The human body just doesn’t appear to be able to handle dairy very well so maybe we should just let the calves enjoy it?
What are your thoughts on dairy? Do you eat or drink dairy products? How do they make you feel? I’d love to hear from you.
References Feskanich D, Willet WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health 1997;87:992-7  http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/06/24/dairy-6-reasons-you-should-avoid-it-at-all-costs-2/  Cramer DW, Harlow BL, Willet WC. Galactose consumption and metabolism in relation to the risk of ovarian cancer. Lancet 1989;2:66-71.  Larsson SC, Bergkvist L, Wolk A. Milk and lactose intakes and ovarian cancer risk in the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:1353-1357.  Voskuil DW, Vrieling A, van’t Veer LJ, Kampman E, Rookus MA. The insulin-like growth factor system in cancer prevention: potential of dietary intervention strategies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005;14:195-203.  16. Young NJ, Metcalfe C, Gunnell D, et al. A cross-sectional analysis of the association between diet and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-2, and IGFBP-3 in men in the United Kingdom. Cancer Causes Control. 2012;6:907-917.  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm. Accessed January 31, 2011.  Szeto YT, Kwok TC, Benzie IF. Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidants status and cardiovascular disease risk. Nutrition. 2004;20:863-866.  Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? Lancet. 1990;336:129-133.  Outwater JL, Nicholson A, Barnard N. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-1, estrogen, and bGH hypothesis. Med Hypothesis. 1997;48:453-461.  McDougall J, Bruce B, Spiller G, et al. Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2002;8:71-75.