Dairy FAQ’s

Dairy FAQ’s

Dairy farmers and nutrition professionals often receive questions about the health of dairy products. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions. If you have other questions, please let us know!

Does milk cause acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is not consistent evidence that specific dietary factors cause acne. Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 70-87% of all adolescents. It is an issue with many factors including genetics (race and heredity), environment, exposure to environmental pollutants, psychological stress etc. A well-balanced diet remains important for overall health.

Does milk lead to earlier puberty in girls?

Over the past three decades, health professionals have recognized that girls are undergoing puberty at younger ages. While the exact reasons for this trend remain unclear, it is unlikely that milk is the culprit. Many people have raised concerns that the natural hormones found in milk may be a contributing factor; however if we look at the data, milk consumption in this population has actually decreased over this same time period, and there is no evidence to suggest that the minute hormones naturally found in milk impact human reproductive health. Though more research is needed, several studies have drawn connections between increased weight, increased body fatness, and lack of physical activity with this trend in earlier puberty. A well-balanced diet, including dairy, coupled with physical activity is important for achieving optimal physical health during developing years.

Should cows milk only be for baby cows?

No. Cow’s milk is a great source of nutrition for children and adults. Humans eat a variety of animal-produced foods including honey and eggs. Humans are an incredible species. As we have evolved from our early human ancestors, our brain size has increased and our stomach size has decreased with the adoption of agriculture, animal domestication, and cooking, which has allowed our diet to evolve over time. Cows milk is a nutrient-rich addition to the human diet that naturally provides protein, calcium, potassium, and B-vitamins. If you have concerns about the ability to digest milk and lactose intolerance, see below.

I am lactose intolerant, should I avoid dairy?

Lactose intolerance refers to body’s inability to digest lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. Our bodies produce an enzyme called lactase, which is designed to digest milk sugar. It is natural for the amount of lactase in the body to decrease throughout the lifespan; however, many people have developed the ability to maintain lactase production throughout life – an example of the symbiotic relationship we share with our dietary environment. There are many solutions for those who experience lactose intolerance to continue to incorporate nutrient-rich dairy products into their diets.

  • Try it. Opt for lactose-free milk and milk products. They are real milk products with the same nutrients as regular dairy products, just without the lactose.
  • Sip it. Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase slowly over several days or weeks to tolerance.
  • Stir it. Mixing milk with other foods helps slow digestion and gives the body more time to digest dairy’s natural sugar.
  • Slice it. Choose natural cheeses (Swiss, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmesan), which are naturally low in lactose.
  • Spoon it. Enjoy yogurt. Its live and active cultures help digest lactose for you.

Click here for a recent paper explaining the unintended consequences of diary avoidance.

Note that lactose intolerance is different than a milk allergy. A milk allergy refers to an autoimmune reaction to the protein found in milk and can be a much more serious reaction. Consult a physician or registered dietitian for more information.

Is drinking milk and eating dairy really good for my bones? 

Bone health is dependent on several nutrients that we get from a well-balanced nutrient-rich diet. Protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D, and K are all important for adequate bone formation and proper bone metabolism. Dairy foods naturally contain many of these nutrients (protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium). Added vitamins A & D further enhance bone health. While dairy foods are not the only calcium-containing foods in our diet, they are excellent sources of readily available calcium, meaning that our body can digest and absorb the calcium found in milk quite well.

I read that dairy increases fracture risk, is that true?

Recently, it has been suggested that countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption are also the same countries with the highest fracture risk; however we cannot say that one causes the other. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to fracture risk including weight, other disease patterns, age, genetics, and environmental stressors. The bulk of the scientific research specifically examining the relationship between dairy and bone health shows a positive correlation. Aiming for 3 servings of dairy per day delivers a variety of important bone building nutrients that are also good for general health.

Does too much protein negatively impact bone health?

Adequate protein intake is essential for proper bone formation. As we age, bone health naturally deteriorates (we only build bone for the first 3 decades of life), and our protein needs also increase with age. Eating adequate amounts of protein throughout life is important for maintaining muscle mass and protecting bone health. It has been suggested that too much protein upsets the pH balance of the body and increases calcium loss; however, recent science shows that any increase in calcium loss as a result of high protein intake is likely the result of increased calcium absorption. When we eat more protein, we absorb more calcium, so the net loss is the same. We do however need balance. Eating excessive amounts of protein can be detrimental because it means that we are eating protein at the expense of other nutrient rich foods. As always, a balanced diet is key. Wondering what your ideal daily protein intake is? For optimizing bone health, a range of intake between 0.4 and 0.8g/lb is ideal (notice there a range of acceptable intake).

Example: 160lb person would need between 64 – 128g of protein per day.

Skim Milk (1c) 8g
3 Slices Turkey 15g
Whole Grain Bread (2 slices) 10g
Mozzarella Cheese (1oz) 7g
Mozzarella Cheese (1oz) 7g
Grilled Chicken Breast (4oz) 25g
Greek yogurt (1 cup) 15-20g

When it comes to milk, is raw better?

Raw milk refers to milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process by which raw milk is heated to a specified temperature for a very short time to kill potentially harmful pathogens. The milk is then rapidly cooled and bottled. Milk pasteurization began in the late 1800s as a means of extending its shelf life and reducing illness associated with the consumption of raw milk. Raw milk may contain harmful bacteria such as E-coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria monocytogenes. These bacteria can cause life-threatening illness, especially in those with compromised immunity (young children, and the elderly). For this reason, many health organizations including the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization support the consumption of pasteurized milk. Research shows no significant difference in the nutrient profile between pasteurized and raw milk. In many states, the sales and distribution of raw milk is illegal. In Utah, raw milk sales from licensed suppliers is legal.

Do alternatives to dairy have the same nutritional benefit?

The dairy case is full of options. In addition to traditional cow’s milk, people can now choose from a variety of plant-based beverages – almond, hemp, flax, soy, coconut, and rice products. The nutrient profiles of these options differ, however, and many of these plant-based options contain very little protein. Cows milk contains 1g of protein per ounce – 8g in an 8oz serving, while almond and rice beverages contain just 1g of protein per 8oz serving. Cow’s milk is also an excellent source of readily available calcium and potassium as well as essential B-vitamins. This unique nutrition profile and solid nutrition science make cow’s milk a highly-recommended, nutrient-rich component of Americans’ diets, and incorporating cow’s milk can be a great, protein-rich addition to a primarily plant-based diet.

More on the changing face of the dairy case.

Are antibiotics and hormones added to milk? 

Hormones and antibiotics are never added to milk. In the same way that humans are treated for illness, if a cow is sick, she is removed from the herd, treated with an appropriate course of antibiotics and then reintroduced to the milking rotation once she is healthy. While the animal is being treated with antibiotics, her milk is kept completely separate. Many dairies even have separate milking facilities for sick cows. Milk is one of the most highly regulated foods on the market, and great care is taken at each stage to avoid any contamination. Milk is tested when it leaves the dairy and when it arrives at the processing plant to ensure no antibiotic contamination. If milk is found to be tainted with antibiotic residue from a treated animal, that milk is discarded.

Cow’s milk, just like human milk, naturally contains low levels of hormones. While some farmers may choose to treat their herd with the synthetic hormone (rbST) in order to assist with milk production from their cattle, this hormone is never added to the milk supply. Based on through reviews, milk that comes from cows treated with rbST is safe for human consumption.

Should kids with autism avoid dairy?

To date, there is no clear scientific evidence regarding the cause or cure of autism or the effectiveness of dietary interventions. A recent multidisciplinary expert panel concluded that available data do not support the use of special diets such as a casein-free diet, a gluten-free diet or the GFCF diet for patients with autism. Because many autistic children are at risk for nutritional deficiencies due to dietary aversions and/or intake of controversial, restrictive therapeutic diets, health professionals, especially registered dietitians, have an important role to play in helping to ensure the nutritional health of those with autism.

Does consuming milk increase mucus production?

There is no conclusive evidence for the belief that consuming milk increases mucus production and aggravates the congestion of colds, allergies, or asthma.

What is the difference between organic and conventional milk/dairy?

The term “organic” refers to production practices on the farm not to the food itself. Organic dairy farms must meet the additional requirements of USDA’s National Organic Program, which in addition to other standards, stipulates that organic farmers must use only organic fertilizers and pesticides; they are also not allowed to give their cows antibiotics or supplemental hormones. (Note:  See section on antibiotics & hormones above for more information.) Dairy foods can be labeled “USDA Organic” only if all of the USDA certification criteria are met.

Is organic milk a healthier option (especially for kids)?

Strict government standards ensure that both conventionally and organically produced milk are wholesome, safe, and nutritious. Both organic and regular dairy products contain the same combination of nutrients that makes diary an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. There is no scientific evidence concluding that organic dairy foods are safer or healthier than regular dairy products for kids or adults, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the US Department of Agriculture and the UK’s Food Standards Agency affirm that organic and conventional milk are equally healthy.

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