Cow's milk may increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and acne - here's what the research says and why most nutritionists still consider it healthy
Since milk is high in saturated fat, limit your intake to three servings per day. NoSystem-Images / Getty Images
Milk is not bad for your health as it is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like protein.
Research shows that milk does not increase the risk of heart disease or blood lipid levels.
However, milk can increase the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer and cause acne.
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While milk and milk alternatives are on the rise, that doesn't mean they can't be part of a healthy diet. Here's what you need to know about the potential health risks and benefits of milk, and how much milk to eat each day.
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The health benefits of milk
Milk contains many important vitamins and minerals that are important for our health. Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of milk or other dairy products to get enough calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, which many people may not get enough of when just consuming groceries, says Eshani Ewing, an Orlando Health registered nutritionist. a nonprofit Florida health organization.
Here is a breakdown of the benefits of milk.
Milk is rich in calcium
One cup of milk contains around 300 mg of calcium, which is around 30% of the recommended daily value. However, this recommendation varies by age, and you will need more calcium the older you get.
Adult men between the ages of 19 and 70 need 1,000 mg calcium / day and 1,200 mg / day after the age of 71.
Adult women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1,000 mg calcium / day and 1,200 mg / day after age 51.
Calcium plays an essential role in bone health. Calcium is also important for:
Relaxation of the blood vessels
Secretion of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels
Milk is rich in vitamin D.
Milk is fortified with vitamin D, and one cup of milk contains approximately 100 international units (IU) of vitamin D, which is approximately 15% of your daily value. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU for children and adults under 70 years of age and 800 IU for people over 70 years of age.
Vitamin D is important for health because it:
Helps in absorbing calcium and phosphorus, which protect against bone loss
Supports nerve and muscle function
Supports the immune system
Milk is a source of protein
One cup of milk contains about eight grams of protein. The recommended daily amount of protein varies based on weight - 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is the minimum.
Proteins are important for health and form the building blocks for:
The health risks of milk
Dairy products can be a valuable part of a balanced diet, but too much milk can increase the risk of certain health conditions.
Milk can increase your risk of heart disease
When it comes to dairy and heart disease, the research is mixed.
On the one hand, dairy products can be high in saturated fats, which can lead to unhealthy blood lipid levels that clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. However, there is little evidence of a link between dairy consumption and heart disease, says Ewing.
A 2012 study of people ages 45 to 84 found that saturated fat from meat was associated with a higher risk of heart disease, while saturated fat from dairy was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Another 2014 review found that consuming dairy products had no negative effects on blood lipids.
That said, if you have a family history of heart disease, it's important to be aware of your total saturated fat intake from all sources, says Amy Shapiro, a registered nutritionist who works as a nutritionist in New York City.
The general guideline is that saturated fat makes up no more than 10% of your daily calories. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat even more to 6% of your daily calories.
Milk can increase your risk of certain types of cancer
Some scientists suggest that the high fat content and hormones in milk and dairy products may contribute to certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer or prostate cancer.
A 2020 study found an increased risk of breast cancer in women who consumed cow's milk compared to women who consumed soy milk. In addition, some other studies have found a possible link between dairy products and prostate cancer.
However, more research is needed to determine how dairy products affect cancer, Ewing said.
"There is no clear evidence that drinking milk increases the risk of cancer," says Ewing. "It is important to consider a person's general eating habits as this is far more important than individual nutrients in terms of cancer risk."
Milk can lead to an outbreak
A 2005 study of adolescent women aged 14 to 18 found a positive association between total milk consumption and the diagnosis of acne.
Researchers suggest that dairy products may increase certain hormones that help produce sebum, an oily waxy substance on the skin that can cause acne. No randomized controlled trials have confirmed this link and further research is needed.
"If someone thinks their acne is related to dairy consumption, it may be worth cutting back on dairy products to see if there are positive changes," says Ewing. "Just make sure you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D from other sources."
No, milk is not bad for you
Milk can be an essential part of a nutritious diet, but how much and what types you should drink will depend on your medical history and health goals.
While there isn't a direct link between drinking milk and an increased risk of heart disease, if you have a family history of heart disease, you may want to limit your saturated fat intake and talk to your doctor about alternatives to milk, Shapiro says.
For someone looking to lose weight, sticking to 1% to 2% milk or skim milk might be more beneficial than consuming whole milk, says Ewing.
People with a milk allergy should opt for a dairy-free alternative like almond, oat or soy milk, says Ewing. Most non-dairy alternatives are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. However, they may be low in protein. So you need to make sure that you are consuming other sources of protein like eggs, tofu, or meat.
Insider to take away
Some studies suggest that milk can be linked to negative health outcomes such as heart disease or cancer. However, more research is needed to reach definitive conclusions. When consumed in moderation, milk can be an essential part of a nutritious diet. If you are concerned about the potential risks of drinking milk, talk to a doctor about milk alternatives.
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