The Truth Behind The Health Claims Of Dairy Products
When it comes to health, few topics are as confusing as dairy. According to some experts, milk and cheese are wonder foods that will build up your bones and keep you glowing. But turn your eyes to other studies and all you’ll see are statistics about increased cancer rates and even more bone damage than non-dairy dieters. What should you believe? How do you know whether to add dairy to your diet or cut it out completely?
Whether or not you choose to eat dairy is entirely up to you, but there are some facts that might influence your decision. This article will uncover the truth behind the health claims of dairy to help you make the right decision for your body- and your taste buds.
Why Is Dairy So Controversial?
There’s no doubting dairy’s enduring popularity in western diets. Americans eat over 36 pounds of cheese every year and almost as much in ice cream. However, the item that’s starting to fall off the meal plan is milk. In fact, milk consumption has plummeted by a quarter in the past decade, and millions have attempted to give the drink up all together.
Why is there such a movement to purge dairy from people’s lives? Some experts tell us that milk is full of artery-clogging saturated fat and is a heart attack in a glass. Others claim that drinking milk leaves them feeling bloated and gassy because of lactose tolerance.
Is the skepticism of dairy simply a fad or is it worth listening to? Let’s look at the facts.
History Of Dairy
No one knows when humans first started drinking milk, but it must have been an adventurous discovery for the first person to taste the liquid coming out of a cow’s udder. In any case, the first milk-cows were tiny creatures called aurochs that roamed throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia before they were domesticated close to 10,000 years ago. Though aurochs were originally raised for meat, the herders that kept them soon valued them even more for their milk producing capacities.
Though plenty of mammals produce milk for their babies, cow (and goat milk) proved a perfect option for early humans because these animals are ruminants. This means that they have huge, four chambered stomachs that allow them to chow down fibrous stalks and tough grasses for food that are impossible for human stomachs to digest. This allowed early humans to get their milk from a creature that wasn’t competing for their limited food sources.
The Facts Behind Lactose Intolerance
Humans may have drunk milk for thousands of years, but we aren’t naturally adapted to do so. All mammals drink milk from their mothers when they are young, but only humans drink it through adulthood- and from another species. How do we manage this? Hundreds of generations ago a genetic mutation of lactose tolerance spread through populations that allowed humans to keep their lactose digesting abilities into adulthood.
However, lactose tolerance in adults is the exception, not the norm. In fact, over 75% of people are lactose intolerant and experience nausea, diarrhea and possibly even vomiting when they eat dairy products. Though lactose intolerance isn’t common in the western world, it’s extremely prevalent through Africa, Asia and South America. Even so, many lactose intolerant people can still eat fermented dairy products like yogurt, aged cheese or kefir without problem because the bacteria in these foods eat through the lactose sugars that cause many problems.