Think of your favorite foods and more than likely, it contains some form of dairy. Milk, yogurt, cream, butter, and cheese — dairy is everywhere.
That’s a good thing, right, especially for those who love to eat? Plus, it provides the calcium, vitamin D, and protein we need.
Why, then, has there been a commotion on whether dairy is good or bad for us as humans? If we really need it in our diet? And if dairy causes inflammation?
Let’s take a closer look at whether dairy is a health food or a health risk with WILDFIT founder Eric Edmeades weighing in on this debate.
Does Dairy Cause Inflammation?
It’s often advised to avoid dairy due to the suggestion that it could cause inflammation. Interestingly though, medical research doesn’t seem to support that claim.
A 2019 systematic review in Advances in Nutrition evaluated scientific evidence provided in 2012-2018 on milk and dairy products’ effects on inflammation. Its results show the consumption of milk or dairy products did not show inflammation in the subjects.
An updated systematic review by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition analyzed studies that evaluated a similar focus but included the effects of dairy proteins on inflammation. The trials looked into milk, cheese, yogurt as well as milk proteins, including casein and whey. And their results also suggest that dairy products and dairy proteins actually have neutral to beneficial effects when it comes to inflammation.
So going back to the question of “can dairy cause inflammation?” Research points to no.
Where Did the Connection between Dairy and Inflammation Come From?
Several studies have shown that saturated fatty acids produce an inflammatory response in the body.
There are three kinds of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat. Trans fat is the least healthy while unsaturated fat sits on the other side of the spectrum. And saturated fat — it’s somewhere in between.
Foods that have high amounts of saturated fats are known to:
- Lower your good cholesterol and increase your bad cholesterol. This can lead to heart disease or stroke.
- Increase your calorie intake, which can cause you to gain weight.
And it’s because saturated fats have been shown to cause inflammation, the higher-fat dairy products are, then, thought to also be inflammatory foods.
Also adding fuel to the fire is the effects of milk on acne. The results of a 2019 meta-analysis found a link between drinking milk and breaking out.
Since acne is considered an inflammatory condition (and let’s not ignore the fact that milk is widely known to cause stomach discomfort for some), then it makes sense to conclude that this particular dairy product is pro-inflammatory.
So which one is it? Do dairy products promote inflammation or don’t they?
There’s not a definitive answer because “dairy isn’t a single food,” explains Dr. Frank Hu, nutrition and diabetes researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, to the Arthritis Foundation.
There’s a wide range of dairy products (from yogurt to cheese to ice cream) and a range of its variations (from skimmed to full cream to those in between). And the reality is, research hasn’t quite pinpointed exactly which components of dairy may be a health food or a health risk.
What Are the WILDFIT Founder’s Views About It?
“My experiences with, and research into, dairy products inspired my curiosity about food, nutrition, and the development of the human diet,” explains Eric Edmeades, the man behind WILDFIT, in his paper called The Human Diet: Dairy Delusion.
See, growing up, Eric was a staunch supporter of the benefits of milk and dairy products. Unfortunately, as he went into his teenage years, he started developing severe and painful acne, persistent allergies, routine stomach aches, and extremely regular and painful throat infections.
Long story short, no amount of medicine helped him relieve his ailments. What little lifestyle switch did he do that did help? That’s right, he cut out dairy.
Now, Eric’s big stance on dairy is not so much on inflammation. In fact, he doesn’t make any claim that dairy directly causes inflammation.
His position on this matter leans more towards the following two — both of which can lead to inflammation:
Majority of us are sensitive to dairy
As humans, our ancestral diet isn’t built for us to consume the high amounts of dairy that are in our foods today.
As a matter of fact, after infancy, our bodies naturally stop producing lactase — the enzyme that breaks down lactose, which is the sugar naturally present in milk and dairy products. That’s why approximately 65% of adults are lactose intolerant.
“Half of the world has an issue with lactose is a clue,” explains Eric. “If you’re not sensitive to lactose, this means your body defense alarms have been turned off.”
To add to the case, there are also a number of people who react badly to the milk protein, casein, according to John Robbins in May All Be Fed. The book also highlights allergies to dairy products, which include:
- Abdominal pain
- Cramps or bloating
Reactions to food allergies vary, but it’s always best to see your doctor if you experience any allergy symptoms shortly after consuming dairy.
The myth that dairy is a good (and only) source of calcium
Calcium is a mineral our body actually requires — it helps keep bones and teeth healthy as well as helps with blood clotting, muscles to contract, and regulate normal heart rhythms and nerve function.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium in the U.S. is as follows:
- Women, ages 18-50, and men, ages 18-70: 1,000 mg
- Women, age 50+, and men, age 70+: 1,200 mg
To get an idea of how much 1,000 mg is, it’s roughly the amount of three to four 8 oz. glasses of milk. (It should be noted that outside of the U.S., the recommended and average intake is lower.) And so, we’re brought up to have learned that dairy is the go-to source for it.
However, is dairy a good source of dietary calcium?
Eric seems to believe not. He says, “To my surprise, I found that animal protein — which milk is packed with — can cause calcium loss.”
In fact, a series of studies from the Cornell-China-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Health, and Environment suggests consuming a diet high in animal protein (including milk and dairy products) would undermine any potential benefits for increased bone density. Director of the project and nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., adds, “Animal protein, including that from dairy products, may leach more calcium from the bones than is ingested.”
What’s more, “men who eat a lot of dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer,” according to the American Cancer Society. They add that some studies suggest men who consume a high amount of calcium — through food or supplements — are at a higher risk for this particular disease.
While we still do need calcium for our health, there are a number of superfoods that are rich in calcium you can opt for.
Great Change Starts With You
Let’s admit it: milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt… they all make food taste amazing. But too much of something isn’t always the best thing.
And this is where the old line is the wisest of advice: “Everything in moderation.”
“Your health is far more dependent upon you getting enough of the good stuff than it is you eliminating the bad stuff,” explains Eric. When you give your body what it needs to thrive, it can handle some of the bad stuff occasionally.
And the best place you can start to do so is by educating yourself about how to eat intuitively. In Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest, Eric will guide you on how to be consciously in tune with your body so you can eat what you want, when you want, as much as you want, and still feel great about food and yourself.
This great change — your food freedom — starts with you at Mindvalley. Welcome in.