The Decline in Dairy Consumption: Issues with Dairy and the Dairy Industry
Dairy encompasses any food made from the milk products of animals or produced in the mammary glands. Cow milk is the most commonly used ingredient for the production of dairy and dairy products like cheese, butter, desserts, and creams. There is also milk from sheep and goats as well as from other mammals. Dairy is valued by health organizations and a highly recommendable food source of protein, sugar, and fat, as well as calcium, which is considered crucial for healthy bones, especially in children.
However, according to proponents of veganism and vegetarianism and people who oppose diary consumption, we do not need these products to preserve our optimal health and they advocate for non-dairy products like milk from coconuts and almonds. This being said, people are often uncertain whether they should exclude dairy altogether or not.
Is It Natural or Unnatural to Consume Dairy?
As seen on Health Line, most of the controversy around dairy arises from the fact that some experts find it to be bad for our health and unnatural for eating. To some extent, the latter makes sense if we take into consideration that humans are the sole species which drinks milk from other animals and during adulthood. Moreover, the aim of the milk from cows is to feed their calves and we are not calves and adults are already grown. Regarding the former claim, prior to the agricultural revolution, people consumed their mother’s milk only as infants and did not consume dairy later on in life; so, from an evolutionary point of view, it appears that dairy is not detrimental for our health. What’s more, there are studies backing up the changes in genes caused by eating dairy for more than 1,000 years. Unfortunately, the dairy industry continues claiming that it is natural for people to consume it.
Why Is Dairy Bad for Our Health?
As noted on Mana Md, dairy is not as healthy as advertised because it is abundant in saturated fat. This type of fat is known to elevate the level of bad cholesterol and when these levels are chronically high, the chance for heart-related issues elevates.
Furthermore, there is the problem with lactose intolerance. Namely, the main carb in dairy is lactose and it is made from glucose and galctose, 2 simple sugars. During infancy, our bodies secrete an enzyme known as lactase which is able to break down the lactose coming from the milk of mothers; but, this ability is lost as we grow. According to statistics, around 75 percent of the world population is intolerant to lactose, i.e. they cannot digest it during adulthood and this is often manifested through symptoms like diarrhea, flatulence, pain in the abdomen, and nausea.
Another predicament with dairy is the high amount of sodium and sugar in some products like cheese, ice cream, yogurts, and desserts. Surplus sodium is known to elevate the blood pressure, which puts additional burden on the heart, Lauren Cox emphasizes. Consequently, it increases our chance of stroke, kidney disease, heart-related problems, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer. Added sugar can be detrimental when consumed in high doses. According to Health Line, it can destroy the teeth, worsen the metabolism, spike up the blood sugar levels, overload the liver, cause cancer, and trigger weight gain.
There is also the concern with the added growth hormones present in dairy products. As noted by Richard Laliberte, food producers in the United States have been using hormones for growth in cattle for decades now. Although these synthetic growth hormones are deemed safe and tested by the FDA, other experts emphasize that they are everything but safe. Namely, they have been linked with early puberty and cancer. Laliberte explains that the controversy is around the bovine growth hormone or a synthetic version of a hormone normally produced by cows. The dairy industry gives it to cows with the aim to increase their production of milk and minimize the number of cows. Environmentalists believe that this hormone can fasten the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics and the levels of a protein connected to tumors.
The Ethical Issues with Dairy Industry
Nowadays, according to Food Revolution, it is evident that there is a decline in the dairy industry because we are learning more about the issues surrounding dairy and do not buy the products.
In addition to the claims that we do not need dairy to preserve our health, a lot of people avoid it due to the cruelty done upon cows in modern day farming. Despite the idealistic image advertising is trying to show us, the truth is much different and thousands of animals are living inside sheds with scarce or no access to the outdoors and to fresh air.
This being said, the number of cows left outside to graze grass and clover is reduced to a minimum. Cows in the U.S. are deprived of a happy life by being attached to milking machines behind closed doors and on concrete floors. Other problematic aspects are the artificial impregnation and the feeding with antibiotics and hormones, as noted on Food Revolution. Sadly, in just days of being born, little calves are taken away from their mothers so that the milk can be used and sold.
The Claimed Benefits of Dairy
As seen on Health Research Funding, dairy is not just abundant in calcium, but it also possesses other important nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, vitamins A, B12, and D, niacin, and magnesium. What’s more, in dairy products, nutrients occur in an ideal synergy.
Dairy is also considered to be highly advantageous for the bones because it is rich in calcium, the main mineral found in bones, as emphasized on Health Line. Evidence indicates that dairy can better the bone density, minimize the chance for osteoporosis, and decrease the risk of fractures in elders. Nonetheless, this is quite the debatable topic when we learn that the countries which consume the most dairy have the highest percentage of osteoporosis sufferers.
Though full-fat dairy has a high calorie count, its consumption has been associated with a lower chance of obesity, as well as diabetes.
Alternatives to Dairy
Regardless of why you want to stop consuming dairy, you should know that there are non-dairy alternatives like:
- Milk substitutes (almond, coconut, oat, cashew, and hemp milk)
- Yogurt substitutes (coconut, almond, hemp, and soy milk yogurt)
- Cheese substitutes (soy and nut versions, as well as cashew, almonds, or Brazil nuts cheese, nuts and nutritional yeast)
- Butter from seeds and nuts
- Creams from coconut milk, soy, cashews, etc.
- Sour cream with cashews, tofu, or sunflower seeds
- Ice cream from coconut or soy milk, sorbets, and blended frozen fruits
Final Thoughts on Dairy Consumption
Without doubt, the evidence about the benefits from dairy is not to be neglected. However, there is also strong data backing up the claims of those who are opposing the consumption of dairy and are replacing it with non-dairy options, either because they are lactose-intolerant, vegans or vegetarians, or oppose the cruel mistreatment towards cows, and other animals too, going on in the dairy industry.
Though many other things require detailed analysis and though dairy certainly has ways to better our health, it is not as needed as claimed and we can survive and maintain the bones in good shape without it because there are a lot of other lifestyle factors that play a decisive role, not just dairy.