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Is Dairy Inflammatory?

Dairy is quite essential due to its wide range of health benefits. It has been consumed by humans since time immemorial and it has always been part of the diet of humankind. More so, dairy food in some countries is consumed as newly pasteurized, low and non-fat milk.

In as much as milk is a liquid, it should be regarded as food given the nutritional value it possesses. It contains 12 to 13% total solids unlike foods such as carrots, tomatoes, and lettuces which have as little as 6% solids.

Generally, every female mammal produces milk after birthing their young for their newborns to be well-endowed with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies. However, cow milk (the bovine species) is the kind of milk that is highly preferable to other types of milk produced by other mammals.

It is of general knowledge that cow milk isn’t only consumed by newly-birthed calves alone but also by humans. Truly, it is quite nourishing to both parties and its benefits are numerous. It would be interesting to note that just one cup (244 grams) of cow milk possesses:

  • Calcium: 28% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
  • Vitamin B12: About 18% of the RDA
  • Protein: Up to 8 grams
  • Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDA
  • Fats: 8 grams
  • Potassium: About 10% of the RDA
  • Phosphorus: 22% of the RDA
  • Vitamin D: 24% of the RDA
  • Calories: Up to 146
  • Selenium: 13% of the RDA

Isn’t this surprising? From just one cup, you have consumed all these nutritional requirements for the body! Cow milk is a rich source of protein and it holds various fatty acids that play a major role in reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Furthermore, cow milk has been used in the production of a wide array of dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and dried and condensed milk. These products are quite nutritious because of the presence of natural processed cow milk.

The real question is; in as much as the dairy food is nutritional, is it inflammatory?

Well, let’s define inflammation to begin.

Inflammation has two sides. It could be either good or bad. Inflammation is a defense mechanism the body uses in response to bacteria, pathogens, viruses, and injuries such as cuts and scrapes.

It is a trigger that propels the body into releasing special chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins, and bradykinin. These chemicals signal the immune system to ward off viruses and pathogens or heal a tissue that is damaged.

Moreover, inflammatory responses may be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammatory responses last for a few days, while chronic ones last longer than a month. Acute inflammatory responses are necessary because they protect you from an infection, injury, or any other disease. On the contrary, it could prove harmful when it becomes chronic.

As much as milk and other dairy products contain nutrients, it also has saturated fat, which is why it is generally believed that it could cause inflammation. Well, such a belief is partially true. Saturated fats do not necessarily cause inflammation but they may worsen an inflammatory response present in the body by magnifying the absorption of inflammatory molecules which are called lipopolysaccharides.

Studies have also shown that increased risk of inflammation is associated with the regular consumption of milk and other dairy products, especially in young adults and adolescents.

However, it is generally believed that consuming specific foods such as vegetables and fruits are quite instrumental in the rapid lowering of inflammation while other foods such as fried dishes, beverages which are sugar-sweetened, and meats that have undergone processing increase inflammation.

Indeed, some studies give contradictory conclusions on whether dairy as a food source, are inflammatory. Some claim it is while others claim it is not. These two opposing views emerged due to the difference in study methods and designs, the health status of the participants, their dietary composition, and so on.

A review that was carried out from 2012 to 2018 revealed that there was no pro-inflammatory effect of dairy product intake in healthy adults or adults suffering from obesity, overweight, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes.

In another review carried out on children aged between 2 to 18 years, there was no proof that the consumption of fat dairy foods led to the increment of inflammatory molecules.

Of course, recent research shows no association between dairy and inflammation but more research needs to be embarked on to specify whether inflammation might be increased or decreased by specific dairy products or by its components.

 Most research show that dairy foods do not promote inflammation but there will be a need for extensive studies to come to a specific consensus on the issue.

Observational research, for instance, has associated the intake of yogurt to a decreased risk of type-2 diabetes which is linked to chronic low-grade inflammation.

Acute inflammation is quite essential as it protects and aids in healing the body but, on the other hand, chronic inflammation is capable of damaging organs and tissues.

Milk and other dairy products are generally believed to cause inflammation because of the saturated fats that they contain. More so, the development of acne, bloating, and stomach upset in people who are allergic to lactose have all been attributed to the presence of saturated fats in dairy products.

As earlier mentioned, much is yet to be learned about whether or not dairy products promote inflammation but many undertaken studies have proven that dairy products do not increase inflammation in the body.

Although, the issue of dairy and inflammation is a very debatable one given its conflicting research conclusions and it is necessary to be cautious of the type of dairy you include in your diet.

There are things that you need to know about dairy products. They are:

DAIRY RESPONSIVITY

Given the opposing views on dairy products and inflammation, you might want to know the proper dairy product to add to your diet. Well, this depends on how responsive you are to a plethora of dairy items.

Some people are allergic to lactose (the sugar that is normally present in milk products). If you are lactose intolerant, the symptoms that you might experience after consuming milk products are gas, diarrhea, and bloating.

Some other people who may not be lactose intolerant may be susceptible to other components of dairy.

REMOVAL OF DAIRY FOODS FROM DIET

Some people with underlying health conditions such as arthritis try avoiding specific foods to ensure that flares are reduced. Other people feel dietary choices don’t matter.

Anyway, if you want to find out whether you are susceptible to cow milk, you can try removing dairy foods from your diet for a while. Then, you can try reintroducing, later on, to see how your body will respond to it. If you do not notice negative symptoms, you can continue taking dairy foods.

However, moderation must be cautioned. Too much consumption of full-fat or sugar-sweetened dairy products can cause weight gain and obesity specifically, is linked to chronic inflammation. Carefully watching your weight is highly essential as it concerns inflammation reduction. It is recommended to tread on safer grounds by sticking to low-fat dairy foods.

DAIRY SUBSTITUTIONS

If you suffer from lactose intolerance or any other dairy allergy and you decide to eliminate any form of dairy foods from your diet, you must ensure that you replace it with foods with the same nutritional value.

Foods that are rich sources of calcium include kale, collard greens, chickpeas, almonds, non-dairy kinds of milk (hemp, soy, almond, and rice), and calcium-fortified juices. Vitamin D can also be gotten from eggs, cereals, and non-dairy milk.

You must ensure that you check labels of milk and other dairy substitutes. Some of them may contain a high sugar content; preferably go for the unsweetened ones. As earlier mentioned, it is highly necessary to be cautious of the foods that you are replacing dairy foods with. 

Reaching for a donut instead of yogurt for breakfast may eventually bring health problems.

INFLAMMATION, DAIRY, AND PROBIOTICS

As much as dairy foods have been partially believed to promote inflammation, fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are quite essential in the improvement of gut health and reduction of inflammation. It contains probiotics (good bacteria) that aids in boosting the immune system, strengthening the intestinal gut lining, reducing permeability, and so on.

This then ensures that there are fewer irritants such as toxins, chemicals, and some other compounds which are capable of getting into the body to propel an inflammatory response.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Dairy foods such as cow milk, yogurts, are quite beneficial to the health. It contains a high nutritional value that humans could benefit from. As for the inflammatory effect, it is still a debatable subject given various oppositions. The most important thing is to ensure you don’t have allergies to dairy products. If you do, you can try substituting your dairy foods for other types of diets with similar nutritional contents. If you are not, moderate consumption is key while consuming dairy products. 

 

Sources:

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/dairy-and-inflammation

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26287637

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/dairy-health-food-or-health-risk-2019012515849

https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-shocking-truth-about-food-and-inflammation-3f4537e42efc

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