The dairy debate: What you need to know

Posted on: 08 February 2010 by Mark O'haire

Here’s a closer look at the fact and fiction that goes hand in hand with the white stuff.

Once milk was celebrated as the ultimate health drink, packed full of protein, vitamins and minerals, it helped us sleep, grow and was generously shared out to kids on school breaks.

But is that still the case today? Here’s a closer look at the fact and fiction that goes hand in hand with the white stuff.

Fact or Fiction?

FACT - Eating cheese at the end of a meal can help prevent tooth decay

Eating a small amount of cheese at the end of a meal increases the amount of saliva in the mouth and helps neutralise acids that cause tooth decay. In addition, the cheese helps replace minerals in tooth enamel such as phosphorus and calcium.

FICTION - Cutting out dairy will help you slim

There is actually no truth in the notion that cutting out dairy will result in a healthier, slimmer body.  In fact, a recent study proved that eating three to four daily servings of dairy may help burn more fat by shifting energy stored in fat cells to working muscles.  Similar studies have meant that dairy industries in Europe and the US have been promoting milk-based products for consumers who want to slim for some time.

However, while it is true that due to its high protein content food rich in dairy may help us feel fuller for longer, it is important to consider the fat element and to eat high fat products, like cheese, in moderation.

FACT - Dairy is the best source of calcium

While dairy is by no means the only source of calcium in our diets, studies have suggested that milk and dairy products are the best dietary source of calcium.

A pint of milk contains 673mg of calcium - almost the total daily adult requirement.  Although other foods, such as pulses, green vegetables, dried fruit and nuts and seeds, contain calcium, it's misleading to think that just eating small amounts of these will replace all of the calcium you would get from milk. In fact to get the same amount of calcium as from a pint of milk you would have to eat 1.2 kilos of broccoli, 100 dried apricots or 3.2 kilos of lentils!

FICTION - Dairy products are bad for your skin

Whether cow's milk plays a significant role in causing or aggravating skin conditions such as acne and eczema is a subject that has produced heated debate over the years. The current tide of professional opinion is that sensitivity or intolerance to particular foods, including cow's milk, plays little role in most eczema.

It may come as a surprise but milk protein called Lactoferrin has actually been found to help reduce the development of bacteria responsible for many skin impurities and help prevent blemishes and spots forming due to its antimicrobial effect. help: clear skin, a supplement treatment for acne-prone skin, incorporates Praventin which is rich in Lactoferrin and has been clinically proven to improve skin after just eight weeks.

FACT - Dairy is good for your heart

Dairy peptides have been shown to be effective in reducing high blood pressure – a condition that affects up to 40% of UK adults and can lead to serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Research by the British Journal of Nutrition has proven that dairy peptides are effective in the reduction of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Hypertension can be caused by a constriction of blood vessels brought about by a chemical called angiotensin I, a hormone responsible for controlling the amount of blood circulating around our bodies. When this converts into angiotensin II in a reaction called ‘ACE’, it makes the heart use more oxygen than usual to pump blood around the body which can cause blood vessels to narrow – resulting in raised blood pressure.

Dairy peptides (lactotripeptides) act as a natural blocker of the ‘ACE’ reaction. help: blood pressure – from Works With Water Nutraceuticals - incorporates dairy peptides, also called milk proteins, to work with your body and help maintain blood pressure at a healthy level.

FICTION - Cheese before bedtime gives you nightmares

We have long associated cheese with nightmares and in Charles Dickens's famous A Christmas Carol, Scrooge blames his nocturnal visions on having eaten 'a crumb of cheese' before bed. However there is no real evidence to suggest this, in fact, one of the amino acids in cheese - tryptophan - has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep so cheese may actually help you have a good night's sleep.

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