Skip to main content

It’s a Hot Topic!

There is no denying that dairy is a hot topic! You either love it or hate it. Concerns range from gut-related symptoms to it being juice for baby cows to those simply avoiding it for fear of weight gain due to its naturally high fat and sugar content. Add to that the positive hype surrounding plant-based alternatives and it could be regarded as staggering that any human allows it to pass their lips!

What does the science say?

Dampen down the hype and delve into the science, and not surprisingly, you will find a completely different story.

Dairy is one of the five food groups recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG’s) due to its beneficial nutrient content. The ADG’s are based on the review of over 55,000 scientific papers.

Can it help with weight management?

One highly regarded meta-analyses (statistical analysis of multiple scientific papers) found that the benefits of dairy outweighed the adverse effects, as trends demonstrated improved body weight and reduced risk of disease. (1)

Further dairy intake was associated with better body composition and weight loss when consumed as part of a low-calorie diet. Although it demonstrated a neutral or decreased risk with type 2 diabetes, it was found to improve childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease (particularly stroke).

Similarly, cancer risk for colorectal, bladder, gastric and breast was reduced, with no association with pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer and no known conclusion on prostate cancer.

Including dairy as part of the diet was also found to be beneficial for bone mineral density, however, did not affect risk of bone fracture.

Another review found that drinking 200ml of milk per day was beneficial for hypertension, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it also discovered an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, and iron deficiency in children. (2)

The consensus of studies concludes no association between dairy and all causes of mortality (death).

What about nutrients?

From a nutrient perspective, dairy is high in protein, calcium and other micronutrients including vitamin A, B2, B12, phosphorus and potassium which are often lacking in dairy alternatives such as plant-based milks.

Dairy provides a rich supply of calcium, important for strong bones, muscle contraction, blood clotting and heart health.  Although calcium can be obtained from a range of plant foods, dairy is a convenient source of calcium for most people to help them reach their daily calcium requirements (1000mg -1300mg / day).

It is generally recommended to choose low or reduced-fat dairy products such as lite milk to minimise saturated fat intake and improve overall health.

As for its sugar content, lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in dairy and the only sugar in milk. Plain dairy milk does not contain added sugar.

How much should I have?

With these benefits in mind, dairy is a beneficial food group to include in your diet if you can tolerate it. Serve size recommendations for most people are 2.5 serves per day, which could look like 1 glass of milk, 200g (small tub) of yoghurt and 1 slice of cheese.

I think I’m intolerant to dairy?

If you are lactose or A1 beta-casein intolerant, it is recommended to opt for a lactose free or A2 milk before choosing a plant-based alternative, to optimise your nutrient intake.

And if you do not like or do not tolerate dairy, choosing alternative products enriched with added calcium is recommended. Fortified soy milk is our number one alternative as it contains a higher amount of protein than other plant-based milks.

If you are unsure if you tolerate dairy or are having trouble narrowing down the cause of your gut symptoms, reach out to our dietitians for help (below).

Further Reading:

  1. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-020-00527-y
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122229/

Book now with our experienced dietitians for help.