The history of dairy
Crop farmers and cattle farmers first began to keep cows about 10,000 years ago. They discovered that cows can convert grass, which is indigestible for humans, into the valuable food product milk. This was the perfect solution for people in areas where no other crops could grow.
Can people with lactose intolerance consume dairy products?
Many Europeans and some populations in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia can digest lactose throughout life thanks to the presence of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. This is called lactase persistence. Most people who cannot tolerate lactose can digest about 12 grams of lactose per day. This is equal to a large glass (250 ml) of milk. Yoghurt contains less lactose and semi-hard cheeses hardly contain any lactose.
Milk and bone health
Genetics are a major determinant for strong bones and account for 60 to 80% of the variation in peak bone mass, i.e. the maximum bone density. Nutrition and exercise also play important roles in the development of the bones while growing (children) and in the bone tissue maintenance phase for adults and elderly people. Health authorities agree that calcium, protein and phosphorus from, among others, milk support the development and maintenance of the bones mass.
Cow’s milk protein allergy
2-7% of babies and toddlers and 0.1-0.5% of adults are allergic to the protein in cow's milk. The duration of the allergy to the cow’s milk protein varies, but most children will have outgrown this allergy by the age of two to three years. Although it is often stated that the number of children with cow’s milk protein allergy is increasing, there is no scientific evidence to support this.
Do adults need calcium?
Calcium is the most common mineral in our bodies. There is scientific proof that we need sufficient amounts of calcium in our nutrition. This is relevant for every phase in life, both old and young. Calcium supports the build-up of bone mass with children and with adults the mineral contributes to the maintenance of bones, normal blood clotting and proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
Is a calcium supplement a good alternative to drinking milk?
Milk provides a variety of essential nutrients such as protein, vitamin B2 and B12 and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iodine. Therefore, milk naturally contains much more than calcium. Calcium supplements may be seen as an addition to the amount of calcium that is obtained from food, but not as an adequate replacement of a healthy and varied diet.
Calcium and the absorption of iron
Long-term studies have shown that calcium has no or just a limited effect on the absorption of iron in the body. A diet with a wide variety of food products probably contains dietary factors that promote as well inhibit the iron absorption.
The acid balance of the body
In a number of scientific studies done fifteen years ago it was stated that an increased protein intake would adversely affect bone health as a result of an increased calcium content in the urine and a reduced calcium supply in the bones. New scientific findings do not endorse this effect.
Does dairy have an effect on the health of heart and blood vessels?
Health authorities advises to consume skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and dairy products, because of the energy and saturated fat content. Recent scientific research shows that the relationship between milk and heart and blood vessels seems to be more complex than previously assumed.
Milk and weight management
Physical activity and a healthy and varied diet are important in maintaining a healthy weight. People who eat and drink more than the energy they expend will gain weight, no matter what they eat or drink. Some people believe that dairy foods like, milk, yoghurt and cheese are fattening. However science does not support this.