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The addition of milk and other dairy products to an otherwise healthy diet has no discernible benefits and may even cause harm.
Is dairy necessary for good health? The scientific answer to this common nutrition question is simply no.
Even the mainstream medical community is communicating this fact in top medical journals.
The predominate reason we continue to believe dairy is necessary is the very successful marketing by the dairy industry that promotes it as beneficial for bone health.
Dairy and bone health
Dairy is indeed a source of calcium, a nutrient required for bone health, but there is no scientific evidence that consuming dairy improves bone health or prevents osteoporosis.
The truth is quite the opposite. Countries that consume the most dairy milk actually have the highest rates of bone fractures.
What is more important for bone health is regular weight-baring exercise and the consumption of plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Parents often worry that dairy is required for normal growth and development in childhood.
But when you consider that more than 70 percent of the world's population are in fact lactose intolerant after weaning, the inclusion of dairy for most children will result in distressing abdominal symptoms.
When you consider that the purpose of a mammal's milk is to promote rapid growth of its young, it won't surprise you to learn that milk is high in growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor.
In addition, dairy cows are kept pregnant whilst being milked, so the milk is high in female hormones such as oestrogen.
These growth factors and hormones are a concern for the development of cancers in humans, with the strongest evidence supporting dairy consumption as a significant risk factor for prostate cancer in men.
There are better choices. Replacing cow’s dairy with soy milk and foods can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
For example, regular consumption of tofu can reduce the risk of breast cancer by around 12 percent when comparing those who eat the most versus those that eat the least.
Similar findings are true for prostate cancer. Soy milk and foods are associated with a lower risk.
Fortified soy and pea milks have the same amount of protein and calcium as cow’s milk without the saturated fat and health risks associated with dairy consumption.
HealthCanada’s 2019 dietary guidelines recognise that dairy is not essential in the diet and have removed it as a food group.
No discernible benefits
The addition of milk and other dairy products to an otherwise healthy plant-based diet centred around fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, nuts and seeds has no discernible benefits and may even cause harm.
When the ethical and environmental considerations are taken into account, this leaves no doubt that dairy is best left off the plate
Dr. Shireen Kassam is a Consultant Haematologist and Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician who provides education and advocacy on plant-based diets through her non-profit organization, Plant-based health professionals UK, and her work at Winchester University, where she offers the only University course in the U.K on plant-based nutrition.
World Plant Milk Day is calling on people to sign our 7-day dairy-free challenge. Already ditched dairy? Nominate your friends and family to take part! Find out more here