Myths about milk
Milk and dairy products have been part of people’s diet for millennia. Milk is the most balanced food – containing the whole spectrum of essential nutrients. However, a number of publications link milk and dairy products to the occurrence of various health and medical issues. Most of those myths are unfounded and not supported by scientific evidence.
The most commn myths about milk and dairy products are the following:
1. Milk is only suitable for infants.
Milk is extremely balanced food – it has proven to be suitable for all ages. Milk is one of the foods of the greatest nutrient, biological, prophylactic and dietetic significance. Its chemical composition is optimally balanced to the body’s physiological need for nutrients. Milk is easily digested, it helps build tissues therefore it is essential food both for a growing-up body and for a mature one. Its biological characteristics make it an essential product of the protective nutrition for professionals. It is used prophylactically when one is exposed to various harmful chemicals at work, when working with radioactive substances, ionizing radiation, noise and vibrations, dust and other unfavourable factors.
2. High milk consumption causes anaemia.
Indeed, milk’s iron content is low. However, iron from mother’s milk is much better assimilated and children who are fed on mother’s milk during their 4-6 months are practically under no risk. When they turn six months, it is obligatory to begin feeding children with suitable food which provides their organisms with the necessary amount of iron. It is only infants who have not been fed on mother’s milk/ formulas (former name – adapted milk) and/or have not been timely fed on suitable food, that face the risk of anaemia. None of the leading nutrition specialists recommend cow’s milk as a drink for infants.
3. Milk causes osteoporosis .
Out of all foodstuffs milk is the source of the most easily assimilated and suitable calcium for our bodies. A 200 mlglass of milk contains approximately 250 mg calcium, and a glass of yoghurt contains nearly 500 mg. Almost all the necessary daily amount of calcium that a mature organism needs is contained in two glasses of milk. In comparison, the amount of calcium contained in half a litre of milk, is contained in 1,2 kg of broccoli, 100 pc. of dried apricots or in 3,2 kg of lentils. Studies of yoghurt’s link to osteoporosis are few and their evidence do not take account of all the risk factors causing osteoporosis thus rendering groundless statements like these unless further thorough research is performed.
4. Milk enhances the development of atherosclerosis (cardiovascular diseases).
Milk contains mainly saturated fatty acids and cholesterol which are linked to increased cardiovascular risks, but it is also rich in lecithin which is a powerful anti-cholesterol factor. New studies show that stearic acid – one of milk’s saturated fats – is not as strongly atherogenic as considered so far.
5. Milk is a common reason for food allergies and food intolrance.
Only about 2% of children below 2 years have been proven to be allergic to cow’s milk. Most of them overcome this allergy by 4 years. Therefore milk must be excluded from a child’s diet only if allergy to cow’s milk proteins is definitely proven. Much more common is allergy towards casein forming IgG antibodies; then necessitates temporary refraining from milk consumption is necessar. Modern studies on bronchial asthma show that fits of asthma become even less frequent if milk is consumed.
6. People suffering lactase intolerance must not consume milk and dairy products at all.
Although rarely, some people suffer from insufficient lactase enzyme which decomposes lactose. This condition is more common among adults and is relatively rare among children. The lack of this enzyme is related to various issues – stomach spasms and aches, gases, diarrhea. When such an issue is identified doctors recommend suspending milk consumption. Some cases necessitate limiting dairy products such as cheese, although it contains minimum amounts of lactase. If patients consume supplements containing the enzyme they lack, they are able to tolerate milk and dairy products.
7. Milk causes the formation of “mucus” in the gastrointestinal tract and hinders digestion.
In comparison to other type of food milk slightly enhances digestive glands’ secretory activity, increases salivation and prepares the lower sections of the digestive system for the process of food digestion, and it does not increase the formation of mucus. On the contrary, milk and dairy products are used in almost all modern therapeutic feeding diets.
Yoghurt is natural functional food, or food having added benefits for healh because of its probiotic bacteria content – Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. Some fresh dairy products might contain other beneficial probiotic bacteria too, such as members of the Bifidobakterium (bifidobacteria) family.
Myths regarding industrial yoghurt are very popular:
1. Artificial preservative substances (preservatives) are put in yoghurt in order to have longer expiration date. This is impossible due to the following reason: such ingredients would suppress the development of probiotic microorganisms and the process of lactic fermentation, therefore the production of the food product itself – the yoghurt.
2. Yoghurt’s expiration date is artificially longer and yoghurt fails to become spoiled within 3 days (72 hours), like it used to 20 years ago. Nowadays there is great improvement in the sanitary and hygienic conditions of milk production (automated, instead of manual milking), refrigeration of the milk produced, quick transportation of the raw product in suitable cysterns and quick processing of milk as early as during the bactericidal stage, by ensuring it is not contaminated with external pathogenic flora, including yeast from the result product, which used to happen 20-30 years ago. Yeast growing takes 72 hours, it continues even when refrigerated, and is related to gas release bending the yoghurt’s caps thus spoiling the product. Nowadays no yeast-infection is allowed which is one of the reasons for the extended expiration date of the yoghurt.
3. The taste of yoghurt currently produced is milder and creamier compared to yoghurt traditionally produced 20-30 years ago. It must be taken into account that this is not due to inserting cream, starch or sugar, but to the selection of the starter culture of the probiotic strain of bacteria and also of the ratio between two of them – lactobacilli and streptococci in the yeast. If lactobacilli, which decompose lactose more actively, are predominant, there is more lactic acid and the product’s taste is sharper, then the yoghurt turns sour more quickly. If thermophiles streptococci are predominant, lactobacilli fail to develop so intensively, the amounts of lactic acid produced are lower, and the yoghurt’s taste is milder and lasts for longer, up to 20 days.
4. Yoghurt is mostly made of powder milk. In order to produce quality yoghurt, it must be made mostly of fresh raw milk. In the summer when animals are mainly fed on fresh food, the amount of protein is lowered which justifies the regulated use of no more than 2% of powdered milk in the production of yoghurt, so as to preserve the product’s nutrient qualities.
5. It is impossible to turn milk into yoghurt at home using industrially made yoghurt. People often fail to produce yoghurt at home due to several reasons. Most commonly the raw product initially used is of uncontrolled origin and quality – it contains pathogenic microorganisms and phage which attack, destroy or suppress lactobacilli development, thus hampering the process of lactic acid fermentation. The process is further hampered by inappropriate temperatures during fermentation, as well as by the lack of the necessary hygiene. Lactic acid yeasts and strains currently developed and used are highly sensitive to the conditions of the fermentation process, their reproduction rate is low unlike that of “wild” strains of lactic acid bacteria which are less sensitive to temperature fluctuations or attacks by other microorganisms.
6. Starch and other gelling agents are put in yoghurt to make it dense, thick and creamy. The reason for yoghurt’s thickness and homogeneity is in the improvement of technologies used nowadays to produce yoghurt. One of the new processes is homogenization of the initial milk whereby the fatty drops are very finely disperced to very small sizes which contributes to the final product’s even thickness and density.