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How Dairy Products May Hurt Your Health

The most common reason people consider going dairy-free is for their health. Eating or drinking dairy products has been linked to physical discomfort in some of the population and increased risk of certain diseases and conditions.

Many adults are lactose intolerant

Most adult humans aren’t designed to continue consuming milk after infancy. While you’re a baby, your body produces an enzyme called lactase that enables you to digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Milk provides you with what you need to grow and develop when you’re an infant. As you grow into childhood, though, your body gradually stops making lactase. By the time most people are adults, they don’t produce much, if any, lactase.

Passing undigested milk sugar into your intestines may cause gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. When these symptoms appear, the condition is known as lactose intolerance.

Some people suffer from milk allergies

Some people confuse lactose malabsorption or intolerance with milk allergy. A milk allergy is an extreme response by the body’s immune system to proteins in milk. Milk allergy reactions can include hives, rashes, nausea, congestion, diarrhea, swelling in the mouth and throat and other symptoms. Severe reactions can even lead to shock and death.

A dairy-heavy diet can be hard on your heart

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, so it makes a whole lot of sense to do what you can to minimize your risk. About two-thirds of the fat in dairy products is artery-clogging saturated fat. In particular, hard cheeses (such as cheddar, Swiss, and provolone), ice cream, sour cream, whipped cream, coffee cream, and whole milk are exceptionally high in saturated fat.

Premium brands of ice cream are, in general, loaded with saturated fat. Eat them seldom — or never. Even so-called low-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat. For example, low-fat or 2-percent milk gets 25 percent of its calories from fat, most of which is saturated fat. That’s too much saturated fat for most people.

Dairy products can make health issues worse

Some people choose to avoid dairy products to improve their health even though a proven cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t necessarily exist between their condition and the consumption of dairy products.

Basically, these folks suspect that dairy products simply may be related to their problem. If they eliminate dairy and their condition improves — great! They have nothing to lose by trying, because humans don’t require milk from a cow. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer are examples of illnesses that have been linked with milk consumption.

Eating dairy can promote weight gain

The million-dollar question these days seems to be, “Can drinking milk help you lose weight?” The short answer: No. In recent years, the dairy industry has promoted a marketing campaign touting the weight-loss benefits of drinking cow’s milk. Claims that suggest drinking milk controls weight are misleading. Long-term studies show no benefits for weight loss by drinking cow’s milk or eating yogurt.

If anything, drinking lots of milk would be expected to promote weight gain in the long run. That’s because fluid cow’s milk is relatively high in calories, especially if it’s low-fat or whole milk instead of skim. High-fat dairy products, such as cheese and ice cream, also are high in calories. Just like fluid cow’s milk, these high-calorie dairy products promote weight gain and obesity when eaten frequently or in large amounts.

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