#35 Milk and dairy (Part II)

By February 5, 2020October 16th, 2020Sunday Shutdown Series


This is a question I get asked at almost every workshop or talk I run, via my social media and from friends too. Is dairy harmful for human health? I have written a Sunday Shutdown on it already (check my website) however I wanted to elaborate further.⠀

Summary of the evidence

In 2016, a review (Thorning et al.) was published summarising all the evidence on milk and dairy products and their impact on human health. The analysis looked at obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer and all-cause mortality. It’s important to note that butter was not included in the overview, and given its nutritional profile is very different to other dairy products it’s quite good it’s been left off.⠀

Some important findings from the overview were:⠀

  • Magnesium is important for bone health, and in children pretty much all their intake comes from dairy. This is also true for calcium. Whilst plant based milks have calcium added into them it isn’t organic to the product and there is limited research on how this reacts in the human body. Does it work in the same way or not? The products are so new it’s impossible to tell.⠀
  • There is still very limited evidence on dairy and some cancers. A 2011 World Cancer Research Fund report concluded that dairy consumption probably reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. This was further shown in a 2014 meta-analysis (Ralston et al) particularly in adult males, yet not females. However, other than this type in particular, most studies are inconclusive or indicate a positive effect. There are none which indicate a negative effect.⠀

Plant based alternatives

Whilst plant based alternatives may be trendy they tend to have a very low protein content compared to dairy which is high (this is good). This is with the exception of soy which is comparable. We know that the protein content in many peoples diets currently may just meet the UK Governments recommendation. Yet we also know this is no where near enough for optimum health. I advise all my clients to be consuming in excess of 1g/kg of body weight as good practice.


All in all there are very few adverse effects which have been proven about consuming milk and dairy. And prior to the introduction of plant milks on the market there were no other alternatives. My fear with removing dairy completely is the long term health effects of reduced protein, calcium, magnesium and iodine intake. We can certainly all consume less, just not remove completely unless for medical reasons.

Kate Taylor

Author Kate Taylor

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