Dairy products form an integral part of humans’ day-to-day consumables. The increased consumption of dairy products worldwide can be linked to the argument that these products provide a package of key nutrients that cannot be obtained in dairy-free or low-dairy diets. However, there have been divided opinions on whether continuous consumption of milk or other dairy products is harmful. On the one hand, some people believe that dairy products should be avoided at all costs as they are detrimental to human health, especially among people with issues of weight management, osteoarthritis, lactose intolerance, rheumatoid arthritis, or cardiovascular complications. In fact, several media stories have made claims that consumption of dairy products increases the risk of diseases such as cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, others believe that consumption of dairy products is feasible as the products help meet dairy dietary calcium requirement. Therefore, the purpose of this mini-essay is to investigate the two opposing sides of the argument above.
Dairy products are an important part of the human diet, and therefore, are more beneficial when it comes to enhancing human health and physical growth. For several years, these products have been part of the official nutritional recommendations in several countries. Scientific research indicates that dairy products provide key nutrients that cannot be obtained in non-dairy products (Louie et al. 586) Some of the nutrients obtained from dairy products include calcium, potassium, protein, and phosphorus. Calcium, in particular, has a significant impact on bone development in children and adults. Research indicates that diets with high calcium content given to pregnant women cause increased skeletal growth and increased bone mass in the offspring. Further, long-term milk or dairy product avoidance among growing children is often associated with lower bone mineral mass, smaller stature or body size, and increased risk of bone fracture before adolescence (Shi Lin 7).
Other than providing calcium needed for bone development, dairy products are a source of high-quality protein that is crucial to human health as well as development. Protein obtained from dairy products is important when it comes to weight loss and subsequently weight maintenance because it prevents the human body from over consuming energy paving the way for a reduction in the body fat content. In the same vein, protein obtained from dairy products is a source of amino acids that are integral to the synthesis of muscle protein thereby helping in the maintenance of the metabolically active muscle mass during the weight loss process (Shi Lin 6). According to scientific research, the consumption of dairy products by adults facilitates weight loss and is also fundamental to the improvement of body composition; which is the reduction of body fat mass and preservation of lean body mass during energy restriction. Also, there is a close relation between consumption of dairy products and a reduction in cardiovascular or heart disease. Of course, cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of mortality and how diet influences cardiovascular complications such as blood pressure and heart failure is well established. Reports indicate that unlike other foods, dairy products have no association with cardiovascular or heart disease. In fact, continuous consumption of dairy products protects people against heart diseases with beneficial effects illustrated in heart disease related factors such as hypertension (Louie et al. 587). Based on this argument, the reduced cases of obesity and heart diseases among the human population in recent years are associated with the consumption of dairy products.
The numerous benefits of consuming dairy products notwithstanding, the argument that their costs outweigh their benefits cannot be overlooked. Scientific research indicates that selected dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, milk yogurt, and butter contribute high cholesterol amounts and saturated fat into the diet, which is later absorbed into the body (Thorning et al. 5). The adverse effects of diets or food high in fat and cholesterol content are well established; they can increase risks of heart disease and obesity as well as cause other serious health problems. The impact of dairy products on children and infants is worse than it is in adults. Scientific reports indicate that saturated fat, high protein, as well as sugar contained in dairy products increase chances of obesity and heart disease among children and infants (Kratz et al. 7).
The argument that the costs of dairy products outweigh their benefits is highlighted by the fact that the products cause lactose intolerance that is a risk to human health. Continued consumption of dairy products has increased the prevalence of lactose intolerance among populations (Thorning et al. 10). Some of the symptoms of the condition include excessive diarrhea, flatulence, and gastrointestinal diseases that occur when individuals lack enzymes that digest the sugar lactose contained in dairy products (Kratz et al. 6). At a young age, people have active enzymes to break down galactose although this capacity is lost as people age. As such, aged people are more likely to have lactose intolerance than young children, and therefore consumption of dairy products is not recommended for the aged.
To sum up, although dairy products play a significant role in bone development and the prevention of obesity and heart diseases, people should take care of the potential adverse effects that may accompany their consumption. Dairy products are recommended for bone development especially among children and infants. However, their association with the occurrence of incidences such as cancer, cardiovascular complications to some extent, and lactose intolerance, means that excessive consumption of the same should be avoided.
Kratz, Mario, et al. “The Relationship between High-Fat Dairy Consumption and Obesity, Cardiovascular, and Metabolic Disease.” European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 52, no. 1, Feb. 2013, pp. 1-24. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0418-1.
Louie, J. C. Y., et al. “Dairy Consumption and Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review of Prospective Cohort Studies.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 12, no. 7, July 2011, pp. e582-e592. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00881.x.
Shi Lin, Lin, et al. “The Role of Dairy Products and Milk in Adolescent Obesity: Evidence from Hong Kong’s “Children of 1997″ Birth Cohort.” Plos ONE, vol. 7, no. 12, Dec. 2012, pp. 1-7. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052575.
Thorning, Tanja Kongerslev, et al. “Milk and Dairy Products: Good or Bad for Human Health? An Assessment of the Totality of Scientific Evidence.” Food & Nutrition Research, vol. 60, Jan. 2016, pp. 1-11. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3402/fnr.v60.32527.
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