Milk and other dairy products are an important part of the human diet, but some people believe that they are harmful. This article explores some of these beliefs, examines the scientific evidence, and gives suggestions so that nutritionists can help consumers make informed decisions. The topics include lactose intolerance, raw milk, pasteurization, milk and mucus, milk and asthma, milk and allergies, and recombinant bovine growth hormone. Many people believe that lactose-intolerant individuals should not consume milk or dairy products, but in fact lactose tolerance varies, and drastic dietary restrictions may not be needed. Others believe that if someone has once suffered from lactose intolerance, that person always will. The fact is that a person’s tolerance can change over time. In addition, self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance is often incorrect. Some people drink raw milk rather than pasteurized milk because they believe it is healthier and safer and that pasteurization destroys beneficial things in milk. These beliefs are all false, and in fact, raw milk poses a significant health risk. There are other beliefs that exist surround milk and its effect on the respiratory tract and allergies. The facts are that milk does not cause increased mucus production, nor does it cause or worsen allergies or asthma. Some members of the public fear that the hormones in milk can affect the humans who drink it, but this is false. Belief in many of the mistaken notions outlined in this article is widespread and pervasive in the United States at present. Even health professionals often accept such fallacies as truth. Health professionals can play an important role in dispelling these nutrition myths through nutrition education and counseling.
Some oft-forgotten realities about the white beverage
Paige Zaitlin, MS, RD, is a recent graduate of the Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She completed her dietetic internship at Tufts Medical Center and is working as a registered dietitian in Maryland.
Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, is on the faculty at Frances Stern Nutrition Center, Tufts Medical Center and USDA HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Gary R. Gleason, PhD, is an adjunct associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. He received his PhD in Mass Communication and International Social Development from the University of Iowa.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Paige Zaitlin, MS, RD, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, and Frances Stern Nutrition Center, 2601 Woodley Pl NW #203, Washington, DC 20008 ( firstname.lastname@example.org).