The health benefits of milk.
People have drunk milk for upwards of 10,000 years, and it’s long been known that milk and dairy products protect you against common chronic diseases. But before you rush out to buy gallons of cheap low-fat milk from the supermarket, we’re going to explain to you what type of milk is fantastic for your health.
Millions of people wrongly switched to low-fat or plant-based milk, and in some cases dropped dairy altogether. A large study in 2016 challenged the scepticism that many people have about milk. The study found that consuming dairy products was associated with these great health benefits.
- A reduced risk of obesity.
- Improved body composition and weight loss.
- A reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk, particularly stroke.
- Beneficial effect on bone mineral density.
There are 2 factors to consider. The first is the breed and feeding conditions of the cow, and the second is how the milk is processed. Highly processed skimmed milk from a large industrialised farm is the worst milk. The best is raw milk from a small organic farm.
The pasteurization and homogenisation of milk.
There are various levels of pasteurisation, the most common is where the milk is heated to a high temperature for a short period, then rapidly cooled. The most extreme method uses Ultra High Temperatures to produce long shelf-life UHT milk. Pasteurisation kills all the bacteria and damages and breaks down the proteins, amino acids, enzymes and peptides.
Remember when you were a child and the milkman delivered bottles of milk that slowly separated into 2 layers? Well a modern bottling plant fixes this by stripping away the fats and re-adding them in specific quantities, to get 1%, 2%, 3.5% milk, etc. The mixture is then sprayed through hundreds of tiny jets under huge pressure. This breaks down the milk solids and turns them into a homogeneous white liquid.
Here are 7 important things to know about incorporating milk into your diet.
- You need to drink whole milk because the fat holds the fat-soluble vitamins and micronutrients.
- You need to drink quality milk produced by cows that graze on natural grass, not from cows that are factory-fed with grain and waste.
- All milk contains a sugar called lactose which has a much lower glycemic index than normal sugar.
- Milk is a good source of calcium, but also contains several vitamins and minerals to make sure calcium goes into the bones and not soft tissues.
- Milk is a great source of protein and essential amino acids.
- Quality milk is a great source of bioactive peptides.
- Raw milk is way better than pasteurised.
So let’s look at these in more detail.
Number 1. Fat doesn’t make you fat!
We’ve all been sold a big lie about low-fat foods. Over the decades, food manufacturers took out the good fats in natural foods and replaced them with seed oils and added sugar. Data from the huge Nurses Health Study dropped this bombshell.
“individuals who consume full-fat dairy products had a 44% lower risk of developing diabetes over the course of 15 years compared with persons who opted for low-fat dairy products.”
It’s the fat in milk that contains all the fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. So If you drink low-fat milk or the dreadful skimmed variety, you are missing out on lots of nutritional goodies. The fat-soluble vitamins are “Dake” or vitamins D, A, K and E. Fats also make many other nutrients more bioavailable, such as carotenoids.
Milk fat is a rich source of all fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated. It also contains a unique fatty acid, butyric acid, that offers high protection against harmful pathogens. The shorter chain structure of some fatty acids in milk is easily utilised by intestinal cells to aid in the repair and maintenance of the gut wall. Additionally, milk fat contains conjugated linoleic acid, (CLA), a potent antioxidant and fatty acid that is thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancer. CLA also plays a crucial role in balancing the metabolic system by promoting muscle growth, reducing insulin resistance, and regulating fat deposition. The levels of CLA are significantly higher in milk from grass-fed cows compared to grain-fed cows, with a five-fold difference.
Cholesterol in Milk.
According to a three-week crossover study, drinking full fat whole milk resulted in better cholesterol levels when compared to drinking skimmed milk. This finding challenges the longstanding recommendation of consuming skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to reduce weight and prevent heart disease. The current body of research suggests that full-fat dairy products are just as healthy as their low-fat counterparts, if not healthier. A glass of milk contains around 25mg of cholesterol which is around 10% of the RDA. Remember that the body is an incredible machine that needs cholesterol to maintain cell integrity and manufacture vitamin D, bile acids, and hormones etc. When cholesterol intake is low, your liver makes more. When cholesterol intake is high, your liver makes less. So eating cholesterol-rich foods does not directly impact the cholesterol levels in your body.
Omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratios.
Whilst both versions of omega fatty acids are required by the body, omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are inflammatory. Omega-3 is credited with improving the health of the heart, but milk has the plant-based form of omega 3 called A.L.A. A 250ml glass of milk has about 0.2g of omegas. In the standard American diet, people eat way too much omega-6 rich foods and not nearly enough foods rich in omega-3.
- Organic whole milk has an omega 6 and 3 ratio of 2.5 to 1, which is a near-perfect ratio.
- Supermarket milk has an omega 6 and 3 ratio of 5:1 (twice as much omega-6).
- Almond milk has a horrendous ratio of 2000:1 with 1g of omega-6 per cup.
Number 2. Drink quality cow milk.
A cow is an amazing machine. It eats food that we can’t eat, and produces vast amounts of meat and milk. A cow also produces around 30 kg of manure every day, and on a traditional farm, this falls on the grass and gets worked into the soil by animals, insects and worms. This locks tons of carbon into the soil and makes it rich and fertile. Cows are so fantastic at eating anything, that modern factory-style dairy farms have fed them junk such as GMO grains, corm, food waste and distillery waste. So it’s always worth paying a little more or doing your own research to source naturally grass-fed organic whole milk.
250ml of full-fat cow’s milk contains the following.
- Lactose sugar (12 grams).
- Healthy fats (9 grams).
- Protein (as casein and whey, 8 grams).
- Amino acids (13 grams).
- Bioactive peptides.
- Calcium (300mg, 25% RDA).
- Magnesium (30mg, 8% RDA).
- Potassium (400mg, 8% RDA).
- Phosphorus (250mg, 35% RDA).
- Omega 3, in the form of A.L.A (0.2g).
- Vitamin D (trace amount, unless it’s fortified).
- Vitamin A (100μg retinol, 35% RDA).
- Vitamin K2 (150μg, 15% RDA).
- Vitamin E (trace amounts).
- Vitamin B6 (0.3mg, 15% RDA).
- Vitamin B7 (2μg, 15% RDA).
- Vitamin B9 (25μg, 15% RDA).
- Vitamin B12 (2.4μg, 7% RDA).
- Boron (0.05mg).
- Zinc (1mg, 10% RDA).
- Carotenoids (lutein, β-carotene and zeaxanthin).
Number 3, lactose isn’t a bad sugar for most people.
A 250ml glass of milk contains 12g of lactose. A special enzyme called lactase in the small intestine breaks it down into 2 sugars called glucose and galactose. Glucose enters the bloodstream and causes the release of insulin, but it happens at a way slower rate than drinking sugary drinks containing glucose, such as coke or orange juice. Galactose is converted in the liver and is mostly stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Only 20% is converted to glucose and released into circulation. The increase in blood glucose is therefore modest.
People with some degree of lactose intolerance are quite capable of drinking a glass or two of milk per day. The root cause of lactose intolerance is often the damage caused by gluten from cereal grains and flour. People who remove or reduce grains usually have no issues with lactose when the intestines start to heal and normal lactase production restarts. Some people who have difficulty digesting lactose may find that they can tolerate raw milk better than pasteurised milk, as the enzymes in raw milk can help break down lactose more effectively.
Milk has a very low glycemic index, which means it slowly releases insulin. Here we can see how the lactose is broken down in the small intestine by the enzyme lactase. Glucose is released into the bloodstream slowly, which prevents a spike in insulin. The galactose is transported to the liver and most is converted, with a special enzyme, to glycogen for storage. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose that’s used as an energy reserve. It’s made up of many connected glucose molecules. 80% of the glycogen is stored in skeletal muscles and 20% in the liver.
Number 4. Whole milk is a great source of calcium.
Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need some calcium to function properly. Less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support critical metabolic functions, and this calcium is very tightly regulated. The remaining 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth. Bone is constantly consumed and made.
The RDA for calcium is around 1000mg, (1 gram) per day. This is pretty easy to obtain from dairy. Excess calcium simply passes through the body in urine and stools. You may not be absorbing enough calcium due to low levels of Vitamin D and magnesium.
Where should calcium go?
Calcium does not just go into bones and teeth. It also finds its way into soft tissue such as arteries. Doctors call it ‘Extra-skeletal calcification’. The most dangerous calcium deposits are in the arteries and the heart. Grass-fed whole milk is a wonderful source of calcium because it contains key nutrients that make sure the calcium goes to the right places. You need calcium to go to your bones and teeth, and not to calcify the arteries and heart.
A cow ferments what it eats thanks to its four-compartment stomach. Vitamin K1 from plants is converted to vitamin K2, which is then absorbed by the cow. K2 also gets excreted onto the grass which is eaten by the cow, and further absorbed into the meat and milk. Vitamin K2 & vitamin D work together to help absorb and transport calcium to the correct places in the body. Vitamin K2 seems to define where calcium should and shouldn’t go in the body. Osteocalcin is a protein hormone found in bone and teeth. Its synthesis is vitamin K2 dependent. Studies conclude that a lack of vitamin K2 leads to age-related bone loss. Vitamin K2 can prevent and reverse calcified arteries.
Getting enough vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and also helps the kidneys break down and incorporate calcium that would otherwise be excreted. Vitamin D is found in eggs, butter, fatty fish, liver (and made from sunlight).
Calcium can’t act alone, it needs magnesium. We already know that calcium protects and keeps bones and teeth healthy. But without magnesium, the body cannot adequately absorb calcium and regulate calcium transport. Even a mild deficiency in magnesium can radically affect bone health.
Boron appears to be a natural constituent of cows’ milk. The body requires boron for proper metabolism and utilisation of various bone-building factors, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, estrogen and testosterone. Boron keeps your bone and teeth structure strong by adding to bone density, preventing osteoporosis.
Number 5. Milk is a great source of protein and amino acids.
A study indicated the effectiveness of milk proteins on the reduction of risk factors for cancer, cardiovascular diseases and the overall improvement of health.
Casein and whey protein are the major proteins in milk. Scientific evidence suggests that anti-carcinogenic activities, anti-hypertensive properties, immune system modulation, and other metabolic features of milk, are linked with its proteins. Milk is also a unique source of peptides with biological activity.
Milk protein is considered a high-quality, or complete protein, because it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids in the right proportions. Branched-chain amino acid content in milk proteins are at higher levels than in many other food sources. These amino acids, especially leucine, help to minimise muscle wasting and can stimulate muscle synthesis. Whey protein has a high content of sulphur-containing amino acids, (cysteine and methionine) which are precursors of glutathione (the bodies most important antioxidant. Several studies suggest that milk proteins, especially whey, protects the body against some cancers through their ability to boost glutathione as well as promoting hormonal improvements. The most abundant free amino acids in cow milk is glutamic acid, tyrosine and glycine.
Milk proteins are more satiating than other protein sources, so you feel full and less hungry.
A1 and A2 Milk.
A1 and A2 are two genetic variants of beta-casein, a protein present in cow’s milk. All cows produce at least some A2 β-casein, but certain breeds have predominantly A2 in their milk. All milk contains an amino acid sequence known as β-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7), which is not good for the gut. Digestive enzymes in the small intestine find it harder to derive BCM-7 from the A2 β-casein protein. It’s generally accepted that A2 β-casein is more easily digested than A1 β-casein and may be better for people who are lactose intolerant or have digestive issues.
- A1 β-casein is more common in Western breeds of cows, such as Holstein, Friesian, and Ayrshire.
- Milk that is high in A2 β-casein is mainly found in breeds that originated in the Channel Islands and southern France. These include Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais, and Limousin.
- Goats milk is A2 and a Korean study found that “The A2 β-casein fraction not only has improved digestibility and hypoallergenic properties, but also may have potential as a functional food material.”
- It is no surprise that nearly 80% of Swiss milk is A2. In France the dominant variant is also A2. This is part of the reason why the dairy product from these countries are so sought after.
Number 6. Milk is a great source of bioactive peptides.
Peptides are chains of amino acids that serve as the building blocks for proteins. Milk is a unique source of peptides with biological activity. Peptides derived from casein fractions and whey proteins, include.
- opioid peptides.
- antihypertensive peptides.
- casein phosphopeptides (CPPs).
- glycomacropeptide (GMP), and
These have opioid-like features, immunostimulating activities, anti-hypertensive activities, antibacterial and antiviral and also enhance calcium absorption. Milk-derived peptides are commonly isolated for supplements and drugs. They exhibit various well-defined pharmacological benefits.
- Diarrhea, (casomorphins).
- Hypertension, (casokinins).
- Cancer, (numerous peptides).
- Immune diseases, (numerous peptides).
- Thrombosis, (caso-platelins).
- Dental diseases, (CPP and GMP).
- Mineral malabsorption, (CPPs).
- Immunodeficiency, (immunopeptides).
Number 7. The benefits of drinking raw milk are enormous.
Pasteurised milk is highly processed and can only be described as dead. Raw milk is as nature intended, and is filtered, chilled, then ready for consumption.
- Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurised, hormogenised, or processed in any way.
- Raw milk is almost always produced on small farms where animal welfare and cleanliness are number 1.
- Raw milk has superior nutrition and significant health benefits over pasteurized milk.
The pasteurisation process increases the shelf life of milk, but it’s harder for the body to metabolise. This means that people who are lactose intolerant may only be intolerant of highly pasteurised milk. Many people find they thrive on raw dairy instead, with its enzymes and bacteria intact to aid digestion.
Raw milk contains a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than pasteurised milk, as the pasteurisation process can destroy some of these nutrients.
Raw milk contains a diverse range of enzymes and probiotics that can support digestive health, boost the immune system, and improve overall health and well-being. Consuming raw milk helps to alleviate symptoms of allergies and asthma. Studies have shown that children who drink raw milk have decreased rates of asthma, allergies, eczema, ear infections, fever, and respiratory infections.
Pasteurised supermarket milk is typically sourced from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, (CAFOs). These are extremely common in the US, but more and more countries are moving towards mega-farms. The UK now has over 3000 huge dairy factories. This milk is being produced in conditions where animal health is often compromised and cows are kept in cramped conditions being fed grass, grain and a whole host of poor-grade foods, called Total Mixed Rations. Cows are often confined in overcrowded concrete sheds and filthy conditions. Antibiotics use is common in these herds, and hormones are used to stimulate higher levels of milk production.
Pasteurized milk has fewer bioavailable nutrients compared to raw milk, and lacks the diverse range of beneficial enzymes and probiotics found in raw milk, which have been shown to support the immune system and gastrointestinal tract. Farmers and supermarkets have to work extra hard to protect pasteurized milk because the protective peptides, enzymes and bacteria have been killed off.
The specific benefits of raw milk compared to pasteurized.
- Raw milk has double the number of peptides and enzymes.
- Drinking raw milk leads to better bone density.
- The vitamin B9 carriers remain intact.
- Vitamin B2 remains intact.
- The complex vitamin B12 binding proteins remain intact.
- Vitamin B6 has better absorption.
- Beta-lactoglobulin, which is a heat-sensitive protein in milk, increases intestinal absorption of vitamin A.
- The vitamin D is present in raw milk is bound to lactoglobulins.
- Lactoferrin, which contributes to iron assimilation, remains intact in raw milk. It protects against infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi. The lactoferrin in breastmilk is thought to help protect infants against infections. TB and the iron-loving organisms that cause candida are killed by lactoferrin.
- Raw milk contains the bifidus factor, which encourages lactobacilli growth in the gut. Lactobacilli produce vitamin K2 and enhance mineral absorption.
There are some strict laws and even bans regarding raw milk across the world. Sales of raw milk and cream are completely banned in Scotland, but legal in the rest of the UK. Scotland has the worst levels of public health in Europe but leads the way with a raw milk ban. It’s madness that you can buy a shopping trolley full of chocolate, fizzy drinks, cigarettes and processed food, but you can’t buy a pint of raw milk.
The dangers of raw milk vs pasteurised milk.
Raw milk has been linked to a small number of salmonella, campylobacter and E-coli food poisoning deaths over the years. But this has to be viewed against the thousands of cases of serious food poisoning every year, from various foods including pasteurised milk.
In the UK in 2022.
- There were over 2 million cases of suspected food poisoning.
- 20,000 people were hospitalised with food poisoning resulting in 200 deaths.
- There were ZERO deaths related to raw milk.
If you look at American statistics, the CDC estimates 50 million people get sick, 130,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year. But it’s rare to see 1 death a year attributed to raw milk.
It is a contentious issue, and you should do your own research to assess the risks. Pasteurised milk is not 100% safe, and has been implicated in many food illnesses each year. Raw milk intended for human consumption is carefully produced in typically pristine conditions, and the health benefits far outweigh the risks.
Raw milk contains compounds that support the growth of large numbers of diverse gut organisms including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. These act to build a balanced gut micro-biome. The probiotic diversity of beneficial bacteria and other bioactive components in raw milk supports healthy flora in the intestines while protecting against potentially harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E-coli.
The sad decline of happy cows.
The milk and dairy industry is vast. Sugary breakfast cereals began to explode in the 1960’s and the industry needed vast amounts of milk. To meet the demand:
- Dairy farms got bigger and animal welfare declined.
- The purchasing power of supermarkets began to dominate.
- Virtually all milk was heavily processed by being pasteurised and homogenised.
- Packaging moved from bottles to large plastic containers.
- Local dairies and milkmen disappeared.
- Milk and dairy production swung towards low-fat and skimmed products.
- Milk production was subsidised and quotas were politicised.
- Cows were bred to produce large volumes of milk. They were given growth hormones and unnatural feeds, such as corn, grains, soy and waste. They were given antibiotics to combat the bad conditions of industrial farming.
A2 raw milk from a small dairy farm is the best possible option. It tastes incredible and you are drinking the milk as nature intended. The next best option is to drink a full-fat pasteurised milk from a herd that has grazed mostly on pasture.
From here. it goes downhill fast, with highly processed milk having reduced fat or no fat. This type of milk typically comes from huge farms selling to supermarkets.
Keep away from “big-dairy” and research local producers.
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