Fit Facts: Anti-dairy diet not based on factual research

By Blake Glosson

Google “Should I go dairy-free?” and you’ll get hammered with results of trendies telling you to avoid dairy like the plague.

But, this advice isn’t necessarily driven by research.

“The media false advertises dairy sometimes if they want people to go with the newest fad, [which] is ‘be dairy-free,’” said Kimberly Jurinak, senior nutrition, health and wellness major. “If people are gonna make that drastic change to go dairy-free, they should … not just do it because it’s a fad.”

If you’re lactose intolerant, avoiding dairy is a no-brainer. But, if you’re considering going dairy-free because you’ve heard it’s healthier for you, I implore you to examine the research.

One claim against dairy is it makes you fat. Much of the rationality behind this comes from the logic that sparked the late 20th century “low-fat” diet trend that has been debunked time and time again. When consumed as part of a healthy diet, dairy doesn’t make you fat. Last year, reports from the European Journal of Nutrition and Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics showed an inverse relationship between dairy foods and obesity.

Dairy has also been used as a scapegoat to explain high rates of cardiovascular problems. Once again, these claims aren’t backed by science. A study published last week by Monash University found “a daily small [serving] of dairy food may reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke … .” Other studies have backed the conclusion that dairy consumption improves heart health or, at the very least, doesn’t increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome.

The link between hormones injected into cows and the biological impacts of consuming dairy products derived from these cows is also cited as a potential risk. IGF-1, a growth hormone given to cows, has been thought to play a role in the development of prostate cancer in men.

But, these studies are not conclusive. Even if humans absorbed IGF-1 indirectly, the increase would account for less than a tenth of 1 percent of the IGF-1 the body naturally produces. Thus, it has been concluded dairy “can be considered safe” and “does not consistently increase the risk of prostate cancer and seems to be protective against bladder, breast and colon cancers,” according to a March 27, 2012, report from Nutrition Reviews.

Another fallacy you might hear is drinking milk is unnatural. “We’re the only species to drink another animals’ milk!” anti-dairy advocates cry. OK, maybe. We’re also the only species to lift weights; that fact alone doesn’t make it unhealthy.

“A lot of things [students] hear [are] from the media or from their friends, and I don’t know if they really get the whole picture,” said Tashia Warner, nutrition, health and wellness graduate student. “Nutrition is very individualized … if you don’t want to do dairy, that’s fine … just make sure you’re getting those nutrients from other sources.”

If you enjoy eating dairy products and you don’t experience adverse effects, don’t let the dairy-free craze stop you.