Dairy ‘myths and misconceptions’ debunked by 11 independent scientists

Scientists have gone in to bat for the health properties of dairy products, in the face of fashionable but misleading “free from” food labelling trends.

In an E-book launched this week, the National Dairy Council‘s Nutrition Manager, Dr. Marianne Walsh, said “There is an assumption that exclusion of specific ingredients is synonymous with ‘healthy.’

“Dairy has become involved in this sentiment, yet in a context where there is a lot of misinformation in circulation regarding allergies, intolerances and other health issues.”

The new E-book ‘Dairy Myths & Misconceptions’ is a resource for consumers interested in food, nutrition and diet, and covers topics such as allergy, acne, eczema, cancer, fats, sugar, pasteurisation, hormones, antibiotics and animal welfare.

It summarises the findings from the latest issue of DN Forum (April/May 2016) – a publication for health professionals – which draws on articles by eleven independent scientists to clarify misconceptions about dairy.

The E-book can be found here.

Key Findings:

  • Allergies & Intolerance: The prevalence of cow’s milk protein allergy in Ireland is only about 2-3% in infants, with up to 90% of those growing out of it by the age of 3. In Ireland, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is also relatively low, at about 4-5%.
  • Eczema: Eczema can be a symptom of cow’s milk protein allergy but as the prevalence of this allergy is so low, most cases of eczema are not linked to it. Foods are not the single cause or cure for eczema – there can be many other triggers, therefore proper diagnosis is important before excluding foods which are nutritionally important.
  • Rhinitis: Symptoms such as runny or itchy nose can occur in individuals with a cow’s milk protein allergy but the prevalence of this allergy is low. The majority of allergic rhinitis cases are related to airborne allergens (dust mites, animal dander, pollen).
  • Mucus: Dairy foods can alter the ‘mouthfeel’ of saliva which can be mistaken for mucus, but is not the same as mucus.
  • Acne: is not directly caused by foods in the diet – it involves oily skin secretions called sebum which is often hormone sensitive.
  • Fat content: Fat contents of dairy products can vary. Typically low fat milk contains less than 2% fat, whole milk typically contains 3.5% fat.
  • Pasteurisation: Does not affect the nutritional value of milk.
  • Cancer: Leading cancer authorities worldwide do not advocate exclusion of dairy for cancer prevention or treatment. Milk, yogurt and cheese are nutrient rich and recommended as part of a balanced diet.
  • Milk Quality: The quality of Irish dairy is internationally renowned with Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine regulations supported by laboratory testing of Irish milk to ensure food safety and quality standards are met.
  • Animal Welfare: Due to our climate, the majority of Irish cows are out in fields and pastures for most of the year. This is a very natural environment for cows which enables exercise, access to fresh air and the freedom to express normal behaviours with the benefit of high standards of animal welfare and improved animal health. It also means that Irish cows can graze on a grass-based diet for most of the year, which is particularly associated with very high standards of milk quality.