Milk- essential for life

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

WE all start as babies drinking mother’s milk. Then, after the breastfeeding is weaned a milk substitute is supplemented or complimented. Many infant powdered milk formulas are available in the market and fresh cow’s milk is considered still a good option for feeding babies.

Milk is a popular dietary staple in many countries, among the poor and the rich. Most villagers in India and Sri Lanka own their own cow to provide milk for the family.

So let’s talk about the varieties of milk that is available today that confuses us all and to know which is best for you. It is the same problem buying bread, today. You know what you are after, invariably a loaf of wholemeal bread, but when you visit the bread-shop you find such a variety of shapes and colours of bread baked and displayed. Buying what’s in your mind could confuse you. Once, I visited one of the bread-shops in Sutherland, a suburb of Sydney, and asked the young blonde lady in an apron, “Is there bread in this shop?” There were a handful of customers, mostly ladies waiting for their bread. They all looked at me surprised. One lady came to my rescue and said, “I know what you mean”.

Many decades back, the cow was brought to your doorstep, in India- milked and given fresh in a metal jug. In Sri Lanka, the milk bottle man visits on a cycle and leaves a bottle of fresh cow’s milk at your door. It was routine then, as soon as you get up in your pajamas, open the door and collect the newspapers and the bottle of fresh milk.

Grocery stores and supermarkets today have shelves and shelves of milk in bottles, cartoons and so on and have milk options than ever, including milk from nuts and seeds. We go for the milk daily to enjoy it in your cup of Joe or tea, and for the calcium, vitamin D, potassium and other micronutrients which may not be sufficient in other sources of food you consume.
Cow’s milk straight from the udder is full cream and people seem to dislike, these days. Non-fat or skim milk is available minus the cream from the whole milk. Low fat and no fat skimmed milk are consumed by most milk drinkers trying to lose weight.

There are four types of cow’s milk on the shelves of supermarkets: skim, 1%, 2%, and whole. The whole milk as it comes out of the cow’s udder has 3.5% milk fat. They all have the same concentration of protein, calcium. and vitamins, but lack the fat (cream) and low in calories. A cup of 1% has 102 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat. A cup of 2% has 3.1 grams of saturated fat. Both these have some degree of creaminess the skim milk lacks.

What’s A2 milk?
This is another new type of milk that is available in the market to confuse us more. Supporters of A2 milk claim that it is easier to digest and absorb than other types of milk.
Modern cow’s milk contains a mixture of A1 and A2 beta-caseins. A1 can cause stomach discomfort. Cow’s milk is high in proteins-8 grams per 8 ounces glass. The two major proteins in the milk are casein and whey. Casein accounts for about 80% of the proteins. Beta-casein found in milk is a subvariety of casein, which makes up about 30 percent of the protein in cow’s milk.A1 and A2 are two variants of beta-casein.

Most of the milk that’s available at the grocery or supermarket today is A1 protein.

According to the article written by Megan Ware RDN LD, she states that A1 and A2 proteins affect the body differently. When A1 is digested, it produces a peptide called beta-casomorphin-7. The gut seems to absorb this peptide and may cause stomach discomfort and symptoms similar to those who suffer from lactose intolerance.

The A2 structure is similar to mother’s breast milk, as well as milk from goats, sheep, and buffalo, and does not a cause any stomach discomfort or other symptoms.

The A2 Milk Company tests the DNA of their cows by using a hair sample, to ensure the animals only produce milk that contains A2 protein. The company tests the milk after production, as well, to ensure it does not contain A1 protein. Read: A2 milk: What you need to know

Babies between 1 and 2 years old should be given full cream milk as the growing brains need a higher fat diet. Whole milk is tasty and can be added to a high-fibre cereal for adults provided you are not over-weight or suffering from high serum cholesterol.

A single cup of cow’s milk contains proteins, fatty acids and micronutrients like calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus, vitamin A, B1 and B6, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.

Lactose intolerance
Some people cannot drink milk because they lack the enzyme lactase which digests the milk in the gut. Lactose is the natural sugar in the milk, and it can because digestive upsets like bloating, indigestion and loose motions. They could drink lactose- free milk available in the grocery shops and supermarkets. It has the same nutrition as cow’s milk.

Lactose is the main carbohydrate in cow’s milk. It breaks down to glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance seems to be common in Africa, Asia and South America, but rare in North America, Europe and Australia.

Goats milk has a higher concentration of protein -9 grams per cup and richer in calcium, has 7 grams of saturated fat per cup and 170 calories.

Studies have found there are no advantages of switching on to goats milk. If you are allergic to cow’s milk, you are most likely to be allergic to goat’s milk, too.

Soy milk
Soy milk is a good substitute for those allergic to cow’s milk. It is made from ground soybeans soaked in water. A cup of calcium-fortified no sweetened soy milk contains about 6 grams of protein and carbs: 450 milligrams of calcium

It is a good option for those suffering from lactose intolerance and for vegans. Always buy the ones that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Almond milk
Almond milk is made from ground almonds and filtered water, and a cup of milk and have few calories compared to cow’s milk.

Rice milk
It is made from ground brown rice and water and is recommended for those who have multiple food allergies.

Milk can be obtained from cashew, Macadamia, coconut, hemp seeds, and flax seed. Milk made from these nuts is not very popular.

Milk hasn’t got all the essential nutrients required in the body. Though it is high in calcium for bone health, has no vitamin K and manganese required for bone health.

Studies have revealed that children fed with non-cow’s milk are shorter in height, raising concerns about nutritional content of cow’s milk alternatives. Lead study author Dr. Jonathon Maguire, of St. Michael's Hospital in Canada and colleagues recently reported their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It has been revealed that babies fed cow’s milk formula gain weight faster than babies fed on other formulas, including breast milk.

The study was the work of lead author Dr Julie Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and colleagues, and is published in the 27 December online issue of Paediatrics. (Ref: Catharine Paddock PhD)

Milk is insulinogenic
Milk can increase the sugar levels in the blood as lactose is present in much larger amounts in milk than in butter, cheese and yogurt. It is also inflammatory and may cause acne, sinus congestion and digestive distress.

Diabetics need not worry about the high concentration of lactose – a sugar found in cow’s milk, provided they selectively consume A2 protein cow’s milk. A diet high in calcium can help keep bones strong and diabetics are generally susceptible to bone fractures.

Animal studies have revealed that there is an association between cow’s milk consumption and the incidence of type 1 diabetes. One study in mice found that 47 percent of the mice that had A1 protein added to their diet developed diabetes, while none that had A2 protein added did so.

There is a warning for ladies that high calcium intake from dairy products may be associated with a possible increased incidence of ovarian cancer and prostate cancer among men.

Conclusions: Cow’s milk has saved billions of children in underdeveloped countries from malnutrition. It has many health benefits to mankind, including its ability to prevent weight loss, build strong bones and teeth, boosts the immune system, protect the heart, prevent diabetes, and stimulate growth. Have a glass of cow’s milk daily and you won’t go wrong.

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