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July 22, 2014, 11:58 pm

Milk has benefits, but issues for some

Milk is sometimes called the perfect food. According to one magazine article, milk has been used for more than 10,000 years. This universal food has also been associated with a lot of health problems that include heart disease, allergies and diabetes. For every study that condemns milk, you’ll find one that gives it great praise. What can you believe?

Most milk is pasteurized and homogenized. It is pasteurized to kill bacteria to prevent milk-borne diseases. Pasteurization involves heating the milk to a high temperature and then cooling it rapidly. Raw milk comes in two parts. Homogenization is the process that disperses the fat content — evenly throughout the milk.

How much fat?

The numbers can be confusing. Milk is grouped in several categories, whole, 2 percent, 1 percent and skim. Whole milk is 51 percent fat, 2 percent milk is 35 percent fat, 1 percent milk is 22 percent fat and skim milk is 4 percent fat. Whole milk has the most saturated fat; skim milk has the least. Saturated fat is the fat that you should avoid. When most people switch to low-fat milk, they don’t like the taste it initially, but eventually acquire a taste for it. For those who don’t digest milk easily, Lactaid brand milk provides the same benefits of regular milk with only 2 grams of fat per serving. If you make your change from whole to low-fat milk gradually, the taste won’t be an issue.

Evaporated milk is whole milk with about one -half of the water content removed. Condensed milk has one-half of the water removed and sugar added. Dried milk has 95 to 98 percent of the water from whole milk.

You get the same amount of calcium in all forms of milk. The only difference among the types of milk is the fat content. The calcium is found in the nonfat part of the milk. So removing the fat doesn’t affect the calcium. A cup of milk will give you about 300 milligrams of calcium.

A few studies have linked a series of amino acids found in cow’s milk and juvenile onset diabetes. The ingestion of these amino acids by those genetically predisposed to diabetes triggers an immune response that can attack the milk protein and insulin producing cells in the pancreas which can lead to diabetes. It was pointed out that the risk is greater in infants younger than 12 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged the feeding of animal milk to infants since 1976. They’ve pointed out that milk is a poor source of iron and can cause bleeding in the digestive tract, which can lead to anemia.

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium. It’s recommended that an adult take in 800 milligrams of calcium daily. That’s about 2 1/2 cups of milk. Teenagers, young adults, and lactating women need 1200 milligrams daily. That’s only 4 cups of milk. Some experts also recommend postmenopausal women take in 1200 milligrams of calcium daily.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones. Though it’s true that calcium plays a crucial role in building strong bones and teeth, it has many important functions.

Calcium helps to regulate your heartbeat, nervous system and blood-clotting action, and prevents too much acid or alkali from accumulating in the blood. Calcium also helps the body utilize iron and aids in muscle contraction and relaxation. Recent studies show evidence that adequate calcium intake can help with problems such as water retention, cramps, mood swings and bloating associated with PMS, hypertension, arthritis and rheumatism. A calcium deficiency can lead to cramps, joint pain, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, tooth loss and bone ailments.

Oxalic acid, found in chocolate, spinach and rhubarb, when combined with calcium makes an insoluble compound, which may cause the formation of stones in the kidney or gallbladder. These foods should not be ingested with milk.

Eating a diet rich in calcium is one way to maintain strong bones. Most low-fat dairy products will provide at least 300 mgs of calcium per serving. Other sources of calcium are listed below.

Sardines, Atlantic (drained) 3 oz.

Salmon, sockeye, (drained) 3 oz.

Ice cream (1 cup)

Ice milk (1 cup)

Tofu (3 oz.)

Pizza, cheese (1 med slice)

Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp)

Broccoli, raw cut (1 cup)

Soy flour, defatted (1/2 cup)

Almonds (1/4 cup)

Broccoli, cooked (1/2 cup)

Soybeans, cooked (1/2 cup)

Parmesan cheese, grated (1 tbsp.)

Collard greens, cooked (1/2 cup)

Dandelion greens, cooked (1/2 cup)  

Mustard greens, cooked (1/2 cup)  

Kale, cooked (1/2 cup)

Chick-peas, cooked (1/2 cup)

In addition to eating foods high in calcium, you can protect your bones by performing weight-bearing exercises such as walking or jogging. Walking outdoors is excellent because you also get a dose of sunshine, which helps the body synthesize vitamin D.

Fewer than half of American children and adolescent boys consume the government-recommended amount of dairy products. Less than 20 percent of the adolescent girls meet those same recommendations. Adolescents need to drink three 8-ounce glasses of milk or equivalent of dairy products, such as yogurt) daily.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children up to 2 drink whole milk, because of the saturated fat content. The fat is needed for brain development. “Eighty percent of brain development occurs in the first two years of life.

Children over the age of 2 should drink reduced-fat milk (1 percent or 2 percent). “At this age they begin to take in more fat then needed in their diets.

In February 1994, the Food and Drug Administration approved the hormone bovine somatotropin (BST). This drug is can increase milk production in cows up to 25 percent. Opponents of BST say the hormone may increase the public risk for cancer and other health problems. The extra milk production requires the cow to be milked more often. This could increase the incidence of udder infection, which is treated by antibiotics. This could increase the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It can also affect milk drinkers who are allergic to antibiotics.

Milk, even with all its problems, is a great source of calcium, complete protein and riboflavin. Milk also contains phosphorus, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12.

Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.

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