Demystifying the Myths around Milk and Adults


Raheem Akingbolu unravels the misconception about consumption of milk by adults and the need for consumers to embrace the active lifestyle as against being sedentary

Milk and other dairy products command respect in every household and they are as old as man. But despite the acceptability of milk, controversy has continued to trail its consumption, especially among some school of thoughts that are always eager to argue that it is not good for adults because of high concentration of cholesterol. In recent times, many experts have however dismissed the argument as mere conjecture and weak position that lacks scientific prove.

Early in the week, two eminent nutritionists, Professors Tunde Oguntona and Tola Atinmo, dismissed the argument and pointed out emphatically that both children and adults need milk for healthy lifestyle. Prof Oguntona, a former President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that adults need milk to sustain their body system. To support his position, he stated that some countries of the world that have the highest population, consume milk more than it is consumed in this part of the world.

“Milk is good for both children and adults because the two classes need calcium. Considering the fact that milk is a good source of calcium for the body, it is then a good food for all. The argument that milk is not good for adults is baseless because it has no place in science,”
Toeing the same line, Professor of Human Nutrition at the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan, Atinmo said is high time Nigerians distanced themselves from beer parlour arguments that could deny them of enjoying what would make them live a healthy life.

“Milk is known for its richness in calcium and thus its importance for bones. Protein is important to fight diseases, renew cells, build muscles and maintain healthy hair and nails. That is why your diet should provide enough proteins. Milk is an important source of protein, since each glass contains almost eight grams. To now conclude that milk is not good for adults is like denying them of protein and all other benefits,” he said.
Meanwhile, global advertising campaigns from the dairy industry have brought certain phrases into popular use, such as “Milk: it does a body good” and “Got Milk?” The presence of these slogans in mainstream media has further propelled the notion of milk being a healthful choice.

Low Cholesterol Milk as option
To avoid controversies that often trail consumption of milk by adults, not a few experts have recommended low cholesterol milk for them. To this end, many dairy food manufacturers have therefore up the ante in the production of low cholesterol milk in the interest of consumers that are willing to avoid cholesterol.
Milk, according to the Dairy Council, a non-profit organisation which provides science-based information on the role of dairy foods as part of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet has argued that milk is not high in calories when it’s low fat or 0% fat. “If you are on a diet, concentrate on lowering the amount of fat within your diet. So, don’t remove milk totally from your diet, but choose low fat or 0% fat milk since it contains all the nutrients found in full cream milk except for the fat,” the body stated in one of its findings.

It further disclosed that it is important to know that not all milks are the same, adding that fortifying milk with vitamins and minerals is a very delicate process, and that the quality and quantity of the added nutrients have a direct effect on health.

It was established that milk, cheese and yogurt all provide many beneficial nutrients in varying quantities. For instance, calcium is said to be good for healthy bones and teeth while protein and phosphorous are good for growth and energy release respectively.
To this school of thought, one glass of milk alone can make a contribution to the daily recommended intake of many important nutrients for all age groups; including children and adults.
Of all the nutrients in the food supply, fat and cholesterol probably receive the most attention from health professionals and the public alike.

Dietary recommendations from health experts advise lowering the total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in consumers’ diets. The scientific evidence is clear that a high-fat diet relates to chronic health problems such as heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Meanwhile, consumption of low fat dairy products has been linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, studies have found that each extra portion of low fat dairy consumed each day is associated with increasingly lower risk.
A consultant and advocate of healthy living, fitness and lifestyle, Dr. Bisi Abiola, while recommending low cholesterol milk to Nigerians two years ago, said that adequate intake of milk fortifies the human body against diseases and supplies essential nutritional requirement for healthy living.

The nutrition expert who spoke at the official launch of the rebranding campaign of a dairy company in Lagos, described milk as a wholesome food that is highly rich in calcium, Potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, Zinc, protein, iodine, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12,” adding that milk, “is nature’s wellness gift to mankind.”

Bone Health
Specifically, many scientists and health consultants have argued that dairy products provide calcium, which is essential for bone growth and development. Because of the argument that bone growth is at its highest during childhood and the teenage years, it has been concluded that it is important that teenagers consume dairy products.
It is believed that optimising bone mass in this age group can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (a debilitating, brittle bone disorder) in later life.

Dairy products have also been proved by experts to contain calcium and other tooth friendly nutrients, which help teeth, grow and keep them healthy.
It is said to be the only drink -excluding water which is recommended by dentists to be safe to consume between meals.

Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that people who consume milk and dairy foods are likely to be slimmer than those who do not.
Recent research has also established that milk is also not a high fat product. Whole milk is believed to contain 4% fat, semi-skimmed milk contains 1.7% fat, 1% fat milk contains 1% fat and skimmed milk contains 0.3% fat.
Studies have also found that consuming milk and dairy as part of a calorie controlled diet can help consumers to lose weight -especially from the abdomen, where fat deposits are associated with the greatest health risks.

Active lifestyle
As the controversy over consumption of milk by adult continues, the popular advice being given at various fora is that Nigerians should try to embrace active lifestyle as against being sedentary.
Recently, Kunle Aledare, a Medical Consultant at the Kogi Ministry of Health, urged Nigerians to avoid sedentary lifestyle and engaged in regular exercise to keep a healthy heart. The consultant spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lokoja.
He said that the call was necessary to create public awareness on the high rate at which people die of heart related diseases.

Aledare advised that people should endeavour to engage in at least 30 minutes regular exercise daily to burn down the accumulated fats that could obstruct the coronary artery.
According to him, the coronary blood artery is the vessel that carries the flow of blood to and from the heart.
He explained that blockage in the blood artery weakened the muscles and that it would lead to shortage of blood supply, which could result into heart attack.
The expert said that those who were in the habit of sitting down all the day should desist from such lifestyle, stressing that it was dangerous to their health.

“Adequate exercise or trekking for at least 30 minutes per day is one of the most preventive measures against heart attack. People should also avoid tobacco smoking and inhaling of generator fumes. We must avoid an environment with excessive generation of smoke; we must keep and maintain a well ventilated room,” Aledare said.
The expert also urged people to check their blood sugar regularly, adding that 50 per cent of those that have diabetes were at higher risk of having heart related diseases.
He advised people to go for general medical checkups at least once in three month for blood pressure, cholesterol level, and sugar content in the blood.

According to him, high blood pressure or hypertension, high blood sugar (diabetes), and high cholesterol level are among factors that can predispose people to heart conditions.
“People should eat more of fishes, fruits, vegetables, and low salt intake to create and keep heart-healthy environment. It is better to take adequate measures and precautions to prevent heart related conditions; prevention is better than cure,” the expert warned,”
The expert, however, urged the federal government to raise more awareness and educate people on the need to create and maintain heart-healthy environment.

“The federal government should put stringent measures in place, and formulate policies to avoid air pollution which will promote the health of individuals. These policies must be implementable at all levels of government.
“The federal government should also commit adequate funds to health sector to make available modern equipment in federal teaching hospitals for the corrections of heart conditions,” he said.

He said that most people with heart conditions basically complained of pains at the centre of the chest, adding that people sometimes mistake it for ulcer.
He explained further that in some people, the chest pain might later extend to the neck, arm, shoulder, wrist and other parts of the body.