Myth Busting: What Your Clients Need to Know About Dairy

Sep 1, 2021
Myth Busting: What Your Clients Need to Know About Dairy

Many consumers may believe that going dairy-free can benefit their health. But that’s not true. As research shows, dairy foods offer many health benefits and are recommended as part of a healthy eating pattern in the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). As health professionals, we strive to build confidence in our clients’ food choices – and, sometimes, that requires addressing misconceptions. 


Today, I’ll dive into four milk myths and share the science behind these popular beliefs.


Myth 1: Dairy Is Unhealthy

Milk contains 13 essential nutrients, including 3 of the 4 nutrients of concern (vitamin D, calcium and potassium). The 8 grams of protein in a serving of milk are highly bioavailable, complete proteins that our body can use to build and maintain muscle. The calcium content found in a serving of milk contains approximately 30% of our daily calcium needs and is the primary contributor of calcium in the American diet. Regular intake of dairy products have been shown to reduce risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and it also promotes bone health and a healthy body weight. With its well-rounded nutrient content, the DGA recommends three servings of dairy a day to optimize health and wellness!


Myth 2: Milk Contains Antibiotics

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine performed a residue test on over 1,900 samples of milk from farms across the nation to detect the presence of antibiotics. The results? Over 99% of samples on the farm were antibiotic-free, with less than 1% of samples testing positive. Now you may worry about that 1%, but any milk that tests positive for antibiotics is discarded. In fact, the system features multiple checkpoints from the farm to the processor to the store, ensuring that absolutely nothing is missed. And the testing doesn’t stop there: Farmers, co-ops, processors and retail partners conduct more than 3 million tests every year to check for any antibiotic residue and ensure the safety of milk.


Myth 3: Dairy Is Inflammatory

For those with a dairy allergy, dairy is inflammatory (as this is the nature of a food allergy) and should be eliminated entirely from the diet. However, for those without a dairy allergy, there is plenty of research that shows that dairy either has a neutral or an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. When we talk about food and inflammation, we are talking about chronic low-grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked with some diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. When included in a healthy diet, recent studies have shown that milk and milk products either have no impact on inflammatory markers or a potentially anti-inflammatory effect. Originally these findings were limited to yogurt, but more evidence is emerging showing consistent positive results for all milk products of varying fat levels. 


Myth 4: Milk Contains Harmful Hormones

This milk myth stems from the use of the synthetic hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). The bovine somatotropin (BST) hormone is a naturally occurring protein hormone found in cows and is not recognized by the human body. rBST is the FDA-approved synthetic growth hormone used in dairy cows to promote more milk production. Absolutely no difference was found between milk from cows given rBST and milk from cows not given rBST, and the FDA has concluded that milk from cows treated with rBST is safe for humans to consume. Though it is up to the farmer, many U.S. dairy farmers no longer use rBST in their operations and rely on selective breeding and technological advancements to increase milk production. 


Another reality is that animal products contain small amounts of naturally occurring hormones. In fact, all foods (whether they come from plants or animals) contain naturally occurring hormones as hormones are essential to life. The majority of hormones are proteins, and our body digests proteins, so the hormones found in our food are digested and rendered biologically inactive – having no effect on our body.


With so many consumers interested in where their food comes from but far removed from the farm itself, it can be hard to decipher between fact and fiction when it comes to dairy products – which is why it’s important we as nutrition experts make it easy by educating them.