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Milk: The Debate

by ADMIN on JUNE 30, 2011

Cow’s Milk. To imbibe or not…

There’s a lot of debate surrounding cow’s milk. Some say: don’t drink it, it’s ‘poison’. Others are strong proponents of the white stuff to help with weight, muscle, and bone maintenance.

Because this dispute causes a lot of confusion, I’m going to bring you a closer look so that you may make an informed decision for yourself. For the sake of post length, I’ll be focusing on the nutritional aspects of the fluid, not how its produced.


Added hormones

Though the link hasn’t been strongly established, there are theories that these extra hormones are not only the cause of girls maturing but also help to promote hormone-regulated cancers such as breast prostate.

In my opinion, yes, these theories may be the case. As an oncology dietitian I counsel my clients to avoid milk with added hormones.

The good news…

There are plenty of milk brands out there that have no added hormones – simply look at the label and choose wisely.


Myth: Low fat milk has less nutrients that Whole milk.


People debate that milk is ‘bad’ for us because it’s full of saturated fat and cholesterol; however, this is only when you choose whole or 2% milk over 1% or skim. (FYI: 2% milk is a very close relative of whole in terms of amount of saturated fat). I agree with this.

The good news…

Skim and low fat milk have just as much protein, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous as whole milk – simply without the heart-hurting saturated fat.


Cow’s milk and weight loss.

The Dairy industry has been all over this statement – is there any truth to it? I have to admit that I’d been skeptical of such an overt declaration. That was until I went to the 2011 SCAN conference and listened to one expert presented on weight loss, showing very interesting milk-weight loss research.

It turns out that in several well-done studies, people who drank cow’s milk as part of a diet and exercise regimen lost the same amount of weight as those who followed the same exercise and dietary changes without the addition of milk.

But here’s the clincher:

The people who drank milk had a higher level of lean body mass (muscle) and less fat mass compared to the other group (who had lost muscle mass and kept their fat mass relatively stable).

Bottom line: milk helped people gain more muscle and lose more fat mass than those who didn’t include milk in their dietary changes.

This is important because the increased muscle mass may help to keep your metabolism higher (you burn more calories) and therefore be helpful in keeping the weight OFF.

If you think that’s interesting – check this out.

Cow’s milk VS soy milk and muscle mass gain.

These studies astounded me. My jaw literally dropped when this was presented. Studies show that people who drink milk post-exercise had greater muscle protein accretion (more muscle mass built) than those who drank the amount of soy milk which had the same amount of protein and calories.

[[Over 12 weeks of resistance training, subjects drinking cow’s milk as part of their post-exercise recovery gained an average of 1.5 kgs (3.3 pounds) more than those drinking soy beverages.]]

What?! Yes, that’s what I said! Cow’s milk = more muscle gain than Soy milk.

Interestingly, soy is one of the few vegetables that is a complete protein – meaning that it contains all the amino acids (including the essential ones) that are needed for your body to build proteins. Other than soy and a couple other grains (quinoa, buckwheat, spirulina), animal products are our primary source of complete proteins.

Yet these studies demonstrated that although soy contains all the essential amino acids (EAAs), the amounts of these EAA’s fall much shorter than cow’s milk.

It’s the WHEY in the milk that contains these EAAs as well as the higher amount of LEUCINE, and amino acid that has been shown to stimulate anabolism (build up/increase) of muscle tissues more than other aminos.


Highlights from this Milk Nutrition discussion:

Including 3 servings of dairy (1 cup milk, 6oz yogurt, 1oz cheese) along with a lower calorie diet and exercise program will help you build muscle mass (tone) and reduce fat mass. (Instead of just losing muscle mass and keeping fat mass the same when no dairy is included).

Drinking milk (or using whey protein) as part of your post-exercise recovery will allow you to build much more muscle than if you were to drink soy milk.


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