• Nutrition & health

Dairy Myth Busters

By Joanna Koat

Joanna is a Nutrition & Regulatory Lead at Fonterra and holds a Masters of Dairy Science & Technology

  • Nutrition & health

When most people think about dairy, their first thought may be that it is a source of calcium, and that it’s good for strong bones.

Others, however, hold fairly different opinions when it comes to the health benefits of dairy, influenced by outdated research or incorrect information. 

So when it comes to dairy: what is fact and what is fiction?
Myth: Milk causes mucous

Fiction. The texture of milk can leave you with a temporary perception of mucus in the mouth and throat. However, scientific research has shown that milk consumption does not actually create the production or formation of mucus or phlegm. If you do have a cold, milk can still be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy eating plan, providing both important fluids and essential nutrients while you are unwell.

Myth: Dairy contributes to osteoporosis

Bone strength is related to the density of bone; so in general, the denser your bones the stronger they are. Osteoporosis is a condition of low bone density associated with a higher risk of bone fracture.

Calcium is one of the main dietary factors affecting bone density. Public health experts and scientific authorities such as the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommend the consumption of milk and dairy products as the most readily available dietary sources of calcium for the development and maintenance of strong bones.

Myth: Humans aren’t meant to drink cow’s milk

This is an interesting theory, but one that isn’t supported by science. It suggests that the human body hasn’t been ‘designed’ or hasn’t evolved to tolerate the milk of another animal. However, the evolution of our culture and genetics tells another story - beginning with the domestication of animals, when farming replaced hunting and gathering around 10,000 years ago.

Once cow’s milk was recognised as a potential food source, it was initially consumed as products such as yoghurt and cheese which preserved the milk, enabling it to be stored to be available in seasons of low milk production. Also, yoghurt and cheese were easier to transport and were better tolerated than milk due to their lower lactose content.

Since then, the human body has evolved genetically over thousands of years to produce lactase, the enzyme that helps us digest and tolerate lactose, throughout our lives. This adaptation opened up an important source of nutrition to sustain communities and ensure survival when harvests failed and is the reason we can enjoy a delicious glass of milk to this day.