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Calcium alternatives do a body good, NIU professor confirms
Americans of a certain age cannot shake the advertising campaigns.
Milk “does the body good.” “Got Milk?” Elementary school lunchroom posters and glossy magazine pages showing pictures of athletes and other celebrities proudly wearing their frothy milk mustaches.
But it seems that consumer attitudes toward milk, once a staple of the U.S. diet, are curdling.
According to a CBS News story posted Monday, “the average consumption of dairy milk has dropped from about 22 gallons a year per person in 1970 to less than 15 gallons in 2012. That’s a 33 percent decline.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported the same day that “embattled milk producers launched a social media campaign this week to rebuild public confidence in the health benefits of their product.”
And then there’s this, from USA Today: Coca-Cola announced Tuesday that it will in March begin selling a lactose-free milk under Minute Maid’s fairlife brand. It boasts half the sugar of regular milk along with 50 percent more protein and 30 percent more calcium.
“Customers will be able to choose among whole milk, fat-free chocolate and reduced fat options,” Time Magazine wrote, “with prices ranging from $3.98 to $4.20.”
Coca-Cola? Um, what would Mom say?
“I’m wary of giving my family a lot of milk products,” says Judith M. Lukaszuk, a professor in the NIU School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences. “People got turned off to milk because of the growth hormone being given to cows – the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) – and being uncertain if there was a problem with that. People are trying to make healthier choices.”
There are organic products, of course, which guarantee that the cows aren’t being treated with hormones.
Illinois-based Oberweis Dairy, for example, states this on its website: “The use of the bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is NOT permitted on Oberweis farms, just as on organic farms. Most of our farmers would never even consider using rBGH on the cows because it tends to make the cow more susceptible to infections.”
But for families on budgets, Lukaszuk says, organic milk costs “$6 to $8 a gallon” –and organic milk still poses problems for those with casein allergies or lactose intolerance.
So where can health- and cost-conscious consumers turn?
Necessary nutrients all are readily available in almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk and soy milk, all of which are fortified with calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12. Coconut milk even touts anti-inflammatory benefits, she says.
“These are all good choices. What you’re missing is a significant source of protein, but that’s not a big deal if you’re getting protein from other places,” Lukaszuk says. “There’s no convincing evidence to say that we really need milk.”
Drinkers of these dairy alternatives should know that “the calcium dissipates to the bottom of the containers,” she adds. “Be sure to shake it up really well to make sure the calcium gets stirred through.”
Lukaszuk, who in 2007 published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association her study that determined soy milk is as effective as skim milk in promoting weight loss, has been looking into the effects that food intolerances have on the total body inflammation.
She’s currently working with multiple test subjects to see what foods cause them to suffer body aches, fatigue and other pain, asking them to avoid those foods for one month and then return to see if their symptoms have attenuated and if their body inflammation is lower at the end of the study.
“We’re testing on 200 foods,” she says, “and, a lot of times, milk is what’s coming up.”