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Why milk might not be the best for growing children?

Author: FITivate_B | Published date: January 26, 2023 | Category: Nutrition
milk and your child
milk and your child

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No milk for a growing child

Milk is for infants

Children do not need milk. Many parents will find this statement shocking. But milk is baby food. Traditionally, most mothers would have stopped breastfeeding by the end of infancy, or at the latest by the third year. 

Sure, milk is wholesome and may be enjoyed as an occasional drink. But it is no longer needed as a regular, daily food. In nature, only baby animals drink milk. And you will not find one animal drinking the milk of another animal. So why should grown-up humans drink the milk of cows or goats?

Towards the end of infancy, the human intestine reduces its production of lactase, an enzyme needed for the digestion of lactose, or milk sugar. This is the clearest sign that milk is no longer needed.

A growing child do not need milk

Almost all Asians and Africans completely stop producing lactase by age four. They cannot digest milk properly and are said to be "lactose intolerant". Europeans and Americans because of their long history of milk consumption, have somewhat developed the ability to continue digesting lactose as adults.

Lactose intolerance

Symptoms

If you drink milk even though you are lactose intolerant, you may experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea within two hours. Or you might just feel uncomfortable. If you persist in drinking milk, you will develop serious diseases in the long term. More seriously, many children today suffer from asthma and, often, eczema as well. These problems usually go away once the child stops drinking cow's milk.

Lactose-free alternatives

Fermented milk products like yogurt and cheese are lactose-free - because fermenting bacteria consumes the lactose. Such foods are generally well-accepted by those who are lactose intolerant, unless the person is allergic to cow's milk protein.

Problem with milk consumption

The fact that we drink the milk of a different animal is just part of the problem. Another major part is that the milk we drink is highly unnatural, having been pasteurised, UHT (ultra-high temperature) treated, homogenised, skimmed, enriched (with synthetic nutrients) and otherwise processed. Such processed milk contains oxidised cholesterol and unsaturated fatty acids, which are very harmful to health.

Plus, milk comes with hormones - particularly estrogens. Even organic milk contains natural hormones from the cow. In countries like the United States, cow's milk has additional synthetic growth hormones (rBGH or recombinant bovine growth hormones). These female hormones enhance a person's feminine traits. They further increase the risk of cancer, especially in organs that are sensitive to estrogen, such as the breast, womb and, in men, the prostate gland.

Some health advocates claim that raw milk does not bring on the many health problems associated with milk consumption. But this is irrelevant to most of us because raw milk is banned - for food safety reasons - in practically all countries in the world.

What about calcium intake from milk?

What about calcium? Many people have been told that milk is the "best" source of calcium. Not so. The calcium in processed milk is not readily available to the human body. More suitable sources of calcium include dark green vegetables, seeds (especially sesame seeds, which have about 14 times as much calcium as cow's milk) and seaweeds.

This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.

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