Dairy, good or bad?

In just one word, good. In a few more words, dairy is a great food group, providing a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Improved bone health
  • Immune system aid
  • Help with hypertension (mild)
  • Help with weight control
  • Increased satiety
  • Muscle gainzzz

Yet, there seems to be a massive campaign against dairy from fitness (pseudo) «experts» on social media, who more-often-than-not recommend eliminating them completely as a food group, and replacing them with substitutes from vegetable sources.

Now, lets review the arguments that «clean eaters» and the rest of the dairy-is-the-enemy clan presents against dairy, and why they are just wrong.

Reason #1: Dairy gives you cancer

NO THEY DON’T. This fallacy comes from a group of correlational studies, that simply RELATE dairy consumption with certain types of cancer. Relation does not imply causation.

Moreover, correlational studies have conflicting data on this subject. For example, a meta analysis of 45 studies of over 27 thousand cases (Huncharek M et al., 2008) found that observational studies results DOES NOT support relation between dairy products and risk of prostate cancer.

There are correlational studies that, in fact, associate dairy consumption with reduced risk of bladder and colon cancer (Lampe, 2011).

The reason for this is that cancer is a multifactorial disease, which means that a lot of things can give you cancer, so pin pointing one single cause (as in «if you eat dairy products, you get cancer») is just a fallacy.

Reason #2 Dairy makes you fat

FALSE. The so called gurus of social media suggest that dairy must be avoided since lactose is a sugar and if you want to lose weight you need to eliminate sugar from your diet.

Now not only is this false, but it is absurd and a little dumb.

Lactose is a sugar, but we understand that sugar -any form- is just a type of carbohydrate and if you watch your carb intake and your total calories intake, you won’t get fat. Period.


Yep, you didn’t read that wrong.

A bunch of studies (Zemel et al., 2005; Abreu et al, 2013; Gonzales et al., 2012; among others) have found that when combined with a moderate caloric deficit, consuming dairy accelerates the fat loss process and appears to have influence in abdominal fat reduction.

The mechanism is not entirely clear, more research is needed.

The hypothesis (as science-heavily explained by Matt Jones, MSc, in this great article), is that dietary calcium -the one that’s consumed in diet- regulates the circulation of calcitriol, an active form of vitamin D, which is responsible for regulation of intracellular calcium of fat cells.

So a diet low on dietary calcium results in an increase of intracellular calcium in this adiposites, which causes a reduction in thermogenesis and lipolysis (fat cells breakdown) and a reciprocal increase of lipogenesis (creation of fat cells), aka you get fat. Or fatter.

Increased calcitriol, with the help of our friend, cortisol, also increases body fat on the abdominal area.

On the other hand, when you increase dairy consumption, lipolysis goes up, lipogenesis goes down and whole body fat oxidation goes up as well (Soares et al. 2011). Also, as calcitriol goes down, boom, that unpleasant fat on your abdomen goes to hell, too and guess what? You get leaner.

At this point you (and my vegan, clean eaters or paleo friends too) may be wondering, why not to obtain calcium from green leafy vegetables instead of dairy?

Well, it turns out that synergistic effects of bioactive components of dairy makes it the very best source of dietary calcium, with milk, yogurt and cheese as the richer ones.

Don’t get me wrong, plants, salts and mineral water also provides calcium to your diet, but research supports conclusively that dairy in calcium is much better absorbed than the one on its greener counterparts, because the latter have a high oxlate content, which inhibits intestinal absorption (Guegen et al. 2000)

In not nerdy, this means that calcium in dairy is absorbed for sure, while calcium in vegetables, not so much.

Wrapping things up

Forget about the recommendations of eliminating milk and dairy from your diet. Whoever says this, has absolutely no idea about what he’s talking about.

Go and eat dairy, an excellent source of calcium and high quality protein for them gainz.

Remember that with this food group, as always, balance and moderation is key.