Do I really need to drink milk everyday? How much milk an adult should drink per day? Is it a must that all children should drink milk?
When I lived in the UK, one of my British colleagues asked me a question with a smug smile, “why are you people in India, consider Cows so “ Sacred”? ”
I told him .. “Yes we do treat cows with respect and there is a good reason for it. If you think carefully you will understand why. As a human, we absolutely in need of the mother’s milk to survive, when we are born. And If our mothers fail to produce enough milk, then the “cows” come to our rescue. We survive our early age with consuming cow’s milk and cows become our “second mother”. We in India literally considered “ Milk ” as the “substance of purity” and over generations we worshipped cows and fondly call them as “ Komaadha” ( The cow mother)”. He seemed satisfied with my answer.
Now we need to explore further to understand that “ Milk ” is not a simple nutrient as it seems. It is a very complex “Bioactive substance”.
Believe it not, we humans are designed to cope with consumption of milk only until infancy. We are not supposed to drink milk afterwards. We all require an enzyme called “ Lactase” to digest the sugar that comes with milk. All the mammals produce that enzyme when they are a baby. But at around the time of weaning process, “Lactase production” switches off . As an adult if we consumed milk without that enzyme “Lactase” , then the sugar “ lactose” in the milk, will not get digested, and when the undigested lactose reaches the large intestine, it would result in discomfort, bloated sensation, cramps and loose stools. It is called “Lactose intolerance”
Now, evolution came to our rescue. Thousands of years ago, mutation in the genes allowed human to make lactase enzyme for longer period of time into adulthood. Which is why many of us still are able to enjoy the delicious milk. However it has been identified that on average, only about 35% of adults could digest the milk. There is a wide variation in the prevalence of Lactose intolerance among adults. In china almost 90% population are lactose intolerant. In India almost 50 % adult population are intolerant to milk.
Now coming to address the problem of inadequate milk intake in human…
For infants “milk” without a doubt should be the exclusive diet, until the weaning period. Children and young adults would require enough calcium for their bone growth. Milk is the best source of calcium and if teenagers do not take enough milk then they could be increasing the risk of developing weak bones (Osteoporosis) at their later life.
On the otherhand a recent Swedish study suggests that,as adults, if we consumed too much milk, then we increase the chances of bone fracture, and also likely to die early. Especially in women, if they drank 3 or more glasses of milk a day, they double the chance of dying early. It has been postulated that the substance called “Galactose” could be trigger factor in premature aging and shorter life. Also, milk is known to increase the levels of a hormone called IGF-1 in the body. Though it is helpful for children to grow, it is identified as one of culprits that causes damage in adults.
Children and Teenagers need their portions of milk for their optimum growth and bone health
2. Lactose intolerance is very common in adults. Adults consuming large amount of milk could be putting themselves at risk of developing fractures and other ill health
3. Adults could have no more than 250 mls of milk a day, if they could tolerate. Adults should find other rich sources of calcium in their diet. Green leafy vegetables, nuts and soya bean offer the second best alternate source for adequate calcium.
Milk is delicious and healthy. Our children and young adults need it.
On the “Milk Matter”, for adults, I would say … “Too much of anything is good for nothing”
Dr M Saravanan DCH, MRCP Paediatrics UK
Rio children and Maternity Hospital