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Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

17/04/2014 13:05 BST | Updated 14/06/2014 10:59 BST
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For decades nutritionists and macrobiotic enthusiasts have hashed it out over the dairy debate. Whilst a frosty glass of milk was long thought to be a tall order of osteopathic goodness new evidence has emerged suggesting quite the opposite. Amongst claims that dairy heavy diets could negate high calcium health benefits and topple the balance of your daily diet it's becoming harder and harder to decide whether or not to stock your fridge full. With so much compelling and contrasting information we decided to investigate so you don't have to.

Many macrobiotic dieticians agree that lactose-intolerance in humans is a clear indicator that we shouldn't be munching so much mozzarella. Champions of the Mayr diet will testify that the digestion is the key to healthy body. It's important that we absorb the appropriate nutrients and avoid excess, but in the case of our queso that just isn't happening leaving many of us feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

There's also evidence to suggest that dairy consumption can cause an excess of protein which becomes highly acidic during digestion. In order to protect our bones from the build up our bodies draw from neutralising alkaline deposits already stored within our skeleton's existing calcium supply. The result is a lowered calcium reserve which could ultimately negate the positive impacts of calcium heavy dairy consumption!

However other nutritionists would disagree, instead pointing to new evidence hailing milk as a vital tool in the fight against arthritis. Arthritis and its dreaded, debilitating, aches and pains are burdensome for sufferers, causing great pain and turning simple tasks to arduous challenges. During a recent study leading osteopath Dr. Bing Lu monitored the health and diet of over 2000 sufferers, taking regular X-rays of arthritic bones and joints over the course of the 4 year period. Measuring the distance between affected joints he found that the growing gaps between the offending bones had been stunted in patients with regular milk consumption. In his report he concluded that the calcium from dairy produce was almost certainly a contributing factor in easing both the arthritic symptoms and pain in his patients.

Other specialists believe that the problem lies in production. Cows are fed a cocktail of fertilisers and pesticides making the creamy and wholesome produce rarely quite as good as it looks. Chemicals find their way from the cattle's grain to our plates and have been linked to cancers, allergies and digestive difficulties. But that's not all, there are links to suggest a high fat dairy heavy diet also leads to increased cholesterol and a risk of heart disease.

So should we opt for a vegan approach and deduct dairy from the dietary equation? Dr Lawrence Wilson believes that even those of us with a strict macrobiotic diet should be hesitant. Whilst the pasteurised and homogenised milks and cheeses available at the local supermarket may do more harm than good, raw and organic dairy produce is still an excellent source of quality calcium and magnesium (not to mention vitamins A and D too!). The high concentration of these nutrients means that a daily glass of organic milk or a small portion of cheese would provide an optimum amount of calcium whilst simultaneously avoiding the protein saturation associated with excessive consumption.

With so much conflicting evidence the jury's still out on dairy, but the answer might be far simpler than these studies suggest. Our diets are very personal and what works for some won't work for others - rather than eliminating dairy entirely perhaps we should take an individualised approach of moderation and tailor our diets so that we might fine the perfect balance for our own happy, healthy bodies.