Dairy and your Health

Dairy Myths

There are a lot of myths about dairy foods. But we’re here to set the record straight.

Milk is high in fat

Truth
Research shows many people mistakenly believe regular fat milk contains, on average, 22 per cent fat. The fact is, regular fat milk actually contains only 3.8 per cent fat. Reduced fat milks have less at around 2 per cent fat or 2 grams per 100 ml.

Read more about the nutrient content of dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt on our Dairy Products pages or download the Proximate Composition of Dairy Foods booklet.

Milk causes mucous

Truth
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recognise there is no scientific evidence of a link between milk and mucous. You may experience a thin, temporary coating over their mouth and throat after drinking milk. This is often mistaken for mucous but it’s actually milk’s natural, creamy texture. It’s not harmful and the sensation lasts for only a short period.

Dairy is a trigger for asthma

Truth
Milk is rarely a trigger for asthma. Currently, there is no strong evidence directly linking milk and asthma. Common triggers for asthma include allergens such as house dust mites and pollens, viral infections, weather changes and exercise.

If you have asthma, the National Asthma Council recommends you eat a nutritious diet from a wide variety of foods, including milk and other dairy products.

Milk, yogurt and cheese, particularly regular-fat varieties are fattening

Truth
Research shows having milk, cheese and yogurt, including regular-fat varieties, is not linked to weight gain or body fat gain. In fact, the health benefits linked to dairy foods relate to both reduced-fat and regular-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. With a variety of dairy foods available in the dairy cabinet, it’s easy to include milk, cheese and yogurt in your diet every day.

Cutting back on dairy foods helps with weight loss

Truth
Milk, yogurt and cheese, both regular-fat and reduced-fat varieties, are one of the five food groups that make up a healthy, balanced diet. Including three to four daily serves milk, yogurt or cheese as part of a balanced diet is not linked to weight gain. And if you’re trying to lose weight through a kilojoule-controlled diet, clinical studies show including three to four serves of dairy foods can help accelerate loss of weight and body fat, improve muscle retention and reduce waist lines.

Read more in our Dairy and Healthy Weight section.

Eating dairy foods can cause acne

Truth
Acne isn’t caused by diet or eating dairy foods. Skin type, genetics, hormones and exposure to pollutants are more likely to be linked to acne. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt and cheese will help your skin get all the nutrients it needs.

Calcium supplements can replace milk

Truth
Milk isn’t just a great source of calcium, it’s also a source of protein, carbohydrate, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. A calcium tablet won’t provide you with all the other nutrients dairy foods add to the diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise foods may be preferable to calcium from some supplements.

Osteoporosis is rare in countries such as China where dairy intake is low

Truth
The International Osteoporosis Foundation predicts 50 per cent of all osteoporotic hip fractures will occur in Asia by the year 2050. Fractures in the spine are as common in Asian populations as in Caucasian populations. Research shows that getting enough calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and yogurt is important for bone health in both Asian and Western populations.

Lactose intolerance sufferers should completely avoid dairy foods

Truth

Dairy foods don’t need to be eliminated from the diet if you have difficulty digesting the carbohydrate lactose in milk, or lactose maldigestion. If you have lactose intolerance, the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest up to 250 ml of milk may be well tolerated if its eaten with other foods, or throughout the day. Most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and yogurt contains ‘good’ bacteria that help to digest lactose. Low-lactose and lactose-free milks are also available. Read more in our lactose intolerance fact sheet.

Seek advice from your doctor if you suspect an allergy or intolerance to foods. 

For more information on dairy and digestive health click here.

Cheese increases your cholesterol

Truth
The humble cheese toastie is more complex than you might think. Although cheese contains saturated fat and salt, it also contains lots of beneficial nutrients that make cheese a healthy choice. Studies have shown that eating cheese does not raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels – this is thought to be due to the calcium in cheese. Similarly, studies show that cheese is not linked to high blood pressure.

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