The UK has had a love affair with dairy for several years. Back in the 1930s, the government funded a Milk Marketing board, an organisation that actively encouraged initiatives on new types of dairy foods and widely promoted the consumption of dairy products.

To put our consumption into perspective, although the UK represents only 20% of the EU population, we consume 40% of its dairy products with an average weekly intake of 4 pints of milk each!

It is, therefore, interesting that researchers comparing major health issues in the West with the same health issues in a country that does not consume much dairy at all, such as China, have come up with some staggering results. One case in point is new research that suggests dairy consumption may be the main reason that people in the West have a massive risk of breast and prostate cancer while Asians don’t.

The chance of a Chinese woman dying from breast cancer is 1 in 10,000, as opposed to 1 in 10 for the UK! The figures for prostate cancer are even greater, with only 0.5 in 100,000 being reported, yet 1 in 4 men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer sometime in their lives.

Research into food allergies

It is interesting to learn that our bodies produce an antibody against milk – and once weaned, 70% of us stop producing lactase, the enzyme used to digest milk sugar. This inability to digest lactose is also commonly referred to as lactose intolerance. Symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhoea. However, food allergies to dairy produce are just as common, which can produce numerous symptoms such as nasal congestion, excessive mucus production, respiratory complaints, and even provoke skin conditions such as eczema.

800mg is the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of calcium, with slightly less needed for young children and rising to 1200mg for teenagers – and the intake of calcium should be at the correct ratio to magnesium, which is 2:1. Although high amounts of calcium are found in dairy products, it’s ratio to magnesium is 10:1 in milk, and 28:1 in cheese, so relying on dairy products for calcium is likely to lead to magnesium imbalance. Seeds, nuts, kale, cabbage, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower all provide calcium and magnesium in a ratio more in line with our bodies’ requirements, plus the bonus of other important minerals and vitamins.

The following foods are great alternative sources of calcium:

– Per cup kale – 200mg

– Cup of mixed sea veg – 2100mg

– Cup almonds – 750mg

– Cup sesame seeds – 2100mg

– Cup sunflower seeds – 260mg

– Cup tofu – 1721mg

– Cup fortified cereals – up to 1000mg

Of course, even if you’re one of the lucky ones and can eat whatever you please, it’s worth remembering that milk, butter, cheese, and full-fat yoghurt are full of saturated fats – which are potentially partly responsible for several chronic health conditions and never a friend of the waistline!