Dangerous dietary advice on air gets me riled up

Listening to local radio on my way back from kindergarten this morning I was shocked to hear a naturopath talk about milk with such prejudice I felt compelled to ring in (or run the risk of crashing the car in a fit). She declared milk “completely compromised” by modern processing and even suggested that the immune systems of breastfed infants could be forever affected by their mothers’ dairy intakes. No mention of the need for calcium!

After taking her to task, the naturopath did say that hundreds of thousands drink milk every day with no ill effects. Dairy has too important a role in our nutrition to be so readily dismissed.

According to Dairy Australia:

New research shows people with self-perceived lactose intolerance may be at risk of poor bone health and higher rates of diabetes and hypertension.

The study published in the latest American Journal Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of self-perceived lactose intolerance – whether they were self-diagnosed or physician-diagnosed – on calcium intake and risk of specific health problems related to reduced calcium intakes[i].

The US researchers surveyed 3452 adults aged 19-70 and found participants who identified themselves as lactose intolerant had significantly lower calcium intakes than those who did not, particularly from lower intakes of dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt.

Participants with self-perceived lactose intolerance were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes.

Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Zucco said people sometimes avoid milk and other dairy products due to concerns about lactose intolerance, but eliminating these nutrient-rich foods could impact diet and health.

“Dairy is a readily accessible source of calcium, and nine other essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and vitamin A. Inadequate consumption of these nutrients may increase the risk for chronic health problems,” she said.


But people who are concerned about lactose intolerance may still be able to enjoy dairy foods.


In 2010 a panel of experts was assembled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to review the available scientific evidence about lactose intolerance and health after experts expressed concern people were self-diagnosing lactose intolerance and eliminating nutrient-rich foods such as dairy from their diet.


A consensus paper released by the group advised that in most cases eliminating dairy foods may be unnecessary.[ii]


‘Even in persons with diagnosed lactose intolerance, small amounts of milk, yogurt, hard cheeses, and reduced-lactose foods may be effective approaches to managing the condition,’ the paper reported.

Ms Zucco said hard cheeses (like cheddar and parmesan) contained virtually no lactose, making them generally well tolerated.

“Yogurt is also usually well digested due to the natural bacterial cultures it contains – which help to digest lactose,” she said.

“Milk can also be tolerated well – with a little know how.  Drinking milk in small amounts throughout the day, as well as enjoying it with meals, can reduce intolerance symptoms.

“And if lactose tolerance is particularly low, there are a number of lactose-free cow’s milks available in supermarkets.”

[i] Nicklas T, et al. 2011, ‘Self-perceived lactose intolerance results in lower intakes of calcium and dairy foods and is associated with hypertension and diabetes in adults,’ Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.110.009860

[ii] NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH CONSENSUS DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE STATEMENT NIH Consensus Development Conference: Lactose Intolerance and Health February 22–24, 2010

The art of caring for new mums

New mums deserve TLC courtesy of our researchers

There’s a real art and a science to looking after cows in the lead-up to, and just after, calving. As you can imagine, cows need an incredible amount of calcium to both grow their calves and to produce milk.

You’d think that adding extra calcium in their diets would be a good idea, wouldn’t you? Well, actually vets tell us that adding calcium is one of the worst things you can do to a cow that’s about to calve. It makes her much more likely to suffer from a life-threatening disorder called “milk fever”, where the body cannot produce enough calcium to power her muscles (including the heart).

Instead, we must choose feeds that encourage the cow’s body to draw calcium from her bones and that will help her adjust to the diet she’ll receive as a member of the milking herd. If we don’t get the feeding regime right during the two to three weeks before calving, cows are more likely to have trouble calving, develop lameness, lose weight, produce less milk and get sick with mastitis.

Ironically, too much grass at this time also spells big trouble. It generally has a high dietary cation anion difference (DCAD), which doesn’t help get precious calcium into the bloodstream. That’s why cows in our calving paddock have access to short but clean grass, anion salts in their drinking water, cereal hay and half the ration of grain they’ll get in the dairy. They’re too precious to treat with any less TLC.