milk, glass, fresh

Is It Essential To Drink Milk Daily?

Necessity vs safety in “powdered milk” consumption

Most of us are having the practice of starting the day with a cup of milk. Also, some of us drink milk in the evening or at night, so that most of us consume a cup of milk or milk tea twice a day. As Sri Lankans, this is mostly powdered milk. According to the data from the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka, the total annual milk (cow and buffalo) production is 471,592,800 Liters in the year 2018. According to the data from FAO currently, Sri Lanka is 15-20% self-sufficient with milk products. Imports are estimated to account for approximately 80% of domestic consumption. There is a doubt nowadays as to whether it is essential and healthy or not to consume milk.

What is the nutritive value of milk?

In Sri Lanka, we commonly speak of cow milk in terms of drinking. Milk provides carbohydrate, protein, fat, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and small amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins.

Is there a change in nutritive value during processing?

Milk is available in the market in either liquid or powdered form. The liquid form of milk available in the market is either pasteurized or sterilized milk. These are heat treatments during which the nutritive value of fresh milk alters.  During pasteurization of vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B12 is lost in certain percentages. During sterilization more of these vitamins are destroyed. Powdered milk is the most common form of milk available in Sri Lanka. But the developed countries mainly consume liquid fresh milk. Spray drying is the common technique used to convert liquid milk into powdered milk. Mainly water is removed in this process. According to customers’ requirement, the milk fat content can be changed. Therefore the market contains full cream, low fat and non-fat milk products.

Why should you drink milk? Is it essential?

Milk is a rich source of Calcium and protein. Protein is required in tissue growth and calcium is required for bone growth. To obtain Calcium, milk is the most convenient source. 

Infants up to 6months should be fed only with breast milk which contains all the necessary nutrients in correct proportions. After 6 months, the child should receive proper food for proper growth.

Calcium is needed for growing children as their bone growth takes place. As their height increases, the length of the bones must also increase. For a healthy bone to grow these children must have adequate calcium in their diet. Bone growth does not occur throughout the entire life span. A bone gradually grows as the child grows and bone mass reaches a peak by about 35 years, which may be slightly different for different individuals. After that, the bone mass begins to decline, which means that your bones start breaking down. If you did not have a well-grown bone by the age of peak bone mass, you are at the risk of getting osteoporosis at older ages. Osteoporosis is the condition in which your bone becomes porous due to a lack of calcium deposition. Therefore the age before you reach your peak bone mass is critical and you should consume adequate calcium to facilitate proper bone growth and to prevent getting osteoporosis at older ages. 

What are the current issues with commercially available milk powder in Sri Lanka?

Time to time certain issues come into the discussion with regards to milk powder which may or may not be proved to be true. There came a rumor that milk powder was adulterated with melamine. Certain farmers add water to liquid milk to increase its volume. As a result of this dilution, milk has a lower protein concentration. Therefore to increase the nitrogen content, melamine is one possible but illegal additive in milk. Melamine is an organic chemical used in plastics, adhesives, dishwashers, and whiteboards. Its health effects on humans are not experimentally tested. It is believed to cause kidney stones and also cancer effects. Another issue that recently came into the discussion was the addition of lard/ pork fat into milk to increase milk fat. The original milk fat is said to be removed to make butter and to compensate the loss of pork fat is said to be added. However, these issues are not proven and yet open for discussion.

What are the other options to replace milk with?

Under these doubt circumstances, someone may be unwilling to consume milk powder. In terms of nutritive value, fresh milk is the richest and safest. But as fresh milk spoils sooner, need refrigerators for storage, comparatively high cost, milk powder is most commonly used in Sri Lanka. Milk is the most convenient source of calcium for us. But there are other calcium-rich foods such as sprats, small fish with bones, salmon with bones, wood apple, green leaves, and other calcium-fortified foods. Also, there are other dairy options such as yogurt, cheese, curd, paneer, condensed milk, etc. a person can consume depending on availability and affordability. For example; one glass of milk made with 3 teaspoons of milk powder can be replaced with 80mL of yogurt or 3 tablespoons of curd. 

What are the disorders related to milk?

Lactose intolerance is one common condition where some people lack lactase enzyme in their bodies to digest milk. As a result, they develop diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain conditions. Although this is common in Europe, it is very rare in Sri Lanka.  If you are lactose intolerant, you must avoid milk, but you can consume fermented milk products such as yogurt, curd, cheese. Some people may have allergies to milk and these people have to avoid milk. 

Does milk cause phlegm?

Some people are on the habit of reducing the consumption of milk and dairy products when they have a cold or cough. Some believe that the body produces more phlegm/mucus due to milk. But research has proved that there is no such association between milk intake and symptoms of mucus production in healthy adults.

Is it essential to drink milk?

You must obtain adequate protein and calcium for proper growth and good health. Calcium must be adequately taken until you reach the age of about 35 years, where you reach your peak bone mass. Yet, some people have doubts about whether milk powder is safe or not and for which there is no proven answer. Also for those who are keen on reducing their fat consumption, can select low fat and non-fat milk products. Finally, there is no hard and fast rule as to drink milk as long as you select alternative sources to obtain adequate nutrients. But theoretically fresh milk can be listed as a convenient source of calcium. The quality and safety of milk powder are uncertain.


Shashya Diyapaththugama