There are enormous advantages of milk consumption but the controversies surrounding the consumption match the benefits. Milk is the white substance synthesized in the mammary glands of all female mammals. It contains many nutritional elements except iron and its products and by-products are of huge benefits to the human body.
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Milk usage dates back to the beginning of animal domestication at around 6500 BC. People in the Middle East were the first consumers of milk and used it as food. Raw milk consumption was common in those days because technology had not evolved to provide milk-processing tools. Domestic consumption prevailed and industrial production never existed. People kept indigenous cows, goats, camels, donkeys, water buffalos, reindeers, and yaks. With new technology and agrarian revolution, hybrids are now common in milk production where commercial production prevail.
These products and byproducts include yogurt, whey, cheese, ice creams, butter roil, and probiotics among others. Colostrum is the first milk secreted by the mother and it contains antibodies from the mother, which confer immunity to the young ones. Components of raw milk include all body requirements in small proportions except iron but calcium, vitamin C, proteins as well as saturated fats are the major components. Lactation is the process by which milk is secreted in mammary glands and passed on to the young ones.
The writer chose this topic due to the immense controversies that arise from milk consumption and its dietary role in growth and development. Many people argue that milk is not healthy after infancy, while others emphasize that milk is a strong source of vitamins and minerals in the body. While some scholars feel that raw milk is healthy and safe, others point out it is risky to take it unprocessed. Critics disqualify the theory that the good bacteria in milk overcome the bad bacteria thus preventing milk contamination (Gumpert ¶ 2). Other people claim several health risks are associated with the consumption of milk. Before weaning the young mammals, they depend entirely on milk for nutritional provision. The debate goes on about the safety of raw versus processed milk. Some people think that there are ethical concerns awaiting a solution before reaching a conclusive answer about milk consumption.
So how safe or unsafe is milk consumption to the health of an individual? Moreover, is it advisable to take it raw or processed? Researches indicate that raw milk is healthier and tastier than processed milk. The process of pasteurization involves heating milk to high temperatures to kill any bacteria and organisms, which can cause milk spoilage. This is disastrous because raw milk contains essential bacteria that aid in assimilation of the consumed milk. Pasteurization or any form of milk processing destroys these bacteria together with metabolic enzymes and vitamin B complex. Processed milk is a predisposing factor to cancer and is associated with diarrhea and osteoporosis among other health complications.
On the contrary, raw milk is associated with food poisoning due to pathogens found in it. These are disease-causing microorganisms like salmonella, Escherichia coli among others. Interestingly, studies show that the same microorganisms assumed to aid in milk assimilation, actually bring health complications. In his study, Peterson (¶ 2) established that a breakdown in a high school in Utah resulted from consumption of raw milk that had Clostridium jejunum. In the investigations, doctors established that students who did not consume the raw milk remained healthy even after several weeks. This raised concerns in Utah leading to closure of milk distribution in retail outlets.
Production of organic milk has raised serious health concerns in US, because of the nature of producing this kind of milk. Organic milk comes from cows not treated with bovine growth hormone (BGH). This hormone stimulates the liver to produce more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which aids in increased milk production. Even though these growth hormones are carcinogens, studies show that cows naturally have these growth factors, leaving consumers in a tight spot on whether to consume milk or abandon it completely.
Milk is unique and despite the controversies surrounding it, its consumption remains at peak levels in different cultures. This result from the numerous benefits associated with it. Milk together with its products like yoghurt and cheese; are a good source of calcium. Calcium helps in bone formation and prevents osteoporosis; a disease characterized by frequent bone fractures. Research show that, many teenagers and children will be at risk of suffering from osteoporosis later in old age due to the reduced intake of milk. A popular belief that milk consumption results in coronary diseases remain nullified through research. According to journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (¶ 3), this belief became null after a study carried out on the Masai community in Kenya. Studies established that this community had a high milk intake, but low coronary disease rates.
Milk contains first class proteins essential in bodybuilding. Essential fatty acids like omega 3 and important minerals like potassium occur in milk. Potassium is essential in blood clotting and in active transport in the body. With the improvements in technology and invent of sophisticated research methods, milk products are being processed to boost immune system. For instance, milk spiced with probiotics help to relieve inflammatory bowel diseases. Probiotics are live bacteria supplements that are beneficial to the host animal and aid in body processes like digestion and assimilation. These probiotics minimize the effects of harmful bacteria in milk and boost the good ones. Probiotics added to milk products like yoghurt, lessen the effects of lactose intolerance. Yoghurt is of medicinal value and nutritious. According to Weaver T, (¶ 4) yoghurt contains lactobacillus, which feed the intestines and stimulates the production of interferon gamma, which is a component of the immune system. Yoghurt’s bacteria convert the milk lactose into lactic acid that aids in digestion of dairy products. Cheese contains high contents of phosphorous which helps in the formation of new blob cells.
The first milk produced by a mother is colostrum. This milk is rich in major mineral contents and contains mother’s antibodies that infer immunity to the newborns. It creates a laxative effect in newborns helping to clear the bowels of infants and passing of the first stool. It prevents jaundice, caused by blood volume reduction during birth. It does this by clearing excess bilirubin, a waste product of erythrocytes.
From the research above, raw milk is better for consumption than pasteurized milk. Despite several reported cases of contamination accompanying consumption of raw milk, under clean environment these contaminations are avoidable. For instance, the case that occurred in Utah, Peterson (¶ 6) concur that, Clostridium jejunum that contaminated the milk was avoidable if the milk preparation came under aseptic conditions. Pasteurization destroys important nutrients like vitamin B complex and elements such as potassium. With the introduction of probiotics, raw milk has become safe to consume without the fear of effects of bad bacteria. Studies show that, addition of probiotics to raw milk minimizes the effects of the bad bacteria in it. This nullifies the long held belief that raw milk is a source of gastro intestinal complications. On the contrary, colostrum clears the bowels of the young ones enabling them to pass out the first stool. This is of medical value because bacterial infections, which result from clogged bowels, are under control and promotes growth due to its rich nutrition content.
Paradox surrounding milk consumption is that, milk contains bovine growth hormones and insulin-like growth factors, which are carcinogens and thus expose people to cancer development. Research proves that, the human body produces slightly higher levels of these growth factors naturally. Another belief was that milk caused increased coronary diseases. After establishing that, the Masai, who consume raw milk heavily, had reduced coronary complications; it is now evident that milk is not the predisposing factor to this condition. Factors like lactose intolerance, which posed a great challenge to milk consumption among many adults is under control through the introduction of probiotics. The benefits of milk consumption overwhelm the shortcomings of the same. Starting from newborn that need colostrum than any other form of food, through young adults who need milk to prevent osteoporosis, to the aged who consume milk to get vital minerals for strong bones, milk consumption merits outweigh the demerits by far.
In conclusion, milk as a nutritional component has both advantages and disadvantages. The common belief that milk consumption is hazardous is now void with the invention of probiotics. The problem of lactose intolerance is down to manageable levels by the presence of probiotics. Thus the controversies that surround milk consumption are solved in part by the above-mentioned researches and milk is not as hazardous as many people think it is. It is safe and nutritionally important.
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Journal of Epidemiology, and Community health. “Milk, coronary disease and mortality. 2001.
Peterson C. “Campylobacter Jejuni Enteritis Associated with Consumption of Raw Milk.” 2003. Web.
Weaver T. “Health Benefits of Yoghurt.” Web.