Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — When it comes to milk that’s better for the planet, environmentalists will say plant-based milk wins.
The advance of the largest dairy producing countries such as China, Italy, New Zealand and the United States has led to an increase in milk production in large quantities per cow. An American cow now produces four times as much milk as a cow in India, while reducing the animal’s environmental impact. Even a cow in Wisconsin, Selz-Pralle Aftershock 3918, set the world record for milk production: 78,170 pounds of milk in 365 days.
Despite this, the global demand for natural resources to feed cows remains enormous, according to a 2018 meta-analysis, drawing extensively from studies on the matter.
The dairy industry uses about 10 times as much land and two to 20 times as much water as producing soy, oat, almond or rice milk, according to an analysis of a 2018 study by the nonprofit Global Change Data Lab and the University of Oxford in the UK.
The analysis found that dairy products emit three times more greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Environment Program reports that burping and feces from the defecation of animals such as cattle, sheep and goats generate methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the planet in 20 years.
Despite this, people still drink milk for nutritional reasons, as it is an important source of protein and nutrients in some parts of the world. This can make the answer to which milk is best for you and your children more complicated.
Did you get milk?
“Milk is very nutritionally wonderful, because young mammals can live on milk for several months and thrive,” lead researcher Dr. Walter Willett told CNN.
Willett, a Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and nutrition, and Harvard Medical School professor of medicine, with Harvard colleague Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist and pediatrician, covered milk and human health in a 2020 review for New York. England Medical.
Strong bones: The two doctors delved into the widely held belief that drinking milk leads to healthy bones that are less likely to break. Willett saw this as the primary justification for the current US dietary recommendations of 3 cups per day of skim milk or other dairy products for children ages 9 to 18 and adults, and 2 1/2 cups per day for children ages 2 to 8.
Interestingly, meta-analytical reviews of studies that examined drinking about 4 cups of milk per day found no definitive benefit for fracture prevention, even in children, Willett said.
And an earlier study he and colleagues put together in 2014 found that there was a 9% greater risk of later hip fracture for each additional cup of milk per day consumed by teens, but not girls. In a country-to-country comparison, Willett and Ludwig found higher rates of hip fractures in countries that consumed higher amounts of milk and calcium.
height: It was considered Willett believes that milk helps children grow taller. what’s wrong with that? He explained that taller people are more likely to have more bone fractures.
Studies have also shown an association between height and an increased risk of several types of cancer and lung problems. It appears that tall people suffer from less heart disease, but they are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat and varicose veins.
Lactose intolerance: Willett pointed out that dairy products cannot be offered to a child after 12 months due to the abundance of protein and minerals they contain. Milk products given before a baby is one year old can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney damage, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Control.
Studies have estimated that 68% of the world’s population may be allergic to milk, which causes flatulence, cramping, and pain.
Hormones and antibiotics: Dairy cows are in an almost permanent state of pregnancy, Willett said, which naturally boosts the levels of progestin, estrogen and other hormones in the milk. To increase milk production, he added, cows today are also bred to produce higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1.
And linking increased human consumption of IGF-1 with cancer and insulin resistance.
Weight loss: Clearly, low-fat or fat-free milk is a healthier option than sugary or diet sodas, teas and other processed beverages on the market. Willett noted that studies of dairy products showed that yoghurt alone was associated with less weight gain.
A 2020 meta-analysis review found that whole milk may contribute to reducing obesity in children.
Conclusion: Willett believes that “we need to look at everything we do from an environmental perspective,” adding that “the answer is not only that there is no dairy for everyone, but three servings of milk a day that are not necessary for health and constitute an environmental disaster.”
Willett pointed to the goal set by the EAT-Lancet Committee – drinking 250g or one cup of dairy per day – to create a healthy and sustainable global diet.
“One serving a day is probably better as unsweetened yogurt or cheese, and then you can add some plant-based milk alternative,” Willett added. “I think from a health and environmental point of view, this is a reasonable starting point,” he said.
The best plant-based milk
The plant-based milk market is booming.
Almost all nuts, as well as legumes and grains, are becoming plant-based dairy options, said Christopher Gardner, a nutrition expert and research professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California. And the newest alternative is banana milk.”
So far, Gardner has found milks based on legumes (soybeans, peas, peanuts, lupins, and kidney beans), nuts (almonds, coconuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, macadamias, cashews), and seeds (sesame, flax, hemp, and sunflower), cereals (oats, rice, corn, spelled, quinoa, teff, amaranth), and potato milk.
Environmental impact: The science has not yet investigated the environmental impact of each new entry into the alternative milk market, but rice milk can be measured against soybeans, almonds and oats.
Who is the winning milk?
And according to Global Change Data Lab’s analysis, it’s relative. Rice has the least impact on land use, almonds have the least impact on greenhouse emissions, and soybeans have the least impact on freshwater use and nutrient enrichment. As for oat milk, he reserved a place for him in the middle between them.
Nutritionally, Gardner explained that each category of alternative milk has advantages and disadvantages compared to dairy products, adding that he wasn’t able to review all the brands on the market because they are “too many to cover realistically.”
Calcium: Dairy products win here, but plant-based milk manufacturers have solved this problem by adding calcium, according to Gardner.
Protein: Soybean and pea milk, for example, contain about the same amount of protein as our dairy products. Other legume-based milks are also good choices.
Gardner pointed out that coconut milk and rice milk contain low levels of protein, almond milk contains less than a gram of protein per serving, and oat milk ranges between 1 and 3 grams per serving.
Fat, sodium and cholesterol: Compared to the dietary cholesterol in whole dairy products, most plant-based milks are good choices because they contain no cholesterol, Gardner said.
Sodium levels are relatively equal between plant-based milk and dairy products. He added that saturated fats are low, with the exception of coconut milk, which is a tropical plant that generally contains high levels of it.
Vitamins A, D and B12: Gardner said the only reason dairy is such a good source of vitamins A and D is because it’s fortified with those vitamins in processing. This applies to plant-based milk.
Added sweeteners: Dairy products contain their own natural internal sweetener, lactose, which is the sugar that upsets many people’s stomachs. Plant-based milks don’t have this advantage, Gardner explained, and this is where nutrition can falter.
However, many alternative milk brands offer an unsweetened version. Gardner advised trying “unsweetened milks. They are usually just as tasty as the original version, but contain fewer calories, carbohydrates and sugars.”