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The Truth About Dairy and Inflammation

The Truth About Dairy and Inflammation


Dairy remains a controversial food group and often gets blamed for various inflammatory health outcomes. Many popular diets immediately eliminate dairy under the assumption that it is inflammatory and potentially harmful to our health. However, is dairy actually as inflammatory as we’ve been led to believe? The current research doesn’t seem to align with that notion. First, let’s take a look at what inflammation is. 


Inflammation:


Inflammation is actually a protective process that supports your body in fighting injury and infection. It’s when inflammation becomes chronic that it can have negative effects. As part of the inflammation process, your body produces additional white blood cells, immune cells, and other substances to help fight the infection.

 

There are two types of inflammation: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. With acute or short-term inflammation, there is often pain, redness, heat, or swelling. For example, if you bump your knee, the surrounding area starts to swell, bruise, and can become painful. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is inflammation that is long-lasting and typically doesn’t have visual symptoms. It has been found to lead to health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.1


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Dairy and Inflammation:


It is often believed that dairy can cause this inflammation in the body. However, the current evidence does not support a link between dairy and inflammation. In fact, some studies actually found an anti-inflammatory effect with dairy intake. More research is needed in order to determine what specific dairy products and the properties of those dairy products either increase or decrease inflammation.2For example, yogurt and lower-fat milk products were linked to a moderately decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, which is associated with chronic inflammation.3 On the other hand, cheese intake was linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. 


Additionally, some evidence suggests that there is a correlation between milk intake and acne production.4The saturated fats in full-fat dairy products are thought to cause inflammation and therefore have been associated with the production of acne. Again, more research is needed to confirm this association. 

 

Benefits of Dairy:


All the way from milk to butter, there is a variety of different dairy products that while similar, all carry slightly different nutrient benefits.


  • Milk is rich in bioavailable protein, calcium, B vitamins, and is often fortified with vitamin D. 

  • Yogurt and kefir are also filled with protein, calcium, and contain additional probiotics that are beneficial for gut and immune health. 

  • Cheese is another source of calcium. It also is a fat source and contains a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been linked to improved metabolic health. 


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As you can see, dairy products contain many beneficial nutrients on top of their potential anti-inflammatory properties. Because of all the beneficial nutrients in dairy products, they can help support bone health, immune function, weight management, muscle growth, and recovery. 


If you are able to tolerate dairy products, then including them in your eating pattern is absolutely valuable. However, if you are someone who has an allergy to dairy products or has an intolerance to lactose, then removing dairy from your diet would be beneficial since there may be pro-inflammatory activity from dairy for those with a lactose intolerance.5,6Overall, there is a weak yet significant association between dairy and anti-inflammatory properties for healthy individuals with no lactose intolerance.6


Summary:


Didn’t have time to read the entire blog? Here is what you need to know. While more research is needed in order to understand the role that specific dairy products have on inflammation, the current evidence suggests that dairy itself does not promote inflammation. It has even been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. If you are someone that tolerates dairy, incorporating it into your eating pattern is a great way to get in protein, calcium, probiotics, and other nutrients!


What’s Next?

Are you curious if you are predisposed to lactose sensitivity? Well, you can find out on your GenoPalate report! GenoPalate’s nutrition DNA test is just like the one you’d take to research your ancestry. Once you’ve submitted your DNA test kit or existing data test results to us, your DNA is analyzed. We’ll break down how your body processes carbohydrates, fat, and protein along with the other nutrients you’ll need for optimal health.

 

Based on your DNA results, we’ll create a customized nutrition profile for you. Your profile will include a detailed analysis of the type, amount, and best sources for each nutrient. Get your report here.


References:

  1. Bennett, Jeanette M et al. “Inflammation-Nature's Way to Efficiently Respond to All Types of Challenges: Implications for Understanding and Managing "the Epidemic" of Chronic Diseases.”Frontiers in medicine vol. 5 316. 27 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3389/fmed.2018.00316

  2. Ulven SM, Holven KB, Gil A, Rangel-Huerta OD. Milk and Dairy Product Consumption and Inflammatory Biomarkers: An Updated Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(suppl_2):S239-S250. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy072

  3. Drouin-Chartier JP, Li Y, Ardisson Korat AV, Ding M, Lamarche B, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in dairy product consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from 3 large prospective cohorts of US men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Nov 1;110(5):1201-1212. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz180. PMID: 31504094; PMCID: PMC6821541.

  4. Aghasi M, Golzarand M, Shab-Bidar S, Aminianfar A, Omidian M, Taheri F. Dairy intake and acne development: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Clin Nutr. 2019 Jun;38(3):1067-1075. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.04.015. Epub 2018 May 8. PMID: 29778512.

  5. Szilagyi A, Ishayek N. Lactose Intolerance, Dairy Avoidance, and Treatment Options. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1994. Published 2018 Dec 15. doi:10.3390/nu10121994

  6. Bordoni A, Danesi F, Dardevet D, Dupont D, Fernandez AS, Gille D, Nunes Dos Santos C, Pinto P, Re R, Rémond D, Shahar DR, Vergères G. Dairy products and inflammation: A review of the clinical evidence. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Aug 13;57(12):2497-2525. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.967385. PMID: 26287637.

Updated on
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Written by:

Frankie O'Brien, MS, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian

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