Why we should be embracing British Dairy!

Having practiced as a Vet for 15 years, and now as a freelance Nutritionist, here’s some reassurance about dairy in our diet & the 101 on its potential for our health. Read on to find out why we should be embracing British Dairy!

 Lactose intolerance and Cow’s milk allergy?

Cow’s Milk Allergy is an immune reaction to the protein in milk. It is uncommon, occurring mostly in young children who often grow out of it. Lactose intolerance is a life-long, reduced ability to digest this sugar in milk, due to lacking the gene for the enzyme Lactase. Fortunately, as lactose is also digested by ‘good’ gut bacteria in our large intestine , small amounts of milk can often still be tolerated in fermented dairy foods like yogurt and cheese in which the lactose has already been broken down further.

Bite-sized interest - Lactose intolerance
A little bit of history! Over generations, our genes adapt to our food supply so we can benefit from new foods. When Neolithic man began domesticating the ancestors of cows thousands of years ago, a change in our genetic make-up eventually occurred (a ‘mutation’). Those who carried this new gene were able to digest the sugar in this ‘new’ food, milk, using their enzyme lactase. Only 35% of the world’s population now carry this gene, but in Northern Europe, fortunately 90% of us do! Those who did not develop the gene, remain lactose intolerant. In the UK, fewer than 10% are diagnosed with lactose intolerance; the remainder may have a sensitivity to the products of lactose fermentation in the large intestine.
  Dairy food is fattening? Even whole milk is only about 4% fat. Its high protein levels help us to feel full for longer and on-going research suggests it can help to maintain a healthy weight when part of a balanced diet.

 What about hormones in milk? In the UK, regulations prevent the addition of hormones to cows to enhance their milk production and milk from any cows receiving treatment, must be discarded. Natural hormones are present, just as they are in other plant and animal foods we eat.

 Dairy Farm Welfare – Milk for healthy calves and people: After thousands of years of domestication, cows produce a lot of milk! The milking process prevents life-threatening septicaemia from mastitis, a serious infection of an over-full udder. British Dairy Farmers also take great care to ensure that calves get the all-important first ‘colostrum milk’ from their mothers, before being bottle-fed.



 Fat – While current dietary guidelines recommend limiting our intake of saturated fats, increasing research is showing associations between whole fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet and lower rates of heart disease. (1, 2) Additionally whole milk is only about 4% fat & contains fat soluble Vitamin A, important in our ‘barrier’ immunity and a trace of Vitamin D (read more below) It’s important to note however that reduced fat dairy is indicated in those with Type 2 Diabetes.

 Calcium – We only absorb a maximum of 35% of the calcium from the food we eat. Lactose and casein in milk enhance calcium absorption, meaning that calcium is absorbed from milk better than any other food source.

 Protein – Essential for growth, strength and cell repair, the protein in milk, Casein, also helps us to feel full for longer. It contains all the amino acids we need to build different types of protein in our bodies.

 Lactose – The sugar in milk, lactose, is metabolised differently and therefore not classed as a ‘free sugar’. Free sugars are present in natural fruit juice, baking sugars and all syrups like agave and honey and can cause dental decay. Lactose is not linked with dental decay and maintains a steadier blood sugar level.

 Iodine – In the UK milk provides 45% of the daily iodine requirement for children. No other food is such a good source.  Public Health England are currently assessing our level of deficiency in the UK. Worldwide, Iodine deficiency is the most important cause of mental disease and reduced thyroid function is a worry too.

 Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – We can get 35% of our recommended daily intake from a glass of milk! It enables us to use the energy in our food, maintains healthy skin, enhances our absorption of iron from food and may protect against heart disease.


 Vitamin A – Being a fat soluble vitamin, ‘full fat’ (whole) milk is a great source. As well as being important for vision, Vitamin A has a key role in our ‘barrier’ immunity – the ability of our immune system to provide a barrier to infection at the membranes of our airways and gut.

 Vitamin B12 – Unlike other vitamins, B12 is absorbed via the stomach wall. The cells required to do this lose their ability to do so in older age or if on long term anti-inflammatories. B12 is essential to avoid anaemia and for nerve function.

 Vitamin D – we only get a trace of Vitamin D in our diet, our main source being from the action of sunlight on our skin. Whole milk contains a trace amount as Vitamin D is present in its fat. (Oily fish is still the best dietary source!) As well as maintaining healthy bones, Vitamin D supports a strong immune system too.

 Gut bacteria – Research is rapidly discovering their many roles essential for our good health. Fermented dairy products like yogurts and cheese contain beneficial bacteria; pasteurisation only removes the harmful ones. Kefir, a traditional fermented yogurt drink, has particularly high levels of these favourable bacteria and yeast. Read more about our microbiome, long term health and the immune system here



 Research shows children who drink more milk, maintain a healthy weight, thought to be associated with its protein and fat content giving lasting fullness.

Dentists favour milk over other soft drinks for children, due to the benefits of lactose over other sugars.

 The nutrients listed above, are crucial for healthy bones, immune system, teeth and growth. It’s no coincidence that in Scandinavia and The Netherlands where Dairy foods are popular and there is little milk intolerance, their average height is far taller!


 22% of girls have a daily calcium intake below the minimum recommended amount, yet bone density reaches its maximum by 18 years old (in girls and boys)

 20% of girls are deficient in Vitamin B2, yet crucially it increases iron absorption; high intakes of iron are needed at this age.

 27% of girls are deficient in iodine. Thyroid hormones require iodine to regulate the body’s metabolism, growth and energy levels. Good iodine stores are also crucial before pregnancy to ensure correct brain development of the unborn baby. Research in Bristol in 2012 showed iodine deficiency in mothers during pregnancy, to be associated with a reduced IQ in their 8 year old children*.

*ALSPAC Study, Bath et al, The Lancet 2013

DAIRY produce is a fabulous source of key nutrients essential to our health, when enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. As we all find ways to stay as healthy as we can through the challenges of Covid-19, including dairy in our diet is also a great way to benefit from nutrients required to support a strong immune system.



1. Dehgan. M., et al (2018) Association of dairy intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 21 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study The Lancet :392 p2288-2297

2. Ding. M., et al (2017) Dairy consumption, systolic blood pressure, and risk of hypertension: Mendelian randomization study BMJ: 356 j1000 | doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1000

3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey, UK, latest update 2018

Getting milk delivered to your doorstep is a great way to support British farmers and tastes better too!   You can read more about milk and other Dairy produce at the Dairy Council UK.

Consider milk cooperatives like Arla, farmer-owned and where possible growing their own cattle feed too. However you choose to source it, support Britain’s Dairy Industry and support your future health too! 

I’m passionate in guiding my clients towards practical, balanced and sustainable food choices within busy lives, to inspire best health. 

Previously a Vet, as a Registered Nutritionist (MSc) I provide nutrition advice to British food producers to improve health communications. I also love to share nutrition knowledge as tailored support for individuals and families,  through my unique events, as a visiting University lecturer and in schools too…

Please do get in touch – now more than ever I’m here to help!


07966 298 899
inform | inspire

 07966 298 899


inform | inspire

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