IMPORTANCE AND BENEFITS OF MILK & MILK PRODUCTS IN HEALTH CARE

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Dec 03 - 09, 2007

Pakistan is the fourth largest milk producing country in the world. The per capita consumption of milk in the country is not at the optimum level due to big gaps between supply and demand, rising prices and prevailing poverty.

About milk Quran ordains in the following words:

"We give you to drink of what is in their bellies ...milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink "

(Surat ul Nahl 16:66).

In the United States of America, milk especially cow's milk is so ubiquitous that it does not even need any description. Whether poured on breakfast cereal or enjoyed alone, this beverage has become a staple food in the American diet that it can be enjoyed year around.

Milk promotes bones by being a very good source of Vitamin D and Calcium and is also a good source of Vitamin K-three nutrients essential to bone health.

Advisably, children and adults should drink 24 oz of milk each day. Teens for their healthy growth should drink even more -even 32 oz of milk a day. Calcium in milk helps building up strong bones. Milk is also loaded with eight other essential vitamins and minerals, as explained below:-

CALCIUM: Calcium helps to build and maintain strong bones. It is equally vital for nerve function, muscle contraction and blood clothing.

PROTEIN: Protein is important for a number of bodily functions and is vital for brain health.

VITAMIN A: Vitamin A maintains normal vision and skin. It helps to regulate cell growth and integrate the immune system.

VITAMIN B-12: It is essential for the growth and health of the nervous system. It is linked to normal activity of folic acid and is involved in blood formation.

VITAMIN D: Vitamin D promotes the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorus and influences bone minerals for strengthening of bones.

POTASSIUM: Potassium regulates the body's fluid balance and blood pressure. It is also needed for muscle activity and contractions.

PHOSPHORUS: Phosphorus helps to generate energy in the body's cells and influences bone minerals -the strengthening of bones.

NIACIN: Niacin keeps enzymes functioning normally and helps the body to process sugars and fatty acids. It is also important for the development of the nervous system.

RIBOFLAVIN: Riboflavin helps to produce energy in the body's cells and plays a vital role in the development of the nervous system.

CARBOHYDRATES: These are meant for producing energy.

MAGNESIUM: It is necessary for muscle function.

ZINC: Zinc is useful for the immune system.

MILK FOR IMPROVING CHILDREN'S DIETS: Research indicates that drinking milk is associated with improved intakes of vitamins and minerals for the proper child's growth. A glass of milk helps to contribute adequate intake of Calcium in child-hoods and adolescence, which is important for the development of healthy bones. Optimizing bone mass in the childhood and adolescence .is responsible for reducing the risk of osteoporosis (a bone disease) in later life. It is equally useful for patients and ailing persons.

ROLE OF MILK IN DENTAL HEALTH: Consuming milk by children helps to avoid the over-consumption of soft drinks, resulting in reducing the risk of erosion and decay of teeth. Milk also provides fluid, which can even protect teeth from damage caused by sugary food. Milk proteins have been shown to help to protect teeth by forming a protective barrier on the enamel surface and the high levels of calcium and phosphate contained in milk help to prevent demineralization (or dissolving) of the tooth enamel when exposed to acidic substances like sugary foods and drinks including juices.

OBESITY: It is a false belief that children, who consume milk and dairy foods are likely to suffer from obesity. On the other hand, research has proven that children, consuming milk and its products, are likely to be slimmer than those, who do not. Milk is not a high fat product. Whole milk contains 4 percent fat, semi-skimmed milk contains 1.7 percent fat and skimmed milk 0.3 percent fat.

WHY SHOULD CHILDREN TAKE MILK:

- It is a thirst quencher and its intake keeps children properly hydrated.

- Milk builds strong bones. Milk provides with calcium needed for optimal bone health.

- As elaborated above, milk is good for dental health. Dentists recommend water or milk as the best drinks for safety of teeth in between meals.

- It also helps to tackle obesity. Drinking milk is associated with "leanness", while on the other hand sugary drinks are associated with excessive weight gain.

- Milk intake can help make up deficiency of vitamin A, magnesium and zinc, while children, who do not take milk suffer from deficiency.

- Children who include plenty of milk in their diet, generally have better nutrient intakes than those, who do not.

- Children, who do not drink milk in childhood, are not likely to consume it at a later stage of life. They may run the risk of poor bone and dental ailments.

An adequate provision of milk at young age can be key to influencing and maintaining future health.

- According to an update intake of milk every day has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension and colon cancer.

- Drinking milk may help to reduce the risk of kidney stones.

- As regards nutritive value of milk, cow's milk provides 67 kcl and buffalo's milk provides 117 kcl per 100 ml.

- Researchers have found that taking milk plays a large role in the prevention and management of serious gastro - intestinal conditions including inflammatory bowel diseases.

Benefits of some of the milk products:

- Eating yogurt every day is a healthy food for the body. It is not just a delicious snack with fruits on the bottom, it has great health benefits. When compared to milk, yogurt contains more calcium and potassium because of the added cultures in the yogurt. Cultures are composed of unique living micro-organisms, which are responsible for many of the healthy and nutritional benefits of yogurt.

- Cheese is a source of high quality protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. It makes a valuable contribution to the nutrient content of the diet. Cheeses are a good source of several minerals. It is the major delivery food for calcium and is also a source of sodium.

- Yogurt - cheese are more advisable than cream cheese.