Milk and dairy products
Dairy products constitute an important group of foods, as Tables 16.1 and 16.2 (p. 237 and 238) show. Like all foods, dairy products contain a mixture of nutrients. Milk is the sole food of young, growing calves, so contains most of the nutrients needed by all animals, including humans in generally similar proportions. However, cows’ milk is for calves, not humans, and does contain more sodium (salt) than is safe for humans, and a greater proportion of saturated fatty acids than is safe if large amounts are consumed. It also contains more protein and a different profile of proteins to human milk. Although traditionally dairy products have played an important role in the British diet, their reputation has suffered recently on account of doubts expressed about the quantity and nature of fats in the diet. The animal fats and cholesterol present in dairy products have both been linked with modern ‘diseases of affluence’. On the other hand, the high calcium content of milk and dairy products may help prevent osteoporosis – a scourge of the ‘civilized’ elderly.