Monthly Archives: October 2020
This study showed that the more testosterone men received, the lower the chance of getting prostate cancer (Inverse relationship). This is good news for most aging men.
Association of the extent of therapy with prostate cancer in those receiving testosterone therapy in a US commercial insurance claims database
David S. LopezDanmeng HuangKonstantinos K. TsilidisMohit KheraStephen B. WilliamsRandall J. UrbanOrestis A. PanagiotouYong‐fang KuoJacques BaillargeonAlbert FariasTrudy Krause First published: 09 September 2019 https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.14093 Albert Farias and Trudy Krause contributed equally to this work.
David S. Lopez was supported by the National Institute of Aging at the National Institutes of Health, Grant 1P30AG059301‐01.PDFToolsShareGet access to the full version of this article.View access options below. Institutional Login
Conflicting evidence remains in the association of testosterone therapy (TTh) with prostate cancer (PCa). This inconsistency maybe due, in part, to the small sample sizes from previous studies and an incomplete assessment of comorbidities, particularly diabetes.
We investigated the association of PCa with TTh (injection or gel) and different TTh doses and determined whether this association varies by the presence of diabetes at baseline in a large, nationally representative, commercially insured cohort.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 189 491 men aged 40‐60 years old in the IBM MarketScan® Commercial Database, which included 1424 PCa cases diagnosed from 2011 to 2014. TTh was defined using CPT codes from inpatient and outpatient, and NDC codes from pharmacy claims. Multivariable adjusted Cox proportional hazards models were used to compute hazard ratios for patients with incident PCa.
We found a 33% reduced association of PCa after comparing the highest category (>12) of TTh injections with the lowest (1‐2 injections) category (HR = 0.67, 95% CI: 0.54‐0.82). Similar statistical significant inverse association for PCa was observed for men who received TTh topical gels (>330 vs 1‐ to 60‐days supply). Among nondiabetics, we found significant inverse association between TTh (injection and gel) and PCa, but a weak interaction between TTh injections and diabetes (P = .05).
Overall, increased use of TTh is inversely associated with PCa and this remained significant only among nondiabetics. These findings warrant further investigation in large randomized placebo‐controlled trials to infer any health benefit by TTh.
Why philosophers say solitude can be helpful (even if you didn’t choose it)
October 22, 2020 5.59am AEDT
- Matthew Sharpe Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University
Matthew Sharpe works at Deakin. He has in the past received ARC funding on the history of the idea of philosophy as a way of life.
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Over the past seven months, many of us have got closer to experiencing the kind of solitude long sought by monks, nuns, philosophers and misanthropes.
For some, this has brought loneliness. Nevertheless, like religions such as Buddhism, the West has a rich literature — both religious and secular — exploring the possible benefits of being alone.
“Take time and see the Lord is good,” Psalm 34 enjoins, in a biblical passage long read as a call to periodically withdraw from worldly occupations. The best form of life will be contemplative, the philosopher Aristotle concurs.
Solitude, according to the Renaissance poet-philosopher Petrarch,
rehabilitates the soul, corrects morals, renews affections, erases blemishes, purges faults, (and) reconciles God and man.
Here are four key benefits of solitude these very different, contemplative authors point to.
1. Freedom to do what you want — any old time
The first boon identified by those who praise solitude is the leisure and liberty it provides.
There is freedom in space. You can (proverbially) get around in your PJs, and who’s to know? There is the release from the needs and demands of others (a liberty many parents may have found themselves longing for recently). And there may be a freedom in time, also. In solitude, we may do, think, imagine and pay easy attention to whatever pleases us.
“When I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep,” the 16th century French philosopher Montaigne, a connoisseur of the quiet life, mused.
Yes, and when I walk alone in a beautiful orchard, if my thoughts drift to far-off matters for some part of the time, for some other part I lead them back again to the walk, the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, to myself.
2. Reconnecting with yourself
Solitude (unless of course we are working from home) withdraws the external objects, demands and tasks crowding our days. All the energies we have distributed so widely, in different relationships, projects and pursuits can regather themselves, “like a wave rolling from sand and shore back to its ocean source,” as psychologist Oliver Morgan has written.
Advocates of solitude hence stress how, with fewer preoccupations, we can reconnect to aspects of ourselves we usually don’t have time for. This may not always be pleasant. But periodically reassessing who we are, even when it throws up confronting desires, harrowing fears or humbling insights, may be renewing.
This value of solitude as a test explains why, in many cultures, rites of passage involve periods of enforced withdrawal from the wider group. If a person can’t be content in their own company, the odds are they will not be happy around others either, as the Stoic Epictetus observed.
3. Finding your ‘inner citadel’
Solitude can enable us to recharge. As Montaigne joked, it allows you to take a step back from ordinary life, the better to leap into it next time. It also enables us to cultivate a valuable inner distance from the pressures, shocks and follies that usually beset us.
“We should have wives, children, property and, above all, good health,” Montaigne observed. But also, metaphorically, “We should set aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop, keeping it entirely free and establishing there our true liberty, our principal solitude and asylum …”
The Roman emperor and thinker Marcus Aurelius called such a virtual back room an “inner citadel” to which the wise person could retreat, retiring into his own soul.
4. Seeing the bigger picture
In ordinary life, the horizons of our concern are practical and short-range. We are too busy to take stock — fearing and desiring what is coming up today, next week, next month or next year.
Ferried along in this way, years can pass without our noticing.
Solitude gives us the means to recall the bigger picture: our lives are quietly passing by; there are good people who we too often take for granted; we have neglected many things we deeply wanted to do and Nature or God (if we are religious) is far more awe inspiring than we usually credit.
Indeed, many sources suggest it is only through being alone that the highest truths become accessible to the seeker.
As the mystic St John of the Cross reported: “The very pure spirit does not bother about the regard of others or human respect, but communes inwardly with God, alone and in solitude as to all forms, and with delightful tranquillity, for the knowledge of God is received in divine silence”.
It is for these reasons that holy men and women from diverse global traditions have withdrawn into the desert, as Christ did, or onto isolated heights, as did Mohammad in the Quran or Moses in Exodus.
Of course, most of us will not emerge from the pandemic convinced solitaries. It is natural to long for the many goods of human connection.
But one unlikely benefit of 2020 for some harried moderns may be gaining insight into why older cultures valued time alone so highly.
Cancer Treat Res. 2018;173:53-72. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-70197-4_5.
Is DCIS Overrated?
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the noninvasive form of breast cancer (BC), comprises just over 20% of breast cancer cases diagnosed each year in the USA. Most patients are treated with local excision of the disease followed by whole breast radiation therapy. Total mastectomy is not an uncommon approach, and total mastectomy with a contralateral risk-reducing mastectomy has been on the rise in the past decade. In estrogen receptor-positive disease, patients are often offered endocrine ablative therapy with a selective estrogen receptor modulator or an aromatase inhibitor as both treatment and prevention. Local regional treatment options have no impact upon ultimate overall survival. Long-term survival rates are higher in patients with DCIS than with any other form of the disease. Are these strikingly high success rates a testament to effective treatment strategies or is there a significant subset of DCIS that was unlikely to ever progress to invasive ductal carcinoma?
DCIS was not seen in the US prior to the advent of screening mammography. When compared to other countries, the USA has the highest utilization of screening mammography and the incidence rate of DCIS. Other lines of evidence include autopsy series examining the breast tissue of women who died of other causes, missed-diagnosis series and current retrospective reviews of DCIS, all align in support of the concept of DCIS as indolent in the majority of cases [3-14].
The evidence suggests that both patient and physician misconceptions about DCIS have led to overdiagnosis and over-treatment of DCIS. Recently, a gene expression profiling tool (12 gene assay, Oncotype DCIS) has emerged that shows considerable promise in predicting class in DCIS patients.
I have great concerns about Aspartame (Nutrasweet, and goes by other names as well) and avoid it completely. I advise you to do the same. It may be involved in causing autoimmune problems, and be the cause of the large increase in these problems over the last few years.
Has safety commission misled the public about aspartame?
Published Wednesday 24 July 2019 By Maria CohutFact checked by Isabel Godfrey Researchers from the United Kingdom have appraised the most recent assessment by the European Food Safety Authority regarding the safety of aspartame, a popular type of artificial sweetener. The investigators caution that the commission’s findings may be misleading.
Is aspartame really as safe as official reports claim? Some researchers are unsure.
Aspartame is perhaps the most common artificial sweetener. It is an ingredient in diet soft drinks and sugar free candy, and many people use it as a sugar substitute for sweetening hot drinks.
Often, it is the go-to option for people with prediabetes or diabetes, but for years, it has also been at the center of numerous debates.
Researchers have been going back and forth, discussing whether — and to what extent — this additive is actually safe for health.
In the United States, aspartame is one of the six “high intensity sweeteners” that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved for use as food additives.
In countries belonging to the European Union, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have confirmed aspartame to be a safe sugar substitute.
Following their first full risk assessment of aspartame in 2013, the EFSA concluded that “aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for general population (including infants, children, and pregnant women).”
The EFSA also advise that the acceptable daily dose of this sweetener is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
However, a recent appraisal of the EFSA’s 2013 risk assessment report suggests that aspartame may not be nearly as safe as the EU agency concluded. After weighing up the evidence that the EFSA considered, researchers from the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom, found that existing studies do not support the regular use of aspartame as a sugar substitute.
Paper casts doubts on official report
In their paper, which appears in the Archives of Public Health, Prof. Erik Millstone and Elisabeth Dawson, Ph.D., evaluated the EFSA’s analysis of the specialist literature assessing the safety of aspartame.
After looking at each of the 154 studies that EFSA had assessed, Dawson and Prof. Millstone concluded that the EU agency’s assessment was misleading.
They note that the EFSA panel considered the 73 studies that found that aspartame is potentially harmful to health to be unconvincing. Yet, looking at other evaluations of these studies, the University of Sussex researchers argue that many of those studies were more reliable than some of the research indicating that aspartame was safe.
Moreover, the two investigators express concern that the EFSA panel appeared to set a very low standard for studies that did not indicate any adverse effects of aspartame. The EFSA, note Dawson and Prof. Millstone, even included the results of research that other experts had labeled as “worthless” and “woefully inadequate.”
In their paper, the two authors also refer to the existence of “puzzling anomalies” in the EFSA report, claiming that it makes “inconsistent and unacknowledged assumptions.” Low-calorie sweeteners may promote metabolic syndromeAccording to recent research, some sweeteners could actually harm metabolic health.Read now
“Our analysis of the evidence shows that, if the benchmarks the panel used to evaluate the results of reassuring studies had been consistently used to evaluate the results of studies that provided evidence that aspartame may be unsafe, then they would have been obliged to conclude there was sufficient evidence to indicate aspartame is not acceptably safe,” says Prof. Millstone.
“This research,” he continues, “adds weight to the argument that authorization to sell or use aspartame should be suspended throughout the EU, including in the U.K., pending a thorough reexamination of all the evidence by a reconvened EFSA that is able to satisfy critics and the public that they operate in a fully transparent and accountable manner, applying a fair and consistent approach to evaluation and decision making.”powered by Rubicon Project
Are there conflicts of interest at play?
In 2011, Prof. Millstone submitted a 30 document dossier to EFSA. In it, he explained why he thought that 15 previous studies on aspartame were, in fact, inadequate in their methodology.
However, the EU agency did not forward this dossier to the panel in charge of evaluating the existing specialist literature on aspartame for their consideration. As a result, the researcher now questions the credibility of the EFSA’s findings, suggesting that their proceedings lacked transparency.
“In my opinion, based on this research, the question of whether commercial conflicts of interest may have affected the panel’s report can never be adequately ruled out because all meetings all took place behind closed doors.”
Prof. Erik Millstone
Other researchers, who did not contribute to Prof. Millstone and Dawson’s paper, also cast doubts on the widespread assumption that aspartame is a safe alternative to sugar.
Prof. Tim Lang, from City, University of London, calls the recent paper “both important and timely,” noting that “[t]he global health advice is to reduce sugar intake, yet much of the food industry — especially soft drinks — maintains the sweetness by substituting artificial sweeteners.”
“Millstone and Dawson help expose that strategy for what it is, a continued sweetening of the world’s diet,” he asserts.
Chocolate in all its forms is something that I, along with many others like to indulge in on an almost daily basis. But chocolate as it’s enjoyed today is quite different from when it first arrived in Europe from South America around the 16th century.
To the indigenous Aztec people, cocoa was consumed as a drink and held great cultural and medicinal significance. It was almost viewed as a panacea that could cure various ailments, including fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, angina and tooth decay.
The Aztec belief that cocoa was a divine elixir was probably due to the notion that it was a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind and wisdom. Perhaps this is why Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus named the plant Theobroma cacao, from the ancient Greek words “theos” meaning god and “broma” meaning food – “food of the gods”.
It’s more likely though that the reason for any potential benefits is due to the high concentration of polyphenols found in natural cocoa – known as cocoa flavanols. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds in fruit and vegetables that protect the body from free radicals, which in excess have been linked to various diseases. So while cocoa may not be the cure-all it was once believed to be, research shows it’s more than just a guilty pleasure.
A rich past
The person thought to be responsible for beginning the integration of cocoa into Europe was Hernan Cortes, a Spanish conquistador (soldier and explorer) following his return from the “New World”.
In 1518, Cortes and his men arrived in what is now Mexico and headed towards the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. During their time in Mexico, the Spaniards tasted a bitter drink known as “chikolatl”. The drink contained roasted cocoa beans that were crushed, then boiled in water with spices and chilli.
The first exposure to the drink was not a favourable experience for the Spaniards – deeming it too bitter and almost unpalatable. But having seen Montezuma II, king of the Aztecs, consume the drink around 50 times a day, Cortes was interested in the potential of cocoa and sought to bring it back to Spain following his conquest.
Once in Europe cocoa beans were crushed and mixed with honey and sugar, becoming a popular drink among the elite. Eventually, in the 19th century, the first chocolate bar was made by Joseph Fry and Sons, creating what we know as chocolate today.
From bean to bar
While cocoa beans in their natural form contain a high amount of antioxidant compounds, the processes involved in turning beans into a bar reduces the cocoa flavanol content, lowering the antioxidant properties of the cocoa.
Indeed, research shows that natural cocoa powder contains almost ten times more flavanols than cocoa that has been through this process.
As for chocolate bars, dark chocolate almost always contains a higher concentration of flavanols than milk chocolate. For example, a 25g serving of high percentage (more than 75%) dark chocolate can contain more than 80mg cocoa flavanols compared with around 10mg or lower per 25g for a milk chocolate bar.
Research has found that dark chocolate and cocoa products containing at least 200mg of cocoa flavanols can improve blood vessels elasticity, which helps with blood flow. And regularly consuming cocoa flavanols – even doses of 80mg a day – improves blood vessels’ ability to dilate or expand, which helps the body regulate blood pressure and blood flow to organs.
This is thought to be because cocoa flavanols increase the concentration of bioactive nitric oxide. This is a molecule involved in the widening of blood vessels that also has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces the formation of blood clots, all of which can have beneficial effects on blood pressure.
Alongside cardiovascular and cognitive benefits, cocoa flavanols may also help improve muscle recovery following strenuous exercise, thanks to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. A recent study found that a single high dose of 1245mg cocoa flavanols (15g of a high flavanol cocoa powder) slightly improved muscle recovery.
So next time you are in the mood for some chocolate, perhaps select a high percentage dark variety or a natural cocoa powder for any potential health benefits.
I discussed how the Estriol in Biest, the oestrogen most of my menopausal patients receive, has major benefits to women, yesterday in my blog. Here is some other interesting research into the anticancer properties of Estriol. The biochemistry is very technical, so read the last paragraph to get the gist of the study.
Mol Endocrinol. 1997 Nov;11(12):1868-78.
Molecular and kinetic basis for the mixed agonist/antagonist activity of estriol.
1Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Estriol acts as a weak estrogen when administered in a single dose into immature or ovariectomized laboratory animals, but produces full estrogenic responses upon chronic administration. However, when estriol is injected together with estradiol it acts as an antiestrogen. We studied the dual agonist/antagonist properties of estriol, using recombinant human estrogen receptor (hER) in ligand-binding assay, cell-free transcription assay, electrophoretic mobility shift assay with cVitII estrogen response element (ERE), and ERE-Sepharose chromatography. We show that the weak estrogenic activity of estriol results from impaired hER-ERE interaction. The antiestrogenic activity of estriol was demonstrated in a cell-free transcription assay where it reduced estradiol-dependent transcription in a dose-dependent manner. Estriol interfered with estradiol-induced positive cooperative binding and receptor dimerization, and binding of hER complexes to ERE. These effects of estriol were maximal at a 10-fold molar excess over estradiol; under these conditions estradiol-dependent transcription was decreased by 85%, although [3H]estradiol binding was reduced by only 50%. We propose that when hER, estradiol, and estriol are coequilibrated, several receptor species are formed: unliganded hER monomers and dimers; estradiol-hER monomers and dimers, estriol-hER monomers and dimers; and presumably mixed estradiol-estriol dimers. Since estrogen-hER complexes bind cooperatively to ERE sequences, the concentrations of transcriptionally active complexes (estriol- and estradiol-hER dimers) are reduced to low levels that fail to bind cooperatively with ERE and initiate transcription.
We discuss our results in relation to the massive estriol production during pregnancy and to the “Estriol Hypothesis” on the protective role for estriol in opposing carcinogenic effects of estradiol.
I have previously mentioned that Estriol is between 70-80% of the oestrogen in Biest. The rest is Oestradiol. Here is more research showing the benefits of Estriol for menopausal women, and another reason why Biest is so much safer and better for women than the other standard hormones women receive.
Estriol: emerging clinical benefits
Menopause. 2017 Sep;24(9):1081-1085. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000855
- PMID: 28375935
- DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000855
Objective: Estriol is the main estrogen in pregnancy, but has received less attention outside gestation. It is well known that pregnancy has an immunosuppressive effect on many autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, thyroiditis, uveitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Emerging evidence indicates that estriol has potential immunomodulatory benefits for many disease states including autoimmune, inflammatory, and neurodegenerative conditions. In this review, we discuss emerging roles for estriol in the treatment of menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer, hyperlipidemia, vascular disease, and multiple sclerosis. Estriol appears to offer a potentially cost-effective approach to a variety of conditions and may offer a wide range of health benefits.
Methods: We reviewed the English language MEDLINE literature with estriol in the title with emphasis on publications including nonpregnant females between January 1974 and August 2016. Approximately 393 such articles were considered and 72 articles have been referenced in this review.
Results: Estriol offers considerable benefits for postmenopausal women with reduced risks that are normally associated with traditional hormone therapies. These benefits include improved control of menopausal symptoms and better urogenital health. Moreover, the immunomodulatory role of estriol in reducing proinflammatory cytokines may be an important new therapeutic option for chronic autoimmune and neurodegenerative illnesses. Since it is a relatively weak estrogen, there is potential for use in men for conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
Conclusions: We conclude transvaginal estriol potentially offers a suitable physiologic delivery and cost-effective alternative to currently available estrogen regimens in selected patients. Additional studies on mode of delivery, safety, and efficacy merit further investigation.
While many of us may remember skipping as something we did as children, the pastime has regained popularity during the pandemic as a way of keeping fit.
Not only is jumping rope a fun, affordable and portable form of exercise, it also has many benefits for our health and fitness. Here are just a few reason why jumping rope is such a good form of exercise:
1. It improves cardiovascular fitness
Jumping rope has long been used by boxers as a form of training to help improve their footwork and general conditioning.
Jumping rope will cause an increase in heart rate and breathing similar to if you went jogging. If you were to do ten minutes of jump rope everyday, you would create adaptations to your body that are beneficial to cardiovascular health, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing resting heart rate.
Jumping rope will also increase your cardiorespiratory fitness which essentially means your body becomes more efficient at taking up and using oxygen.
Research has shown that cardiorespiratory fitness is linked to improved health and longevity. Improved cardiorespriatory fitness has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation in the body and lower chances of developing diabetes and many other chronic disease.
2. It’s a full body workout
Skipping is a full body workout which uses your abdominal muscles to stabilise the body, your legs for jumping, and your shoulders and arms for turning the rope. It therefore provides an all over workout rather than just isolating one portion of the body.
3. It improves coordination and motor skills
Skipping involves coordination to time your jump with the rope. Research has shown that it improves coordination, balance and basic movement skills in children. These are important fitness components for later in life as they reduce our chances of trips and falls.
There are so many different exercises you can do with the rope and each one requires different coordination to complete the exercise. This may help exercise your brain as well.
4. It increases bone mineral density
Jumping rope involves making impact with the ground with every jump. These impacts cause our bones to remodel themselves to become stronger, thus increasing bone density. Bone density can be a benefit later on in life, when it naturally begins to decrease.
Research has shown that jumping rope increases bone mineral density. Higher bone mineral density makes you less likely to break a bone or develop osteoporosis as you get older. Hip fractures are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in older people, leading to loss of independence and a huge economic burden. Improving bone density and balance throughout your life reduces the chances of trips and falls later on.
5. It increases speed
Because jumping rope requires fast movement of the feet and arms, it’s considered a plyometric exercise. This is where the muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power.
Plyometric exercise is used in the sporting world to increase an athlete’s speed. A lot of exercises, such as jogging, only improve cardiovascular health – whereas jumping rope has the added benefit of improving speed as well. Daily jump rope practice may help you run quicker than before.
6. Time efficient
Jumping rope offers many health benefits that may be achieved in a short period of time. Because it’s a full body exercise that requires speed and coordination, you could argue that it’s a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT exercise is where you have short bouts of high intensity efforts followed by a short rest intervals. This is repeated several times. HIIT has been shown to produce higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness in comparison to traditional endurance training.
It’s also more time efficient, as you can perform exercise over a shorter period. This is why HIIT training has become the most popular workout worldwide.
Jumping rope is easily adaptable, and can be a high-intensity workout depending on the effort and power a person puts into their training.
One of the most important points we need to consider to help us change our exercise habits is that what we do needs to be enjoyable to us. One of the biggest barriers for people when it comes to sticking with exercise is enjoyment. And research shows enjoying exercise is critical for helping us change our exercise habits and continue exercising.
The great thing about skipping is that there are so many different ways you can jump, and hop over the rope. You can create a varied workout which helps maintain your enjoyment.
However, it’s worth noting that skipping can put a lot of force on our lower limbs when we land. Though this improves our bone mineral density, it can lead to lower-body injury, especially if we’re not used to this force. But different jumping styles can be used to help ease force and reduce chance of injury. As with all types of exercise, it’s good to build up duration gradually. This will help minimise injury.
Overall, jumping rope could be a very beneficial form of exercise. Not only does it improve many important aspects of our health – including cardiovascular health, and improving bone density – but it’s also affordable, portable and doesn’t require much space
A trip to the supermarket presents shoppers with an overwhelming number of milk choices. And far from just being the domain of the modern hipster, plant-based milk alternatives are going mainstream.
These alternatives may be suitable for people who are intolerant to dairy milk, or have ethical or other personal preferences. They tend to be lower in saturated fats and energy than dairy milk, but also lower in protein (except soy) and calcium (unless fortified). Some are also high in added sugars.
As to which milk is best, there’s no simple answer. Dairy milk tends to come out on top for nutrient quality, though soy is a good substitute from a nutrition perspective. And it should be noted these alternatives aren’t technically milks, as they’re not derived from mammals.
Nevertheless, the nutritional quality of the different alternatives varies considerably, so it’s important to take note of these differences when making a selection.
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Milk provides us with important nutrients including calcium, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (B2), zinc, phosphorus and iodine. The quantity and quality of cow’s milk proteins is high, with both whey and casein containing all nine essential amino acids. Milk plays an important role in bone health and is a particularly rich source of dietary calcium.
Research investigating the ability of the body to absorb and utilise calcium determined the best-absorbed calcium source is dairy milk and its derivatives.
Although dairy foods do contain some saturated fats, the fat in dairy doesn’t seem to be overly problematic for heart health. A large study featuring people from 21 countries, published in 2018, found dairy consumption was associated with lower risk of heart disease and death.
Although dairy milk has a high nutritional value, there’s no reason why people need to drink it if they choose not to. All of the nutrients in milk can be obtained elsewhere in the diet.
If you’re seeking a dairy-free alternative, then soy is a good choice (though some people may be intolerant to soy). It’s made from ground soy beans or soy protein powder, water and vegetable oils and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals including calcium.
A 2017 study found soy fared considerably better than other milk alternatives including almond, rice and coconut varieties in terms of nutritional profile.
Available in full-fat and low-fat versions, soy is a good source of plant protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins and most are fortified with calcium making it nutritionally comparable to dairy milk. The ability of the body to absorb and utilise the added calcium in soy drink is approaching that of dairy milk. One study indicated calcium from fortified soy drink was absorbed at 75% the efficiency of calcium from dairy milk, though there appears to be limited data on this.
It typically contains more protein than other plant-based alternatives, and contains healthy unsaturated fats and fibre.
It also contains compounds called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are natural plant compounds that imitate the body’s own natural oestrogen but to a lesser extent. There was initially some speculation based on earlier animal studies about potential adverse effects of phytoestrogens on the risk of breast cancer and hyperthyroidism. However, studies conducted in humans don’t support this.
Conversely, there is some evidence to suggest they may have a protective effect against some cancers. A review study from 2019 found soy consumption is more beneficial than harmful. In a position statement on soy, phytoestrogens and cancer prevention, the Cancer Council of Australia supports the consumption of soy foods in the diet but doesn’t recommend high dose phytoestrogen supplementation, especially for women with existing breast cancer.
Nut drinks such as almond consist mainly of ground nuts and water. Despite almonds being a good plant source of protein, almond drink is significantly lower in protein and calcium than dairy milk. Consumers should take care with almond drink to ensure essential nutrients are met elsewhere in the diet.
In a 2017 survey of widely available commercial almond milks, consumer group Choice found almond drink contained only 2-14% almonds, with water being the predominant ingredient. It tends to be low in energy and saturated fat and contains some healthy unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, manganese, zinc and potassium.
Almond drink often contains added sugars. Terms to keep an eye on include those indicating added sugars, such as organic rice syrup, agave syrup, organic evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, or organic corn maltodextrin. It’s best to look for unsweetened varieties if you can.
Almond drink may be suitable for people who are intolerant to both dairy milk and soy, but isn’t suitable for those with nut allergies.
If you’re using almond milk as an alternative to dairy milk and wanting similar nutritional benefits, look for one that’s fortified with calcium aiming for as close to 115-120mg per 100mL (similar to dairy milk) as possible.
Oat milk is made by blending oats and water and straining off the liquid. It’s a source of fibre, vitamin E, folate and riboflavin. It’s low in fat and is naturally sweet, containing double the carbohydrates of cow’s milk, so it may not be suitable for people with diabetes.
It tends to be low in both protein and calcium, so look for a fortified brand. It’s not suitable for people with a gluten intolerance, nor is it a nutritionally adequate substitute for young children.
Coconut milk is low in protein and carbohydrates, and high in saturated fat. Some brands have added sugars. Similar to nut drinks, it doesn’t naturally contain calcium and isn’t a suitable substitute for dairy milk nutritionally.
Rice drink is produced from milled rice and water. It’s naturally high in carbohydrate and sugars, and has a high glycaemic index meaning the glucose is quickly released into the blood which may mean it’s not suitable for people with diabetes. It’s also particularly low in protein and needs to be calcium fortified.
Rice is the least likely to trigger allergies of all of the milk alternatives. However, it’s not a suitable milk substitute, particularly for children, due to its low nutrient quality.
Ultimately, when deciding which plant-based alternative to drink, you should choose fortified and preferably unsweetened varieties. Also, look for those with a calcium content as close to 115-120mg per 100ml (or 300mg per cup) as possible, as this is similar to dairy milk.
Your choice should also take into account your overall diet and nutrient requirements. This is especially important for children, adolescents, older adults and those following a restricted diet. Finally, factors such as flavour, taste, texture and mouth feel are all important considerations.