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The Research: Benefits of A DAIRY-FREE DIET

Breathe Easier & Get the Bonus Benefits

Originally, the aim of this blog was to present scientific evidence supporting the benefits of following a dairy-free diet in improving breathing. However, extensive research on MedLine revealed links between dairy and other health issues like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

While this strays from our original focus, sharing this information is important. A detailed report by the Physicians Committee, a nonprofit with over 1 million members, summarizes these findings below.

The Benefits of a Clear Nasal Passage

Advantages include:  improved breathing with unobstructed airflow, heightened sense of smell, reduced nasal congestion, better sleep quality, proper air filtration for a healthier respiratory system, enhanced taste perception, efficient sinus drainage, reduced risk of ear infections, and overall comfort for daily activities.

Scientific Research — 1

The Physicians Committee – Fact Sheet Health Concerns About Dairy

Many Americans, including some vegetarians, still consume substantial amounts of dairy products. And government policies still promote these products, despite scientific evidence that questions their health benefits and indicates their potential health risks. Though dairy is marketed as an essential food for strong bones, there is more to the story. Some important things to consider include potential health problems like heart disease, certain cancers, digestive problems, and type 1 diabetes.

Bone Health

Calcium is an important mineral that helps to keep bones strong. Our bones are constantly remodeling, meaning the body takes small amounts of calcium from the bones and replaces it with new calcium. Therefore, it is essential to have enough of this mineral so the body doesn’t decrease bone density in this remodeling process. Though calcium is necessary for ensuring bone health, the actual benefits of consuming calcium diminish after a certain point. Research suggests that getting more than about 600 milligrams per day—easily achieved without dairy products or calcium supplements—does not make bones stronger.1 

In fact, research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. A 2005 review published in the journal Pediatrics showed that drinking milk does not improve bone strength in children.2 In a more recent study, researchers tracked the diets, exercise, and stress fracture rates of young girls for seven years and concluded that dairy products and calcium do not prevent stress fractures in adolescent girls.3 

Five to 15 minutes of midday sun exposure to the arms and legs, or the hands, face, and arms, can be enough to meet many people’s vitamin D needs.6 However, having darker skin, being older, living in the north, living in an urban area, and even going through a dark winter season can all make it hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun alone. Luckily, supplements are an easy way to get vitamin D. The U.S. government recommends that adults 19-50 years old get 600 international units (IU) per day and that adults 51 years and older get 800 IU per day. 

Lastly, exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis.11,12 Its benefits have been observed in studies of both children and adults.11,13,14

Fat Content and Heart Disease

Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet. Diets high in fat, and especially in saturated fat, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke and can cause other serious health problems.15,16

On the other hand, a low-fat, plant-based diet (which eliminates dairy products), in combination with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may even reverse it.17,18 


Consumption of dairy products has also been linked to higher risk for various cancers, especially to cancers of the reproductive system. Most significantly, consuming dairy has been linked to increased risk for prostate cancer.19-21 

The danger of dairy product consumption as it relates to prostate cancer is most likely linked to increases in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).22 Consuming milk and dairy products on a regular basis has been shown to increase blood levels of IGF-1 in humans.23 Studies in diverse populations have shown a strong and consistent link between IGF-1 in the blood and prostate cancer risk.24,25 One study showed that men with the highest levels of IGF-1 had more than four times the risk of prostate cancer, compared with those who had the lowest levels.26 In the Physicians Health Study, which tracked 21,660 participants for 28 years, researchers found an increased risk of prostate cancer for those who consumed more than 2.5 servings of dairy products per day as compared with those who had fewer than 0.5 servings a day.20 This study, which is supported by other findings, also shows that prostate cancer risk is higher with increased consumption of low-fat milk.21,27,28 That means that too much dairy calcium, and not just the fat in dairy products, could harm prostate health. 

A study of 1,893 women diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer revealed that eating more high-fat dairy products was linked to higher mortality (death) rates. As little as half a serving per day increased risk significantly. Since hormones are stored in fat, consuming high-fat, rather than low-fat, dairy products likely means women are consuming more estrogen.29 A second large study of 1,941 women found that women who consumed the highest amounts of cheddar, American, and cream cheeses had a 53% higher risk for breast cancer. 

The consumption of dairy products may also contribute to development of ovarian cancer. The relationship between dairy products and ovarian cancer may be due to the breakdown of the milk sugar (lactose) into galactose, a sugar which may be toxic to ovarian cells.30 Two studies, one conducted in Sweden and one conducted among African American women, showed that consuming lactose and dairy products was positively linked to ovarian cancer.31,32 The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who consumed more than one glass of milk per day had a 73% greater chance of developing ovarian cancer than women who drank less than one glass per day.33

Lastly, a large study published in the British Journal of Cancer identified 22,788 people who were lactose intolerant and found that those who avoided dairy (due to lactose intolerance) had a lower incidence of lung, breast, and ovarian cancers than their family members who did not avoid dairy. The researchers suggest that avoiding the saturated fat and extra hormones found in dairy products is protective against certain types of cancer.34

Lactose Intolerance

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 million to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant, including 95% of Asians, 60-80% of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80-100% of American Indians, and 50-80% of Hispanics.35 Symptoms, which include upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas, occur because these individuals lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the milk sugar, lactose. Nursing children make enzymes that break down lactose, but as we grow up, many of us lose this capacity.36 As a result, lactose is not absorbed, but remains in the intestine where it causes symptoms.

Milk Proteins and Diabetes

Insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes is linked to consumption of dairy products in infancy.43 A 2001 Finnish study of nearly 3,000 infants with genetically increased risk for developing diabetes showed that early introduction of cow’s milk increased susceptibility to type 1 diabetes.44 In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics observed up to a 30% reduction in the incidence of type 1 diabetes in infants who avoid exposure to cow’s milk protein for at least the first three months of their lives.45


Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can even be harmful to health. It’s best to consume a healthful diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, and lentils and replace cow’s milk with nondairy milks like almond, soy, or cashew milk. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your nutrient requirements with ease—and without the health risks associated with dairy products.

Scientific Research — 2

Portfolio Dietary Pattern and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Trials


Laura Chiavaroli, Stephanie K. Nishi, Tauseef A. Khan, Catherine R. Braunstein, Andrea J. Glenn, Sonia Blanco Mejia, Dario Rahelić, Hana Kahleová, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, David J.A. Jenkins, Cyril W.C. Kendall, John L. Sievenpiper, Portfolio Dietary Pattern and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Trials,
Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume 61, Issue 1, 2018


The evidence for the Portfolio dietary pattern, a plant-based dietary pattern that combines recognized cholesterol-lowering foods (nuts, plant protein, viscous fibre, plant sterols), has not been summarized.


To update the European Association for the Study of Diabetes clinical practice guidelines for nutrition therapy, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials using GRADE of the effect of the Portfolio dietary pattern on the primary therapeutic lipid target for cardiovascular disease prevention, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and other established cardiometabolic risk factors.


Current evidence demonstrates that the Portfolio dietary pattern leads to clinically meaningful improvements in LDL-C as well as other established cardiometabolic risk factors and estimated 10-year CHD risk.

Scientific Research — 3

Effect of a dairy diet on nasopharyngeal mucus secretion.


The Laryngoscope [Laryngoscope] 2019 Jan; Vol. 129 (1), pp. 13-17. Date of Electronic Publication: 2018 Sep 04.


To examine the effects of dairy versus nondairy diets on self-reported levels of nasopharyngeal mucus secretion. Study Design: Prospective, randomized, double-blinded controlled study.


In this blinded trial, a dairy-free diet was associated with a significant reduction in self-reported levels of nasopharyngeal secretions in adults who previously complained of persistent nasopharyngeal mucus hypersecretion.

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