Cholesterol in Milk – Good or Bad?

Cholesterol in Milk

The cholesterol in milk has been a point of hot debate. After all, milk is chock full of nutrients that the body needs, including those necessary to build healthy bones. In fact, sixteen that are vital to many physiological processes, some that are hard to find in products other than milk. Vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are all found in milk, and so are nutrients like niacin, riboflavin and folate as Dairygoodness.ca points out. But, that pesky cholesterol content continues to get milk into trouble, and those that do not have lactose intolerance are left to wonder whether or not their dairy drink may be contributing to elevated cholesterol numbers.

It is important to understand what precisely high cholesterol is before sending milk straight to the foodstuff gallows. High cholesterol refers to elevated amounts of lipids in the blood. It is caused by many factors including genetics, family history, and lifestyle factors like smoking and dietary intake. But the cholesterol in milk, just as it is in other foods, may have a different impact on cholesterol levels from person to person, as indicated by The Mayo Clinic which points out variances in each individual in terms of how much cholesterol consumed in food ultimately impacts lipid levels. This means that consumed cholesterol may have a dramatic effect on cholesterol levels in one person, yet be much less significant in another.

When we talk about the cholesterol in milk as it affects lipid levels, what we are really discussing is LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. The acronym LDL stands for low density lipoprotein, and it refers to the type that is responsible for arterial clogging and eventual blockages, according to WebMD. Over time, as the levels of LDL cholesterol build up in the blood, these blockages become more severe, leading to coronary disease and potentially, heart attacks and strokes.

So, is the cholesterol in milk substantial enough to cause rises in cholesterol levels? Well, like anything else, it is all about consumption and moderation. One single cup of whole milk contains just 24 milligrams of cholesterol, which may seem like a staggering number. However, for most people, one cup a day is about as much as they can expect to consume, so unless it is consumed in a large abundance, the cholesterol in milk hardly makes a dent in even the 200 milligram daily allowance afforded for those with high cholesterol by The American Heart Association.

The real problem with whole milk lays not necessarily in its cholesterol content, rather, the amount of saturated fat it contains. Studies have shown that saturated fat may have an even bigger impact on cholesterol levels than consumed cholesterol, and thus may negatively impact lipid levels in this way. LiveStrong.com explains this relationship, and points out that for a regular 2,000 calorie diet, a cup of whole milk can wipe out one third of the daily recommended allowance for saturated fat, while conversely skim milk, boasting a mere 5 milligram of cholesterol on its own, accounts for less than one percent of the daily allowance of saturated fat in one day. These facts merely cement the argument that the cholesterol in milk is really only part of the equation, and that choosing to consume milk be it the whole fat or skim version really depends on the collective cholesterol diet and what other types of food are being ingested, and where milk falls in that spectrum.

There are other ways to think about the body benefits that milk can provide in terms of cholesterol reduction. That is right – reduction! For starters, milk does contain niacin (although in small amounts), which has been proven to lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. Further, a new study indicates that a specific relative of the B3 vitamin may contribute to lower rates of obesity and weight gain, according to medicalnewstoday.com. Being overweight can be an important precursor to the development of high cholesterol in the first place, and it is possible that drinking milk can help contribute to healthier weights, although these studies are arguably preliminary.

For those still unsure as to the role that milk plays in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, better choices are those that are lower in fat like 2%, 1% and skim milk options. Not only are the levels of cholesterol in milk products like these lower, they also have far less saturated fat which not only contributes to better heart health but also an overall healthier lifestyle. Omitting milk entirely gives way to one of the answers to the question of how to lower cholesterol naturally – soy. Some people with high cholesterol choose soy milk instead of dairy for numerous reasons. Not only does it not contain the cholesterol that dairy milk does, but the relationship between soy milk and cholesterol goes deeper than that, with the beverage potentially being able to help reduce lipid levels as well as not contributing to their rise.

The cholesterol in milk has left it off the table for many who suffer from high levels of blood lipids. However, it is worth noting that milk contains important nutrients that are vital to many life processes and is normally considered part of a healthy diet. Whether or not it may negatively impact cholesterol levels may vary from person to person, however this also varies depending on the type of milk consumed and how dairy fits in to an overall effort to change dietary intake for the better to achieve enhanced overall health, without worrying about the impact each individual food may be having.