How many times have you had someone tell you to avoid drinking milk or consuming other dairy products when you’ve got a cold? It’s one of those bits of conventional wisdom that everyone seems to know, but how accurate is it?
For centuries, milk has been blamed for increased mucus production – and in turn a range of other conditions like asthma and snoring.
But while many people swear milk produces mucus, the effect can’t be explained by science, says allergy specialist Dr Ray Mullins.
A 2005 review of studies concluded that there was no link between milk consumption and mucus production or asthma. In one study, participants infected with the common cold virus reported symptoms of increased in mucus production after drinking milk, but when their mucus production was actually measured there was no statistical difference. In another study, there was no difference in the sensation experienced between drinking soy milk and cow’s milk.
This doesn’t mean people don’t experience the sensation, says Mullins, but rather that there is no actual increase in mucus production.
I have to admit that I’ve had mixed experiences over the years with regards to this phenomena. I have ignored the advice and consumed dairy products while I had a cold to no noticeable effect on how stuffed my head was, but I also find that if I consume a glass of milk immediately prior to going to bed — even when I’m not ill — I’ll often wake up with a clogged nose. Not always, but often enough to draw a correlation. Of course correlation is not causation, but it’s happened often enough that I avoid drinking milk if I’m about to go to bed.
What’s even more interesting than the article itself, however, are the bevy of comments left by vegetarians and creationists who aren’t happy with the statements made in the article itself. A small sample:
Lindsay: As a vegan I am sick and tired of *doctors* proclaiming that it is a bad idea to not consume dairy products because it is unhealthy. That is a complete lie.
BGM: As a practicing veterinarian I do not know of any species other than Man which consumes milk past weaning. On a personal note, many of the skin, bowel and weight issues I experienced resolved when I switched to soy milk and avoided all daily. No way did early man evolve needing dairy products.
Alisha: man did not evolve anyways, but no. I have Bronchitis and I haven’t found it to be worse because I have been drinking milk.
It’s always enlightening to read the comments on a science article. Well, perhaps “enlightening” isn’t quite the word. Entertaining. Yes, that’s a better word.