The U.K. government is facing calls to from doctors and other health professionals to ditch free dairy milk in schools.
Around £7 million of taxpayers' money is spent on providing all school children in the U.K. aged five and under access to free cow’s milk, as well as children aged five to 18 who receive free school meals.
Ditch the dairy
But according to Plant Based Health Professionals U.K., there is no evidence that dairy promotes bone health, and it is in fact linked to increased risk of asthma, eczema, and even some cancers.
In addition, dairy excludes communities of colour from benefiting from free nutrition – more than 70 percent of people from BAME communities are lactose intolerant.
Now Plant Based Health Professionals U.K. has partnered global initiative World Plant Milk Day (WPMD), which takes place annually on August 22, to urge the government to offer children plant-based milk instead, as well as other foods scientifically found to be healthful, such as plant milks, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses.
"Dairy should not be an essential part of school nutrition," said Dr. Shireen Kassam, a consultant hematologist and founder of Plant Based Health Professionals U.K.
"It is a defunct food product that is not only unnecessary for health, but which also leads to environmental destruction, with the world’s 13 largest dairy companies producing the same greenhouse gas emissions as the entire U.K."
She added: "While dairy milk does contain calcium, dairy consumption is not required for bone health, as supported by clinical studies. A highlights how countries with the highest intakes of dairy products – including the U.K., U.S. and the E.U. – tend to have the highest rates of hip fractures, while low dairy consumption is associated with a reduced rate of hip fracture.
"In addition, dairy consumption is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer in men – which is most prevalent in African Americans – and possibly endometrial cancer in women, as well as causing digestive issues and other ailments for people who are lactose intolerant."
Health benefits of plant-based
Dr. Kassam believes that in the case of free school milk programs, plant milks should be offered routinely, as they offer a wide range of health benefits, 'including equivalent amounts of calcium and protein to cow’s milk and even fiber, without excluding ethnic minorities'.
"Soy milk consumption, for example, offers similar or higher levels of protein than cow’s milk, is fortified with calcium and other important vitamins and minerals," she said.
"Studies of dietary patterns suggests that the regular consumption of soy foods, in particular, is likely to be beneficial for bone health as part of a predominately plant-based diet, especially those which include the consumption of fortified milks as well as alternative dietary sources of calcium such as kale, broccoli, tofu, nuts, and beans.
"Predominately plant-based diets without the consumption of dairy have also been shown to provide numerous other benefits, including improved heart health and reduced cancer risk."
World Plant Milk Day is calling on people to sign its 7-day dairy-free challenge. Already ditched dairy? Nominate your friends and family to take part. Find out more here