The truth behind flavored, "100% pure cow's milk"

I am sure most of you who read this are aware of how supermarkets lure their customers by making them purchase more than what they need with the way they have designed their aisles. You get to walk past the shelves loaded with chocolates, cookies, chips and other items on 'sale' to reach for that bottle of milk and a carton of eggs. When it is hard for yourselves to resist the temptations, how do we get our toddlers do the same? Ever since our son started eating chocolates, we carefully avoid walking past the confectionary section in order not to give in to his 'pester power'. However, it is not all that easy when you finally reach for that bottle of milk. After taking so much effort in carefully planning your steps through the supermarket, you have no way out when your child points out at the flavoured milk attractively placed next to the essential-fresh milk. It is not just the flavoured milk, but also packs of custards, puddings and flavoured yogurts blended with unusual chemicals and sugar which grabs your child's attention and since it is placed along with milk, we naturally get to think it is better and healthier. Is it really so?

Most of the school going children carry these little bottles or tetra packs to schools every day in their lunch boxes. I even saw a young mother filling her baby's bottle with the flavoured milk at the masjid and it is not an uncommon sight in this part of the world.

But, have we ever tried to look into the ingredients before we buy them? As a confession, I do give in to my son's demands and buy him flavoured milk once in awhile, but I make sure I only give him the ones that have full fat and totally avoid any low fat dairy (again, another post on low fat dairy for a later day, insha Allah). When my son came home with a little bottle of mango flavoured Almarai milk when he went to the supermarket with his father, I just had a glance over the label and was shocked to see carrageenan as one of them. It struck me that carrageenan is absolutely bad for your health and it gives inflammation to your intestine and may even cause tumours. I got me curious and found many disturbing studies and articles about this common food additive, and I thought it must share about it with my readers.

Carrageenan is made out of edible seaweed extract and it is very commonly added to the food products like flavoured milk, yogurt, custards to artificially give it a thick texture. So, I happened to find that the flavoured milk was actually made from low fat, skimmed milk and these nasty substances like carrageenan, xantham gum and guar gum were added to enhance its taste and thickness. According to the research publication by on carrageenan, the health effects of the substance can be summarized as follows:

"The unique chemical structure of carrageenan triggers an innate immune response in the body, which recognizes it as a dangerous invader. This immune response leads to inflammation. For individuals who consume carrageenan on a regular or daily basis, the inflammation will be prolonged and constant, which is a serious health concern since prolonged inflammation is a precursor to more serious disease. In fact, the medical community has long recognized that inflammation is associated with over 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. Inflammation is also linked to cancer."

Imagine giving this flavoured milk to your baby in a feeding bottle! Even one or two such bottles a week at such a young age may cause enough harm for its health. It is high time we develop the habit of reading the labels before we buy anything from the supermarkets and give them to our children. While buying dairy products, stick to the ones from the local farms but when it is not possible, as it is in my case, try to avoid imported ones to the extent possible. I like Al Rawabi and Al Ain milk products mostly and this is what I found: I don't suggest them either, but it is slightly a better option when you have to give in to your toddler's demands at times. But make sure you don't make it a habit.



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