As the winter cold and flu season tightens its grip, the National Asthma Council Australia is concerned that Australians may be incorrectly pointing the finger at milk as the mucus-causing culprit.
"This is a dangerous myth that dates back to the 12th century and it shouldn’t be used as the basis for dietary decisions," warned National Asthma Council Australia Director, Dr Janet Rimmer, a respiratory physician and allergist.
According to a comprehensive 2004 scientific review in the Journal of American College Nutrition, there is no evidence that dairy products are associated with nose symptoms, cough or congestion and dairy does not exacerbate the symptoms of asthma.
In fact, according to Dr Rimmer, the opposite may be true.
"There have been studies, both in Australia and overseas, that suggest that if you have a regular intake of dairy in childhood, you are less like to develop asthma," Dr Rimmer said.
"But, despite the facts, there are still some people who remove dairy from their diet – or their children’s diet – based on an old wives’ tale.
"Instead of boosting their health, these people are missing out on many other critical nutrients such as protein, calcium, riboflavin and zinc."
Dr Rimmer puts the milk/mucus misconception down to the mouth-feel associated with milk.
"What tends to happen is that people confuse the coating that milk can leave on the back of the throat with mucus, but there is no evidence that milk increases mucus or narrows the airways," she said.
More likely culprits at this time of the year are viral infections and the common cold. Other asthma triggers include dust mites, pollens, mould and tobacco smoke.
According to the National Asthma Council Australia, people with asthma can continue to enjoy dairy foods this winter, without worrying about the impact on their asthma.
(Source: National Asthma Council Australia: July 2009)