Is drinking milk bad for health?

I grew up believing that drinking milk twice or three times per day is crucial for healthy growth and development. But now, some people say it could be bad for children. Please advise.— Usha Madhavan, Chennai

Drinking milk is commonly regarded as a healthy food habit. Milk is a good source of nutrition and calcium and protects against some lifestyle diseases.

However, according to the WHO-recommended ‘food pyramid’ and ‘food plate’, milk and milk products should be restricted to two-three servings per day. Infants below three years fed excess milk are at risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia. If children don’t like milk, don’t force-feed them — try yogurt or paneer. Moreover some recent studies have linked excessive milk/diary products consumption to cholesterol, acne and weight gain.

I usually prefer natural methods of disease prevention and treatment instead of allopathy. Is there a natural option to deworm my eight and nine-year-old children? How frequently should we deworm them?— Annie Kurien, Kochi

It is a common myth that you need to deworm children once in 6-12 months. Some early studies suggested that in large communities with variable levels of hygiene regulation, children were prone to worm infestations and consequential anaemia, weight loss and poor scholastic performance. Consequently they needed to be dewormed regularly. Thus, it may be beneficial to regularly deworm children living in hostels or large communities.

For children living in nuclear as well as joint families, it may be better to focus on encouraging good hygiene practices such as washing one’s hands before meals and after playing in the sand or with pets, and trimming nails regularly. If there is a specific suspicion of worm infestation, it can be treated. Allopathic medicine has highly evolved drugs to treat worm infestation. I recommend you use them, if required.

My 14-year-old teenage daughter has facial hair on her upper lip. She wants to bleach (Fem cream) her face but I believe she is too young for it. Is it advisable to allow her to use bleach creams? — Aishwarya Sudish, Mumbai

It is common and normal for adolescents to be hyper-conscious about their physical appeal and want to look attractive. As parents we need to underplay their physical flaws and accept them by appreciating and building on their strengths, confidence, and skills.

On the other hand, we also need to help them deal with acne, facial hair, etc. Bleaching, although practised commonly, has potential hazards. I suggest you explore homemade bleach products. Recent studies suggest that laser hair removal is the safest procedure. Depending on the density of facial hair, a dermatologist will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

My son, a class XII student, has lost weight — from 98 to70 kg — over the past three months through a combination of exercising and dieting. However of late, I’ve noticed that his hand trembles slightly. Can drastic weight loss be the reason behind this? — Kiran Vashisht, Chandigarh

It’s very commendable that your son has proactively opted to lose substantial weight through a disciplined regimen. However, for the trembling you need to consult a physician as the cause may be totally unrelated to his weight loss.

(Dr. Nisha Miriam George is a paediatric consultant at Sundaram Medical Foundation and Dr. Rangarajan Memorial Hospital, Chennai)

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