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Back to Health Concerns

Mucus

Is it okay to drink milk when suffering from a cold? Does milk cause mucus, i.e. nasal secretions? No. There is absolutely no research to support the notion that milk consumption causes an increase in the production of mucus or other cold-related symptoms.

In one study, 60 healthy adults were challenged with a common cold virus (rhinovirus 2); their symptoms and milk intake were recorded. Milk was not associated with an increase in symptoms.1 Similarly, other studies have shown that drinking cow’s milk does not cause the production of mucus or obstruct bronchial airflow causing chest constriction and other symptoms.2

Although research has not shown a link between milk consumption and increased mucus secretion, a few studies have shown an association between the belief in this myth and the incidence of reported symptoms.1,3,4 In a study by Pinnock et al, subjects who believed that milk causes mucus reported symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, thick saliva and congestion. However, although the believers reported more symptoms, they did not actually have higher levels of mucus than people who did not believe the myth.1

Furthermore, a subsequent study by Dr Pinnock compared cow’s milk with soy beverage, which has similar mouth-feel characteristics. Subjects who believed that milk causes mucus reported similar effects with both beverages,3 indicating that this belief may be related to the texture of the beverage and not specifically to cow’s milk.

The mucus myth likely stems from milk’s creamy texture, which can leave a coating in the mouth and throat but does not cause mucus. This mouth-feel may be reduced by drinking very cold milk or by adding even ice cubes in the glass. There is no research to support an increase in the production of mucus or other cold-related symptoms as a result of consuming milk.5

References

  1. Pinnock CB et al. Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged with rhinovirus-2. Am Rev Respir Dis, 1990. 141(2): p. 352-6.
  2. Wuthrich B et al. Milk consumption does not lead to mucus production or occurrence of asthma. J Am Coll Nutr, 2005. 24(6 Suppl): p. 547S-55S.
  3. Pinnock CB and Arney WK. The milk-mucus belief: sensory analysis comparing cow’s milk and a soy placebo. Appetite, 1993. 20(1): p. 61-70.
  4. Arney WK and Pinnock CB. The milk mucus belief: sensations associated with the belief and characteristics of believers. Appetite, 1993. 20(1): p. 53-60.
  5. Lee C and Dozor AJ. Do you believe milk makes mucus? Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2004. 158(6): p. 601-3.

Keywords: mucus


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