Fish and milk don’t mix!...?

So, your nutritionist advised you to up your protein and recommended some food options rich in protein. You go home, open the fridge and find fish and milk chillin’, you decide to have grilled fish for dinner. You have a habit of having a warm glass of milk before bed because its an old habit of yours. You drink the milk and lie down to sleep. Suddenly you wake up in panic and realize the near lethal mistake you’ve made! You shout “drinking milk over fish will give me vitiligo!!”. This is a true horror story which happened to me. Look, I know this fallacy has been around for ages and even my own parents are on the edge to disown me for saying this but for the love of science! Drinking milk over fish WILL NOT cause leucoderma!

There are two sides of this argument, one scientific and other ayurvedic. Let’s begin with scientific first. Our skin colour is given by a compound called melanin produced by skin cells called melanocytes; Leucoderma (vitiligo) isn’t a disease you can get from either fish or milk or their combination, it is caused when there are not enough working melanocytes to produce melanin. The loss of melanocytes can be due to genetic disorder or some autoimmune disorder including hyperthyroidism. To be fair having milk and fish together may cause some other health issues like diarrhea or some specific allergic reaction but only to a small population which is already allergic to either or both of these.

I am no expert on the matter of ayurveda but the most common reason that comes up is the opposite ‘nature’ of the two foods, fish being a ‘warm’ food and milk being ‘cool’ making them incompatible. If consumed together, they can increase body’s tamas guna (harmful energies) and some experts also suggest that digesting the two requires different enzymatic juices which can lead to chemical imbalance in the digestive system.


The Takeaway Box

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that drinking milk over fish can cause vitiligo, but if you are allergic to fish or milk then you probably avoid them completely anyway. If you are a follower of ayurvedic sciences then again you probably avoid the combination already. This article is for an average Joe or Joanne to give them a breath of relief if they have or want to consume the combination. I personally consume them both together and have never faced any issues and I consider them both a great source of not just good quality protein but also of healthy saturated fats, Omega- 3 and other vitamins and minerals. Another claim is that mercury in fish can react with milk and create a poison, Although there isn't much evidence on this, I would advise that you limit your fish intake specially if you're pregnant or breast feeding as mercy is toxic and can lead to mental retardation in developing babies.


References and further reading


Backstrom CH, Buckman K, Molden E, Chen CY. Mercury Levels in Freshwater Fish: Estimating Concentration with Fish Length to Determine Exposures Through Fish Consumption. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2020;78(4):604-621. doi:10.1007/s00244-020-00717-y


Buckshee, D., 2019. FIT Webqoof: What Happens If You Drink Milk After Eating Fish?. [online] TheQuint. Available at: <https://fit.thequint.com/fit-webqoof/drinking-milk-after-eating-fish-dangerous-fact-check> [Accessed 10 November 2020].


Kostial K, Rabar I, Ciganovic M, Simonovic I. Effect of milk on mercury absorption and gut retention in rats. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1979;23(4-5):566-571. doi:10.1007/BF01770004


nhs.uk. 2019. Vitiligo. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitiligo/> [Accessed 10 November 2020].


The Times of India. 2019. Fish And Milk: Toxic Combination Or Myth? - Times Of India. [online] Available at: <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/fish-and-milk-toxic-combination-or-superstition/articleshow/69280234.cms> [Accessed 10 November 2020].