I heard from several people that drinking milk or dairy products while eating fish can lead towards a special skin pigmentation disorders such as different skin color or bright spots on skin.

I asked a dermatologist about it and she said it is preferred not to do so, as there are some cases reported. I would like to know is there scientific evidence behind this claim as I am really skeptical about it.

  • Well, it is very good written articale but fails to explane scientifically why we should not take milk produect along fish as diet. I don't think what is written in Bible or other Hindu and Islamic scripts is totaly wrong. – user7987 Jul 29 '12 at 2:50
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    @PrakashBhangay: Your comment (presumably referring to Alain's article) starts with a false premise. It assumes that Fish+Milk IS bad, and demands science back up that assumption. Instead, the answer doubts WHETHER Fish+Milk is bad, and concludes there is no scientific reason to think there is. – Oddthinking Jul 29 '12 at 17:26

This myth appears to stem from The Talmud - a vast collection of Jewish laws and traditions.

Although modern-day medicine and science may beg to differ, the sages of the Talmud were under the impression that eating fish and meat together is extremely dangerous to one’s health. In fact, in those days, there was actually a dermatological condition which was believed to be caused by eating fish and meat together. As such, the rabbis prohibited the consumption of such mixtures, a practice which continues to this day. This ban applies to fowl as well.

Clearly, however, today this is not the case. Some try to reconcile this medical contradiction, claiming that what was unhealthy in those days may not be in ours. In fact, in talmudic times it was believed that rotten fish was good for you!

It is important to note that this prohibition is unlike the one forbidding mixing milk and meat. Here, it is merely forbidden to eat fish and meat at the exact same time, or in immediate succession. A waiting period, however, is not necessary. The dishes used for eating them may be interchanged, and hence no need for special “fish dishes” in one’s kitchen. (Explained by Rabbi Ari Enkin [1])

The skin disease particulars you mention above seems to be an elaboration from Hindu religion:

In Pakistan, it is widely believed that if one drinks milk after eating fish (or other way around), you get skin disease. However this is not true. The skin disease (in which people's skin become white overtime) is a tropical skin disease and has nothing to do with simultaneous consumption of fish and milk. In fact, this is a Hindu religion inspired idea and that is why it has become such a powerful belief in Pakistan (due to our pre-independence days) [2]

A 1996 published African article titled « After Fish, Milk Do not Wish ». Recurring Ideas in a Global Culture [3], did a thorough investigation of the origin and evolution of this, and related myths, as well as referencing a handful of scientists that performed more scientifically thorough investigations:

A widespread belief in Mali associates certain forms of fish diets with leprosy (Hansen's disease). Very similar aversions to fish diets have existed in ancient Egypt, the Islamic Middle East, northern Nigeria, medieval Europe, and colonial America.

The beliefs documented by Robinson were listed as Hausa 'superstitions and customs' in 1913 monograph Seven years earlier however respected and well-known British leprosy specialist Dr Jonathan Hutchinson promoted virtually the same beliefs as scientific hypothesis in 407-page book, On Leprosy and Fish-Eating Statement of Facts and Explanations (1906) Synthesizing data collected from around the world by himself and by others Hutchinson argued vehemently against the then prevailing contagion theories He suggested instead that the 'cause of the disease is some ingredient or parasite generated by or introduced into fish which has been either not cured at all or cured badly.'

As late as the mid-1960s handful of doctors trained in scientific medicine were still earnestly investigating the fish hypothesis Meny Bergel director of the Leprosy Research Laboratory in Rosario Argentina published several articles in 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1966 attempting to explain the well established correlation between the occurrence of leprosy and the ingestion of diets high in decomposing fish In short he found that the consumption of rancid fats and unsaturated fatty acids favored the growth of the Hansen bacillus in laboratory rats Though never harboring the actual disease fish nonetheless facilitated its development.

Their references only reach as far back as 1995. I am doubtful that any scientist would have more recently dignified this claim with an investigation. Any individual doctor or nutritionist, when consulted, is able to debunk these fears with basic facts of medicine and chemistry. Over time, the nature of the claim has changed (from causing death, to Leprosy, to Vitiligo, to generic skin disease, to generic bad health - but mostly Leprosy). There's zero evidence for these claims in modern times. The cause for Leprosy is now well known and has nothing to do with fish or milk or any combination of the two. [4]

  • An anonymous editor made this point in reaction to the second quote: "Hinduism is the religion in India not in Pakistan." – Oddthinking Oct 29 '12 at 4:44
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    @Oddthinking It's subtle, but the quote mentions this behaviour carrying over from the pre-independence days of Pakistan, which was predominantly Hinduism: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Pakistan – Alain Oct 29 '12 at 5:19
  • @Alain It's not a stringent interpretation of the Talmud. It's a typo in a 16th century legal code. Hardly precedent for anything prior to that. – Double AA Mar 3 '15 at 17:11

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