The false idea that milk is necessary for the proper function of the
body has been forced on the public by the dairy industry through its
sponsorship of nutrition programs, advertising, and control of
bodies, but there's plenty of evidence that milk harms us.
"Cow's milk in
the past has always been oversold as the perfect food, but we are now
seeing that it isn't the perfect food at all and the government really
shouldn't be behind any efforts to promote it as such."
- Benjamin Spock, M.D.
Milk and Health: Can Dairy Build Bones?
You need milk to build bones, right? This is the message that a vast
amount of advertising muscle has been shoving down the throats of
Americans for generations, and it's working.
Americans consume more milk and other dairy products per person than
almost any other country, so surely we should have some of the
strongest bones, right? Nope.
American women over the age of 50 have the highest rate of hip
fractures in the world (1). Guess which countries have more hip
fractures? Yep, those which consume more dairy than we do, namely the
Nordic countries (1).
Hip fracture rate is used as a indicator of
osteoporosis, a bone
disease that you usually hear is caused by an inadequate amount of
calcium. Because milk is high in calcium, it's often promoted
as the ultimate bone-building food.
To some degree, milk does build bones. Cow’s milk is full of hormones
meant to directly stimulate the growth of the calf, the most powerful
insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Another is estrogen. About 70
percent of the estrogen available in foods is found in dairy (2).
Together these can cause bone growth.
Milk and Health: A Net Bone Loss
Despite the hormones in dairy increasing growth, the net effect is bone
loss. The reason is simple: Animal protein (meat, dairy, and eggs)
increases the acid load in the body, while plant protein does not (3).
This extra metabolic acid draws calcium alkaline salts from the bones.
Doubling animal protein intake from 35-78 g/day causes a 50 percent
increase in urinary calcium, meaning that your bones are being
destroyed 50 percent faster and the remains excreted (4).
Unsurprisingly, those countries with the lowest rate of hip fractures
are those that eat little or no dairy and other animal protein and
instead eat lots of plant-based foods (1).
So how does the dairy industry get away with claiming dairy builds
bones? They generally pad their studies. The most common practice is to
neutralize the acid in dairy by having study participants eat lots of
extra fruits and vegetables or take antacids, such as with this one
(5), which shows bone growth.
Milk and Health: Acid Load per 100 Calories
Positive Values = Acid. Negative Values = Alkaline
Cheddar Cheese: 10.0
They know that dairy is high in acid and will strip the bones so they
need to use fruits and vegetables or antacids to counteract this. When
they see a net gain due to the hormones.
Anyone would be far better off simply eating the fruits and vegetables
straight up and skipping the dairy, however.
Milk and Health: Dairy Is Not Slimming
The dairy industry has spent
the last decade trying to market milk as a weight-loss food.
Research has shown those who drink more milk to be no more successful
in slimming down than those who abstain, however. A Journal of
Nutrition review of milk weight loss studies concluded that: "Nine
studies of dairy product supplementation were located: In seven, no
significant differences in the change in body weight or composition
were detected between treatment and control groups. However, two
studies conducted in older adults observed significantly greater weight
gain in the dairy product groups (6).”
At the Dairy Product Components and Weight Regulation
2002, Dr. Susan Barr said, "“In conclusion, the data available from
randomized trials of dairy product or calcium supplementation provide
little support for an effect in reducing body weight or fat mass” (6).
There's no evidence to back up the industry's claims, but that doesn't
stop them from trying. At the end of the day, a drink with calories in
it means more calories, unless you cut back your food intake to
compensate for the drink. If anything, milk leads to weight gain. I
certainly lost weight when I cut it out of
Milk and Health: Dairy Causes Cancer
studies have shown again and again a link between many types of cancer
and animal-based foods, particularly dairy.
Scientists are finding that one of the major contributors is the
hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which is a found in large
quantities in dairy.
"I would call milk perhaps the most
unhealthful vehicle for calcium that one could possibly imagine, which
is the only thing people really drink it for, but whenever you
challenge existing dogma... people are resistant."
- Neal Barnard, M.D.
People with higher-than-normal IGF-1 levels have 5.1 times the risk of
developing prostate cancer (7)
A Harvard review of dairy and cancer studies found that 12 of 14
case-control studies and 7 of 9 cohort studies had observed an
association between consumption of dairy and the development of
prostate cancer. The review called dairy, "one of the most consistent
dietary predictors for prostate cancer in the published literature
Men with the highest dairy intake had approximately double the risk of
total prostate cancer (8).
Several other types of cancers have been linked with dairy consumption
as well (9).
Milk and Health:
Milk is Contaminated With Bacteria and Pus
Dairy is frequently tainted with disease-causing bacteria, such as
staphylococci, listeria, deadly E. coli (10) and Mycobacterium
paratuberculosis (11) (possible the cause of Crohn's disease).
In the United States, 64% of dairy herds are infected with bovine immunodeficiency
viruses (BIV) and bovine leukemia viruses (BLV) (12), and the milk they
give off is tainted.
Because dairy herds are diseased, their milk is flooded with pus cells.
An 8 ounce glass of milk can contain 180 million pus cells. In New York
State, the average in a recent study of milk was 363,000 cells/ml (14).
Milk and Health: Milk Constipates
Milk blocks bowel function, causing discomfort, pain, and other
problems. Often, strong laxatives are not enough to restore function
unless milk consumption is stopped.
In one study of children having only one bowel movement every 3 to 15
days, the majority found relief after they stopped drinking cow's milk
(13). When doctors examined the children, they found inflamed bowels
and anal fissures that disappeared when dairy was stopped.
When dairy was reintroduced, the children had their constipation return
within 5 to 10 days (13).
"I had long realized that milk was not
necessary for supporting the
body, but it was not easy to give it up."
Milk and Health: What About
There's no question that cooking (or in the case of raw milk,
pasteurizing) a food destroys its nutrients and turns it into a
carcinogen. Unpasteurized milk may also have the benefit of coming from
healthy cows free of some viruses.
But even raw milk has the same growth hormones, acid load, and
cancer-causing portfolio as cooked milk.
of milk as a necessary component of health is a bit racist, because the
majority of the world's population is sickened by it. About 75 percent
of the world's population loses the ability to completely digest
lactose after infancy (15).
Decreased lactate digestion ranges from as little as 5% in northern
Europe, to above 90% in some African and Asian countries (16).
Government and dairy-industry recommendations make no allowance for
these genetic differences, though, and the consequences are not good.
Constipation, cramps, diarrhea, and possibly other problems like
colitis often result.
Health: Ditch The Dairy
There is only one type of milk a human needs, and that is human breast
milk, which we require only when we're babies.
Humans are the only creature that drinks the mamary secretions of
another species. We would never consider suckling directly from the
teat of a cow, goat, or any other mammal, and probably find the idea
repulsive. No one would consider drinking rat's milk, yet it's not so
different than cow's milk.
Milk and health don't go together. Ditch the dairy and improve your
1) Frassetto LA,
Todd KM, Morris C, Jr., et al. "Worldwide incidence of hip fracture in
elderly women: relation to consumption of animal and vegetable foods."
J. Gerontology 55 (2000):M585-M592. 2) Sharpe
R. Are oestrogens involved in falling sperm counts and disorders
of the male reproductive tract? Lancet 341:1392, 1993. 3) Wachsman A, and
Bernstein DS. "Diet and Osteoporosis." Lancet May 4, 1968 (1968):
958-959 4) Barzel U.S.
"Acid Loading and Osteoporosis." J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 30 (1982) : 613. 5) New SA. Calcium,
protein, and fruit and vegetables as dietary determinants of bone
health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1340-1. 6) Barr SI.
Increased dairy product or calcium intake: is body weight or
composition affected in humans? J Nutr. 2003 Jan;133(1):245S-248S. 7) Chan JM,
Stampfer MJ, MA J, et al. "Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and IGF
binding protein-3 as predictors of advanced-stage prostae cancer." J
Natl Cancer Inst 94 (2002): 1099-1109. 8) Chan JM and
Giovannucci EL. "Dairy products, calcium and vitamin D and risk of
prostate cancer." Epidemiol. Revs. 23 (2001): 87-92 9) Lanou AJ. Bone
health in children. BMJ. 2006 Oct 14;333(7572):763-4. 10) Chapman
PA. Sources of Escherichia coli O157 and experiences over the
past 15 years in Sheffield, UK. Symp Ser Soc Appl Microbiol.
2000;(29):51S-60S. 11) Lund BM.
Pasteurization of milk and the heat resistance of Mycobacterium avium
subsp. paratuberculosis: a critical review of the data. Int J
Food Microbiol. 2002 Jul 25;77(1-2):135-45. 12) Gonda M.
Bovine immunodeficiency virus. AIDS. 1992 Aug;6(8):759-76 13) Iacono G.
Intolerance of cow's milk and chronic constipation in children. N Engl
J Med. 1998 Oct 15;339(16):1100-4. 14) van Schaik
G. Trends in somatic cell counts, bacterial counts, and
antibiotic residue violations in New York State during 1999-2000.
J Dairy Sci. 2002 Apr;85(4):782-9. 15) "Improved
lactose digestion and intolerance among African-American adolescent
girls fed a dairy-rich diet.". Journal of the American Dietetic
Association. 2000. 16) Coles Harriet
(2007-01-20). "The lactase gene in Africa: Do you take milk?". The
Human Genome, Wellcome Trust.
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