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Milk And Health: Diametrically Opposed

Milk and health go together like oil and water.

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 government advisory 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).

Milk and Health GlassHip 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 being 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
  • Beef: 6.3
  • Apple: -5.0
  • Banana: -6.0
  • Tomatoes: -18.0
  • Spinach: -56.0

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 do, 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).”

Milk and Health Got PusAt the Dairy Product Components and Weight Regulation Symposium of 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 my diet.

Milk and Health: Dairy Causes Cancer

Large-scale observational 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 (8)".

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

Milk and Health Conatiner

Dairy is frequently tainted with disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella, 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."

- Gandhi

Milk and Health: What About Raw Milk?

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.

Read more about how heat destroys food here.

Milk and Health:

Most People Can't Stomach Dairy

Milk and Pus SuckleThe promotion 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. 

Milk and 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 health.

Milk and Health: Following Up

Learn how milk and health relates to the raw foods that are man's natural diet.  

Find out the skinny on other types of food.

Milk and Health: Sources

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. http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTX038968.html.


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