Milk… For some, with a pile of cookies for dunking, it’s the perfect bedtime snack.
For others, it’s associated with anemia, high cholesterol, respiratory problems, and severe stomach pains. Some studies have even linked it to cancer and Parkinson’s Disease.
So is cow’s milk even good for you?
If the dairy industry had its way, you wouldn’t even ponder the question. The industry has spent billions of dollars trying to manipulate you into thinking that milk is wholesome, nutritious, and necessary for healthy bones. And that you can’t live without it.
These claims are backed by the US Department of Agriculture. The agency says dairy is one of the four basic food groups. You must have 2-3 servings a day.
But don’t be deceived.
There’s mounting evidence that it’s all nonsense. Cow’s milk does more harm than good. And it’s meant for calves, not humans.
In fact, 51% of North Americans with non-European ancestry are lactose intolerant. Among the East Asian population, that number is more like 90-100%.
Amy Joy Lanou is a Cornell-trained nutritionist at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The organization is a non-profit based in Washington, DC. Its focus is preventative medicine through nutrition and higher standards in medical research.
Lanou conducted a scientific review. It looked at 58 studies on milk and bone health for children and adults. She and her colleagues found scant evidence to support the idea that milk is necessary.
Their conclusion: “Under scientific scrutiny, the support for the milk myth crumbles… A clear majority of the studies we examined for this review found no relationship between dairy or dietary calcium intake and measures of bone health… To build strong bones and healthy bodies, children need exercise, sunshine, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that helps them maintain a healthy body weight.”
So why is milk being hyped by the government and dairy industry?
It’s all about money. Milk is a $30 billion business.
So if you want to know the truth, read on. NHD has done the research. And we’ve discovered some startling facts.
Milk’s Multi-Billion Dollar Secret
The word “mammal” means “creature of the breast.” And that lays the foundation for a better understanding of the purpose of milk.
Milk is produced by mammals for their offspring. It provides them with the nutrition they need when they first come out of the womb.
Milk was never meant to be a long-term dietary staple. It was intended for newborns until they could eat solid food.
Humans are the only mammals to continue to drink milk past infancy. And that has led to widespread lactose intolerance… and disease.
Milk contains a sugar called lactose. The enzyme needed to digest it is called lactase. It’s present in a baby’s small intestine at birth. Then it begins to decline.
Harold McGee writes about the chemistry, technique, and history of food and cooking. He’s considered an expert in his field. And in his most popular book, On Food and Cooking, he lays out the story of our love affair with cow’s milk.
The human consumption of animal milk can be traced back to between 8000 and 9000 BCE, McGee explains. That’s when sheep and goats were domesticated in present-day Iraq and Iran. They were first used for their skin and meat. But farmers soon learned how to milk the animals.
Cattle were domesticated somewhere about 6000 BCE. And cows became a major source of milk.
Before the Industrial Age, it was all done on small farms. “Women… milked the animals in the early morning and afternoon and then worked for hours to churn butter or make cheese,” McGee says.
Eventually, farmers figured out how to produce milk on a massive scale. Today, thanks to automated equipment, commercial dairy farming is big business.
How big? Here’s how California Senator Dianne Feinstein describes it:
“The milk produced by America’s 65,000 dairy farmers represents the second-largest agricultural commodity industry in the United States by value. Milk accounted for about $27 billion of cash receipts for producers in 2005. Americans drink more than six billion gallons of milk per year and another 10 billion gallons of milk are used to produce cheese.”
The dairy industry wants to make sure it stays that way.
In 1983, the National Dairy Board was authorized to promote milk and other dairy products to the public. The organization, along with the National Fluid Milk Board, has spent over $1.1 billion on advertising.
That’s where we get the Milk. It Does a Body Good, Got Milk?, and milk mustache ad campaigns. They make milk look appealing… healthful… even sexy. And they are aimed at keeping you buying it by the gallon.
But keep in mind what Mother Nature designed milk to do: help newborns grow. It’s rich in body building nutrients. Those include protein, sugar, fat, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and D.
That all sounds good. Until you consider that a calf doubles its weight within 50 days after it’s born. A human infant does so in 100 days.
Cow’s milk can contain double the amount of nutrients a human baby needs.
Fifty years ago, physicians believed cow’s milk was a good substitute for mother’s milk. And half of all six-month-olds consumed it, according to McGee. Now the number has dropped to 10 percent.
“Over the last few decades… the idealized portrait of milk has become more shaded,” says McGee. “We’ve learned that the balance of nutrients in cow’s milk doesn’t meet the needs of human infants, that most adult humans on the planet can’t digest the milk sugar called lactose, that the best route to calcium balance may not be the massive milk intake.”
He adds, “These complications help remind us that milk was designed to be a food for the young and rapidly growing calf, not for the young or mature human.”
And there are plenty of studies to prove it.
The Scary Link Between Milk and Disease
In 2000, the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) looked at 20,885 men. Of these men, 1,012 had prostate cancer. At the beginning of the study, the men were asked about their dairy consumption. Their answers revealed a moderate increase in prostate cancer among those who ate a lot of dairy.
The researchers also found that men who drank more than six glasses of milk per week had lower levels of a form of vitamin D that could protect them from the disease.
“For men concerned about prostate cancer, the study suggests a little caution,” said June Chan, a research fellow at HSPH.
In a 2007 study, Dr. Honglei Chen led a team that looked at the connection between milk and Parkinson’s Disease. He’s the head of the Aging & Neuroepidemiology Group at the National Institutes of Health. He’s an expert on diet and Parkinson’s.
The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It involved 57,689 men and 73,175 women. Of this pool, 250 of the men and 138 of the women had Parkinson’s. The conclusion: the consumption of milk was positively associated with the disease.
The researchers pointed out that dairy products circulate higher levels of uric acid in the body. They suggested that could explain their results. Or that the higher instance of disease could be due to pesticides found in milk.
Dr. Frank Oski was Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He was also physician-in-chief of the hospital’s Children’s Center, and author of 19 medical textbooks and 290 medical manuscripts.
“The fact is,” said Dr. Oski, “the drinking of cow’s milk has been linked to iron-deficiency in infants and children, and it has been named as the cause of cramps and diarrhea in much of the world’s population, and the cause of multiple forms of allergy as well.”
Casein is a naturally occurring protein in milk and other dairy products. It can promote mucus formation. That’s not good for your sinuses. And we have to say it… cheese is just as bad.
Low-Fat, High-Protein Alternatives to Milk
If you’re a milk drinker, you have plenty of great alternatives to cow’s milk. And they’ve proven to be quite healthy.
Among them is milk made from rice, oats, almonds, and other nuts. They each have a distinct flavor, and all of them are very tasty. They can be found at your local supermarket or health food store. Be careful with soy milk. It contains a lot of estrogen.
These options are low in fat and high in protein. Some are also high in fiber, which is good for digestion. And some are fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients. Still, when you switch to one of these alternatives, it’s a good idea to make sure you get out in the sun to get a full dose of vitamin D.
Jackie Newgent is a registered dietician. She’s considered an expert on cooking and nutrition. And she had this to say in a 2007 article:
“Just as with milk, there are varying fat and calorie contents for milk alternatives. Most are lower in protein than milk, but since they’re all plant-based, no milk alternative contains cholesterol. Vitamins and minerals are added to many of the alternatives, making them nutritionally similar to milk.”
And don’t forget… we were designed to drink water anyway.