Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Got Milk? or Got Had?

Ah, milk- so creamy and white. It's the epitome of pure and wholesome goodness. It should be noted, however, that pus is also white and, coincidently, also in your glass of milk. When it comes to actual nutrition and what is good for our bodies, Americans have really had the wool pulled over our eyes and none more so than what the Dairy Council would have us believe. As of 2009, the milk mustache advertising budget came to a total of $190 million.(1) If you think that number is astronomical, it doesn't even come close to the detrimental cost to our health.

The health of the conventional dairy cow is also severely compromised. The typical dairy cow has the life span of 20 to 25 years but with the high output forced from these ladies their lifespan has dwindled to 2 to 7 years.(1)  From 1970 to 2006 the number of cows declined by 25%, however, the output of milk per cow has more than doubled.(2)  Just like any other mammal, cows must be pregnant to lactate. Once born, the calves are taken from their mothers in a sad cycle that perpetuates profit and completely ignores the mother cow's very real and heartbreaking separation anxiety from her baby. To add insult to injury the mother cows are then literally pumped full of synthetic hormones (rBGH- a genetically modified ingredient) to make them produce more milk than they would have on their own. This in turn causes poor health in the cows as their bodies are not prepared for this increased demand, including mastitis, which is a painful inflammation of breast tissue needing anti-biotics to treat.  Toxins are excreted from any lactating mammal through the milk, including: anti-biotics, pesticides, chemicals and hormones. The USDA also allows cow milk to contain 1 -1.5 million white blood cells (aka pus!) per milliliter.(3) Kind of puts a new spin on that white milk mustache now, doesn't it?

Not only has it been drilled into our heads that we have to drink milk to be healthy but culturally speaking we have completely embraced drinking another animal's gland secretions. If two glasses of milk were on the table, one cow milk and one human milk, which one would you drink? Why is it that our own kind's milk is deemed disgusting? It is interesting to note that we are the only mammals to drink other mammal's milk and beyond infancy at that.

The sole purpose of milk is to make babies grow. It's composition is made to support rapid growth during a relative short time period and is also specific to its species. Calves need massive skeletal growth and massive muscle group support so cow milk has 3 to 4 times the amount of protein than human milk. Humans need advanced neurological development support so our milk has 6 to 10 times the amount of essential fatty acids over cow milk.(3) A Lancet study done in 1992 randomly placed premature infants into two groups. One group was fed conventional cow milk formula and the second group was fed breast milk. A 10 year follow up found the group fed breast milk had higher IQ's by 10 points!(3)

Another component of milk is hormones. For a growing baby these natural hormones are beneficial but for an already grown adult, not so much. There are over sixty hormones in one glass of milk, including anabolic hormones which are mostly androgens (and why people with acne usually see positive results when they stop consuming dairy) and growth hormone IGF-1 that is linked to tumor growth.(4) This is true for all milk even organic and grass-fed varieties.  

There have been a couple of studies linking milk to cancer:

Physicians Health Study, tracking 21,660 participants for 28 years, found increased risk of prostate cancer for men that consumed more than 2.5 servings of dairy a day. This was even true in cases where the men consumed low-fat dairy as well.(5)

Life after Cancer Epidemiology Study including 1,893 women who had been diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer found that higher amounts of high-fat dairy consumption were associated with higher mortality rates. Half a serving a day also significantly increased this risk.(5)

So let's put aside for the moment the pus and blood allotments in milk, the fact that we are drinking another tortured animal's secretions and the links to cancer. Is this stuff actually healthy for you? That is a big fat NO. When The Federal Trade Commission asked the USDA for scientific proof of health claims made in the milk mustache ads, their scientist stated:

-Milk doesn't benefit sports performance

-There's no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis. The animal protein may in fact help cause bone loss.

-Dairy is linked to prostate cancer and heart disease

-Dairy causes digestive problems for the 75% of people with lactose intolerance(4)

The Nurses Health Study, one of the largest studies conducted on women, followed 121,700 women since 1976 and then 116,000 since 1989, revealed that dairy may increase the risk of fractures up to 50%.(6)

Countries with the lowest consumption of dairy also have the lowest occurrence of osteoporosis (4) and breast cancer.(1) Once the western diet is introduced the breast cancer rates increase eightfold.(1) The reason for the low rates of osteoporosis in these countries is that the protein in milk actually impede the body's ability to absorb calcium. At this time vitamin D is actually showing more promise in preventing fractures.(4)

Don't hate the messenger. I love me some cheese too! However, now I only eat it on rare occasions and it must be organic, raw and hopefully grass-fed too, if I can afford it. My family and I haven't had milk in five years and use either almond or coconut milk instead. To be honest, the kids complained up a storm when I made the switch but now they love almond milk. As for calcium, vitamin D and healthy fats we take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, chickpeas, parsley and almonds are all great dietary sources of calcium and of course the sun is the best source of vitamin D. The fats are the easiest to make sure we get enough of with olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, hemp and chia seeds and yes, even pastured butter. Which is totally dairy but we don't eat a lot and a girl has to have her vice. I will be writing on the importance of pastured foods in a future post but until then try to slowly lower the amount of dairy eaten on a daily basis. I don't expect you to quit cold turkey or to even give up dairy all together but to try and limit it as much as possible (helps lower your grocery bill too!). Your health is in your hands. Good luck and happy and safe eating!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturdays series.

  1. Silverstone, Alicia, The Kind Diet. New York: Rodale Inc., 2009. Print.



  1. Way to go Kate keep up the good work.

  2. Even more reason for me to give up dairy - I can't believe I never considered the fact that cows are pregnant then have their babies taken away, I can't stand the abuse that goes on because of our feeding habits, it makes me so sad. I had to give up dairy for Lucy breastfeeding and it was not hard because I realized I didn't like much dairy anyway and was actually getting a little grossed out by it. Butter is my vice also, I used to only use olive oil, I will return to that and use butter sparingly.