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The Case Against Milk

Health Hazard or not? By Dr. John Mc Dougall

Because of its very similar nutritional composition, milk amounts to liquid meat (see chart).  It stands to reason that many of the same health hazards associated with meat would also apply to milk products as well.  It also has some problems of its own.

The milk industry has done a great deal to create and maintain a positive image for milk.  Right now, The National Dairy Promotion & Research Board is in the midst of a $50 million campaign to convince us that "Milk Has More."  Indeed it does, but not what they are saying.  A growing body of evidence is proving that the hazards of milk consumption really outweigh the benefits.

Still, for most of us old habits die hard.  It's difficult to give up a food that we've been trained to believe is "nature's most perfect food."  It is particularly hard when emotional issues such as the dietary needs of pregnant women and young children are evoked.

A look at their nutritional content emphasizes that dairy products are not the "perfect" food.  Milk and its products fail to provide adequate amounts of fiber, linoleic acid, iron, vitamin B3, and vitamin C to meet the nutritional needs of adults and children.  The nutrients for which milk is touted are easily obtained from vegetable foods, which contain more of the above nutrients, as well.  The vitamin D with which milk is fortified, can be more safely and effectively obtained from exposure to sunlight.

Nutritional Content

Macronutrients in Meat and Dairy Foods

Beef
(Chuck)

Cheddar
Cheese

Yogurt

Whole
Milk

% of calories as fat

68%

73%

49%

50%

% of calories as protein

32%

25%

22%

21%

% of calories as carbohydrates

0%

2%

29%

29%

Fiber (in grams)

0

0

0

0

Cholestoral (milligrams per 100 calories)

22

27

21

22

Looking at the facts and leaving the emotional issues behind, it's clear that milk has more on the con side than the pro.  The following is a list of problems and hazards associated with dairy products.

1)  Milk is high in fat  By now, there is little question that fat is a major dietary culprit.  Research links it with heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, cancers of the breast, colon and prostate, and other serious illnesses.  Many people trim fat from the diet by cutting out meat, but don'y realize that milk should go too.  The dairy industry has a mildly deceptive way of leading us to think that fat is not a major component of milk by reporting its fat content by weight.  However, it is not the weight of the food that counts, but the calories.  Whole milk, labeled 3.5% fat by weight actually has half (49%) of its calories in fat.  Thirty percent of the calories in 2% milk come from fat.

Only skim milk is truely low fat - at most, only 2% of its calories come from fat.  But, by taking out all the fat, you get a product considerably more concentrated in protein.  Too much protein in the diet creates other problems, like allergies and calcium leaching.  For this reason, skim milk is not a good alternate choice.

2)  Milk is a major cause of allergy  Foreign proteins are a major cause of food allergy, and, according to research, milk contains over 25 different proteins that are capable of inducing a wide range of allegic reactions - some of which many people fail to connect with milk.  These reactions include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems  Cankor sores, vomiting, colic, (from drinking milk or through the breastmilk of a mother who drinks it), stomach cramps, abdominal distention, bloody stools, colitis, malabsorption, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, irritation of tongue, lips, and mouth.
  • Respiratory reactions  Nasal stuffiness, runny nose, inner ear trouble, sinusitis, asthma, pulmonary infiltrates.
  • Skin rashes  Dermatitis, eczema, seborhea, and hives
  • Behavioral changes  Irritability, restlessness, hyperactivity, headache, lethargy, fatigue, muscle pain, mental depression, and bedwetting from irritation of bladder tissue.
  • Blood  Abnormal blood clotting, low protein or platelets, and iron deficiency anemia.  This latter problem is particularly  significant.  At least 50% of childhood iron deficiency anemia and an unknown percentage of anemia found in adults is due to dairy products.  The condition results from bleeding of the small intestine caused by dairy proteins and is not responsive to iron therapy until milk and other dairy foods are eliminated.  Some allegic reactions are even more serious.  The extremely allergic person can develop life-threatening anaphylactic shock.  Also, in several studies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been linked with milk allergy.

3)  Milk may interfere with the body's immune system  Dairy foods have been implicated in the development of a cancer of the immune system called Hodgkins disease.  Continuous over-stimulation of the immune system by dairy proteins may eventually lead to the breakdown of the immune system in this form of cancer ("Lymphomas and animal protein consumption," Lancet 2:1184, 1976).

4)  Some othe life threatening conditions are linked to dairy products  A Department of Health and Social Security Report, and research reported in the British Medical Journal, confirm that adverse reactions to milk can cause several serious disorders.  They include congestive heart failure, newborn heart failure (neonatal tetany) from low blood calcium levels triggered by milk's high phosphate levels, tonsil enlargement, lifelong obesity, and aggravation of ulcerative colitis.

5)  Most people cannot digest milk properly  After the age of four years, most people naturally lose the ability to digest lactose, the carbohydrate found in milk, because they no longer synthesize the digestive enzyme lactase.  This condition, known as lactose intolerance, results in symptoms of diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps.  It is especially prevalent among adult Blacks and Asians, ocurring in as many as 90% of these people.  All dairy products except cheese and yogurt are high in lactose.

6)  Concentration and environmental poisons  As with meat, milk picks up and concentrates contaminents such as pesticides, industrial waste chemicals, heavy metals, steroids, and antibiotics.  Some people who are extremely sensitive to these poisons will have immediate reactions.  Others chemicals such as DDT, are known carcinogins (cancer causing agents).  Even human breast milk can have dangerously high levels of these substances, the Environmental Defense Fund discovered when studying the breast milk of 1400 women from 46 states.  The levels were twice as high in meat and dairy-consuming women as in vegetarians.  Because peticides are concentrated in animal foods, the study advised "women who expected to breast their babies to avoid meat, some kinds of fish, and high dairy products.

7)  Dairy products are easily contaminated by disease-causing bacteria  Bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcl, E. coli and viruses known to cause leukemia are very much at home in milk.  Leukemia viruses are found in more than 20% of dairy cows.  Pasteurization and normal cooking do not kill the viruses.  It is known that these viruses can be passed on to other animals and there is serious concern that they can be passed on to humans.  Staphylococcal food poisoning occurs most commonly with nonfat dry milk, cheese, and butter.

8)  Dairy products are not the best source of calcium  In spite of copious research to the contrary, we are still being taught that we need milk as a source of calcium.  This will come as quite a surprise to most people of the world.  For instance, in Africa and Asian societies, where milk is rarely consumed, the people have strong bones and sturdy teeth and escape diseases common to people in affluent societies.  (People in these settings may suffer from serious but unrelated problems, such as starvation, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care - problems our technology has largely solved).

Looking at worldwide statistics, it becomes more evident that milk is not a calcium powerhouse.  The most rotten teeth and the weakest bones are found in countries where the most dairy foods are consumed  - The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandanavian countries. What people do not realize is that the amount of calcium in the diet has little relation to the quantity of calcium that is eventually absorbed by the body.  The intestine absorbs, from the foods consumed, sufficient calcium to meet the needs of the body.  On low calcium diets, the absorption is high.  On high calcium diets, its low.  This mechanism works unless something else intervenes.  Over consumption of protein, which will cause excessive elimination of calcium is one major offender.  Meat, and of course milk products, are high in protein.

The bottom line is this:  calcium deficiency is not a threat to someone eating a diet of whole foods.  In fact, inadequate calcium intake appears not to be a problem at all.  A scholarly review of the subject revealed that calcium deficiency caused by an insufficient amount of calcium in the diet is not known to occur in humans at all (Post Graduate Medicine Journal 54:244, 1978).

9)  Infants fed dairy products can develop susceptibility to nervous system disorders  The tissues of the nervous system require adequate amounts of the essential vegetable fat, linoleic acid, for proper growth.  Whole  cow's milk contains only one-fifth the amount of this essential fatty acid present in mother's milk.  Skim milk has all the linoleic acid removed.

A poorly developed nervous system may run the risk of developing the degenerative dusease multiple sclerosis later in life.  This disease most frequently appears in young adults.  A person with multiple sclerosis suffers from repeated attacks which further damage the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.  It is more commonly found in areas of the world where infants and children are raised on dairy products rather than on breast milk and vegetable foods.

For people who already have multiple sclerosis, removal of animal fats from the diet can have dramatic results.  Roy Swank M.D. at the University of Oregon, developed such a diet for MS patients and has seen remarkable results iver the past 30 years.  People who start this low animal fat diet early in their disease have nearly a 95% chance of remaining the same or improving over the next 20 years of their lives.  Without it, the general course of the illness is further deterioration, disability, and frequently, death("Multiple Sclerosis: Twenty Years on a Low Fat Diet," Archives of Neurolgy, 23:460, 1970).

10)  Milk does more harm than good for ulcers  Even though combinations of dairy products and antacids (The Sippy Diet) have been recommended for aver 70 years to treat peptic ulcer disease, studies have shown no improvement, and some serious drawbacks, with this regimen (Annals of Internal Medicine, 97:242, 1976).

British and American patients treated for ulcer disease with dairy products developed two to six times the number of heart attacks at the end of one year as those treated without dairy foods.  The saturated fats and cholesterol in milk were found to be the culprits.  Fortunately, most physicians have given up this outdated and dangerous therapy.  However, remembering the old "ulcer remedy", many people continue to self-treat with dairy products.  The combination of milk and antacids poses an even bigger hazard than milk alone.  The antacids diminish the intestines's capacity to regulate calcium absorption, and thus too much calcium may be absorbed into the system.  This "milk-alkali syndrome" results in alkalosis, injury to the kidneys, and even death.

In addition to scientific evidence, the behavior of other animals gives us further food for thought about consuming dairy products.  No other animal in its natural environment drinks milk of another species, nor do any drink milk after weaning.  We don't have to either.  We can better obtain the few nutrients available in dairy products from fresh whole vegetable foods.

Resources

We have a section of useful milk tips in our tips section. Take a look.

 

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