Not Milk

If you are a milk drinker, this may be the most important article you’ll ever read. If I do my job right, and I fully intend on just that, upon reading this, you will take your milk out of the fridge and pour it down the drain.

My friends, we have been lied to!

From an early age, we’ve been made to believe milk is a wholesome nutritious cornerstone of our diet. Heck it’s been part of the healthy food pyramid for as long as I can remember. We’ve seen celebrities and their family members drink milk—Jessica Alba, Elton John, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Tom Brady, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, even Kermit the Frog; the list goes on and on.

But what if I told you that milk and by extension, dairy products have been linked to a myriad of diseases, including:

breast cancer, diabetes (both diabetes mellitus and juvenile diabetes), kidney stones, acne, heart disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, intestinal colic, gastrointestinal bleeding and irritation, anemia, allergies, heart disease, arthritis, sinusitis, leukemia, lymphoma and cancer.

That is one hell of a list!

With all these negative health consequences from milk consumption, the first question we should be asking is why? Why is milk so bad for us?

Once we dispel the multimillion-dollar ad campaigns, special interest groups, and junk science, it becomes clear that the current research does not back up the claims made by the milk industry. In fact, the literature goes one step further by exposing the potential dangers of the current practices of the dairy industry, sacrificing our health for the sake of profits.

Ask anyone you meet what is so great about milk, and you undoubtedly get the same answer— calcium. The dairy industry has gone to great pains convincing us that milk and dairy products are fundamental in meeting the daily calcium requirement for bone health and other metabolic functions. But milk is not the only source of calcium, and it’s certainly not the best source.

When compared to its counterparts, soy and almond, milk actually contains less than half the calcium content. It is also important to note the bioavailability of the source of calcium. Raw milk (straight from the cow) contains an enzyme called Phosphatase which is key to absorption of calcium. This enzyme is destroyed by the pasteurization process. In fact, the countries with the highest consumption of processed dairy like the United States, England, and Sweden have the highest rates of osteoporosis. While those with the lowest rates of osteoporosis like China and Japan also consume the least amount of milk. In a 2011 meta-analysis of the current research available, The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research concluded after reviewing data from 195,102 women and 75,149 men, no overall association between milk intake and reduction in hip fracture, a common indicator of osteoporosis. And a 2005 American Journal of clinical Nutrition study found that dairy consumption may increase prostate cancer risk by 30-50%. These results were not seen with calcium supplementation and non-dairy calcium.

Milk actually depletes the human body of calcium, exactly the opposite of what dairy companies advertise. What happens is that the protein in milk lowers the body pH which in turn triggers a biological correction by acid-neutralizing minerals such as calcium. That is, the very same calcium we need for bone health is being utilized to neutralize the acidifying effect of milk.

When we think of the milk we consume, most of us believe there is little difference between what a cow naturally produces and what we buy in stores. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us have heard of pasteurization and homogenization but very few of us understand what they mean.

Pasteurization is a process in which a product is flash heated in order to kill any harmful pathogens. The reason milk has to be pasteurized is because it’s infected with contaminants due to modern farming practices. In order to increase profit, cows are confined in small dirty spaces standing in each other’s waste, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors. They are fed the cheapest, genetically altered soy and corn (unnatural foods in the bovine diet) and routinely dosed with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. This commonly contributes to an increased incidence of mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder, which is one of the leading causes of death in adult cows in the dairy industry, according to The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. All this leaves the consumer with a product laden with antibiotic residues, blood, feces and pus produced by a sickly animal.

To combat disease produced by these practices, the animals are then fed antibiotics. Unfortunately, pasteurized milk, which has lots of dead bacteria will trigger an inflammatory response from the body leaving milk drinkers to suffer from a host of health problems like asthma, inflammation, histamine or allergic reactions.

The second danger in commercial milk is homogenization. Homogenization is the process of forcing whole milk through a filter under very high pressure. This breaks the fat globules into much smaller particles which prevents the cream from rising to the top. The intense pressure also subjects the milk to high heat for a second time, altering its nutritional content. The big danger here is the undigested fat globules are now small enough to cross the intestinal barrier and get into the blood stream, causing a host of health problems. Studies suggest it may strongly contribute to heart disease and accumulation of arterial plaque. Homogenization is completely unnecessary and only contributes an aesthetic value.

Finally, the biggest and most dangerous problem with the current dairy industry is that animals are being pushed well beyond their production limits.

A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constantly being pregnant or lactating. And why? It’s all for the sake of increased profits. The average cow today produces more than four times as much milk as cows did in the 1950s.  Today’s cows are routinely milked 300 days of the year, including while they are pregnant. The later in pregnancy a cow is, the more hormones appear in her milk. Milk from a cow in the late stage of pregnancy contains up to 33 times as much of a signature estrogen compound (estrone sulfate). Harvard researcher Davaasambuu, Ph.D and colleagues identified these milking practices to be directly linked to hormone-dependent cancers like testicular, prostate, breast and uterine cancer.

The good news is that removing dairy products from your diet is easier than ever. Today, there are many vegan dairy products in the market such as soy, rice, oat, almond, and hemp milk. We are no longer living in an age of innocence. We can ill afford to rely on our government to protect us from the perils of profiteering at the expense of public health. The responsibility lies solely in the hands of the consumer. The challenges to live a healthy lifestyle are great but the benefits are the legacy we leave our children.