The controversy surrounding milk has been around for a long time. Many people have the belief that it’s vital in pregnancy, for growing children, for keeping your bones healthy and a great source of protein for training. Billions are spent a year on dairy products, however two thirds of the world’s population, including some of the healthiest nations, don’t eat dairy products.
What’s the truth about milk?
Milk is purely designed to fill the gap between birth and a baby developing a mature digestive process and that is it. It is full of complex hormones not found in other food. It does not make sense to keep drinking it into adolescence or adulthood. No other mammals drink milk after the initial breast-feeding.
At the turn of the century, the industrial revolution had taken people away from a peasant diet and introduced malnutrition on a major scale. The promotion of milk and also meat was primarily the result of the discovery of the value of protein. The working classes had become smaller and weaker – not good army material. The discovery of protein and its role in human growth led to the promotion of meat, eggs and dairy produce which are now available on an unprecedented scale.
There is clear evidence that consumption of dairy products is linked to increased risk of cancer – especially breast, prostate and colorectal cancers – cardiovascular disease and numerous digestive disorders from Crohn’s to constipation and colic in babies.
Milk allergy or intolerance is very common among children and adults. Sometimes this is the result of lactose intolerance since many adults lose the ability to digest lactose, milk sugar. The symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain, wind and diarrhoea, which subside on giving lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Probably equally common is an allergy or intolerance to dairy produce. For reasons not yet completely understood, most common symptoms are blocked nose and excessive mucus production, respiratory problems such as asthma, and gastro-intestinal problems. Such intolerances are more likely to occur in people who consume dairy products regularly
Milked to death?
Today’s intensive dairy farming methods mean that cows are both pregnant and being milked at the same time for most of each year. With selective breeding of cows and high protein feeds that are used, it has increased the average daily yield of a cow from 9 litres to 22 litres – that’s 39 pints a day from just one animal! While a cow is designed, like humans, to produce milk for the first few months after a nine month pregnancy, This results in today’s dairy cows only living for about five years, compared to 20 or 30 years natural life expectancy!
This tremendous strain increases the risk of infections causing mastitis in cows. These infections mean there is a large amount of pus cells in milk. There is an official maximum of 400,000 cells per millilitre, which means that a litre of milk containing 400 million pus cells can be sold legally for human consumption. That’s equivalent to two million pus cells in one teaspoon.
In the USA, cows are given Bovine Somatotrophin (BST), a growth hormone to further increase milk yields and therefore profits. It is illegal to import BST enhanced dairy products from the US into Britain, but dairy products from the USA can enter the UK via other EU countries, then imported into the UK. If you do drink milk, my advice would be to limit the quantity of it and where you can only buy organic milk products.
Not Recommended for Babies
Possibly most damaging belief is that it can be substituted for breast milk. Cow’s milk is designed for calves, and is very different from human milk in a number of respects, including its protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron and essential fatty acid content.
Feeding of human babies on cow’s milk is now known to increase the likelihood of developing a cow’s milk allergy. Common symptoms of such an allergy include diarrhoea, vomiting, persistent colic, eczema, urticaria, catarrh, bronchitis, asthma and sleeplessness. Cow’s milk should not be given to infants under four months in any circumstances.
Not a good source of minerals
Although milk is a good source of calcium, it is not a very good source of other minerals. Manganese, magnesium, chromium and selenium are all found in higher levels in fruit and vegetables. Most important is magnesium, which works alongside calcium. The ideal calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1 – ie you need twice as much calcium as magnesium. Milk’s ratio is 10:1, while cheese is 28:1. As a result of relying on dairy products for calcium is likely to lead to magnesium deficiency and imbalance. Seeds, nuts and crunchy vegetables like kale, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower give us both these minerals and others, more in line with our needs. Milk is, after all, designed for young calves – not adult humans.
This current evidence and given the present state of intensive farming methods, milk should not be relied on as a staple food if you really want to pursue optimum nutrition. It is possible to have a healthy diet without including dairy produce and it will also almost certainly going to decrease your risk of the common killer diseases. You can substitute organic soya or rice milk, or buy organic milk and have much less of it.
Dr Justine Butler produced a comprehensive scientific report (www.vegetarian.org.uk) regarding milk consumption and the health consequences of it. It goes through a long list of health concerns – from acne to osteoporosis – and examines the evidence, or the lack of it in the case of preventing osteoporosis. It makes for very interesting reading – but beware, it is possible it might put you off milk forever.
I expect that this post will stir some debate, I hope it does, this blog will be nothing without the opinions of others, I look forward to hearingt your comments.