Debunking Food Myths. Chapter One: Milk
Debunking food myths is as sensitive of a topic as discussing religion with a stranger. Often, people get emotional and sometimes offended when we start questioning their dietary habits. We have been indoctrinated from early childhood on what is good for us and what is bad for us.
When we live in a system, we absorb a system and think in a system
– James W. Douglas
Here is an example for an obsolete paradigm that people believed for hundreds of years: the idea that the sun revolves around the earth. When Kopernikus published “De Revolutionises” in 1543, in which he postulated that the earth actually rotates around the sun, everybody was outraged. It did not matter that he had evidence.
People only hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest
-Paul Mc Cartney
So, I encourage you to have an open mind, to step outside of the box and look at the evidence.
Mother’s milk is THE best food for babies. There is no substitute that comes even close to the nutrient rich and ideally balanced mother’s milk. A lactating mammal’s milk is perfectly suited to the needs of their offspring. But let be more specific about this last sentence: Any species mother’s milk is perfectly tailored to the needs of their OWN species offspring. The unique ingredients (hormones, antibodies, protein etc) of any mother’s milk are specifically tailored to the needs of their own offspring.
Consequently, cow’s milk is geared towards the needs of baby calves. Calves are weaned from their mothers at an age of 7-8 months. At this stage they weight is approximately 700 lbs. So there has been a tenfold increase of their weight in 7-8 months! Amazing isn’t it? At no stage of our human development are we supposed to increase our weight by a tenfold within a period of 7-8 months!
So let’s get to the point…
Myth number one: We need milk to get enough calcium
Dairy does indeed contain a lot of calcium which is an important mineral for our bone metabolism. However, it also contains high amounts of animal protein, which causes increased amounts of calcium to be excreted in the urine. This resulting acidic environment in the blood (called metabolic acidosis) is being buffered (neutralized) by the body by releasing high amounts of calcium and phosphate from the bones into the bloodstream. This in turn weakens the bones and puts them at a greater risk for fracture. In other words: Animal proteins have a higher concentration of sulphur containing amino acids that get metabolized to acid-generating metabolites. As a result, a slightly lower physiological pH must be corrected and buffers like calcium are used to attenuate these adverse acid effects–to the disadvantage of the host (http://nutritionstudies.org/animal-vs-plant-protein/ ). In conclusion the net uptake of calcium from cow’s milk is highly questionable.
Science has shown that drinking cow’s milk and consuming other dairy products has a strong causal association with the development of osteoporosis (see references in the “china study”). In countries where people consume almost no animal- based foods the percentage of osteoporosis and other chronic diseases are almost completely unknown. It is truly incredible that the very advice given by the dairy industry to control osteoporosis (drink more milk) has actually been shown in some studies to aid in the promotion of the disease.
Myth number two: Humans need the protein in dairy products
We are told in schools, by doctors and the food industry that cow’s milk will make us strong and healthy. Somehow people assume that protein only comes from animal products and that anyone avoiding them will have a lack thereof. Look at gorillas, water buffaloes or horses… not only does the plant world provide us with abundant protein sources of which we do not need to consume vast quantities to maintain superior health (mother’s milk which is the very first food to nourish an infant in a period of maximum growth is low in protein). The reality is that Casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, may well be one of the most potent chemical carcinogens ever identified (to learn more, read Colin Campbell’s The China Study with extensive research appendix). Dairy products increase the risk for chronic diseases and cow’s milk in particular has been strongly linked to an increased risk for cancer, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many other chronic ailments. As consequence, humans have no nutritional benefit from cow’s milk.
Myth number three: Milk is the best source of Vitamin D
Many people argue that we need to drink fortified animal milk to get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential hormone, affecting many parts of our body and its functions. In nature very few foods contain vitamin D and milk is NOT one of them. During processing, milk is artificially fortified with vitamin D, which helps the dairy industry sell their product even better. Vitamin D is actually a hormone produced by the skin and is then being converted in the liver and the kidneys. If you get plenty of sun, you don’t need any vitamin D in your diet. In case you don’t get regular sun exposure, take a supplement that contains 400IU of vitamin D.
Other problems with dairy:
Dairy products will increase the level of growth hormones in your blood which in turn increases the risk of getting cancer (in fact, insulin- like growth factor 1 increases prostate cancer risk more than five times!). Early dairy product consumption has been linked to the development of childhood type 1 diabetes (risk is increased 11-13 times). Type 1 diabetics in turn are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In addition, dairy is abundant in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat which will put you at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Dairy consumption may cause iron deficiency because it inhibits its absorption (that explains the recommendation that infants under 1 year should not be given cow’s milk). What you can also find in cow’s milk are antibiotic residues, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, other veterinary drugs, fertilisers, synthetic preservatives and additives. One last thing that I have to mention is the inhumane way dairy cow’s are being treated. After calves are weaned off from their mothers, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to milking machines. These cows are genetically manipulated, artificially inseminated, and often drugged to force them to produce about four and a half times as much milk as they naturally would produce for their calves (read more about it on http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/cows/dairy-industry/). Clearly, as I was told by my husband who is a member of an university based human and animal ethics committee, experiments following regimens which are often common practice in the animal food industry would never ever receive the committees approval.
The least you need to know:
Plant- based milks that are made from soy, almonds, oats, hemp seeds, rice or flax seeds can be used in the same fashion as cow’s or any other animal milk but without the health dangers and without supporting the inhumane treatment of animals.
Hope I stirred up some critical thinking! Look at the evidence…..
My recommended reads:
“Plant- Based Nutrition” by Julieanna Hever:
“The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell
“Healthy Eating, Healthy World” by J. Morris Hicks