Here is an excerpt from one of Patrick Holford’s 100% Health emails. His views on milk-drinking echo my own.
See what you think…
More than any other food, milk is controversial. We guzzle it by the gallon, spending almost £3 billion a year on dairy products, and many people believe it’s vital in pregnancy, for growing children and for keeping your bones healthy in later life. Yet, two thirds of the world’s population, including some of the healthiest nations, don’t eat dairy products.
So, what’s the truth about milk? Thanks to Dr Justine Butler, whose comprehensive scientific report on the health consequences of consuming milk has just been published, you can find out for yourself. Dr Butler’s extensive report, available free on-line at http://www.vegetarian.org.uk/, 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 might put you off your pint.
Apart from the 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, you will learn that today’s cows are literally milked to death.
Selective breeding and high protein feeds 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! On top of this, while a cow is designed, like humans, to produce milk for the first few months after a nine month pregnancy, today’s intensive dairy farming means that cows are both pregnant and being milked at the same time for most of each year. There are two consequences of this: the first is that today’s dairy cows only live for about five years, compared to 20 or 30 years natural life expectancy; and secondly, this tremendous strain increases the risk of infections causing mastitis. These infections mean there is a significant amount of somatic – or pus – cells in milk. The official maximum allowed is 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.
This situation is even worse in the US where cows are given Bovine Somatotrophin (BST), a growth hormone to further increase milk yields and profits. While it is illegal to import BST enhanced dairy products from the US into Britain, dairy products from the US can be sold to other EU countries, then imported into the UK. If you do decide to drink milk, my strong advice would be to limit the quantity and only buy organic milk products.
Not Recommended for BabiesOf all the cow’s milk myths, possibly most damaging is the belief 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. Early feeding of human babies on cow’s milk is now known to increase the likelihood of developing a cow’s milk allergy, which affects close to one in ten babies. Common symptoms of such an allergy include diarrhoea, vomiting, persistent colic, eczema, urticaria, catarrh, bronchitis, asthma and sleeplessness. The American Society of Microbiologists has even suggested that some cot deaths may be attributable to cow’s milk allergy. Cow’s milk should not be given to infants under four months in any circumstances. There is also evidence that, in those genetically susceptible, it may increase the risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.
Conversely, breast milk is nothing but good news. A breast-fed baby has, on average, a four point higher IQ. This advantage can be doubled by giving the pregnant and breastfeeding mother a supplement of Omega 3 fish oils.
Not a good source of mineralsWhile milk is a good source of calcium, it is not a very good source of other minerals. Manganese, chromium, selenium and magnesium 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. 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.
From the current evidence and given the present state of intensive farming, milk (especially for young children) should not be staple foods if you really want to pursue optimum nutrition. But this is no loss – not only is it possible to have a healthy diet without including dairy produce, it’s 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. If you suspect you might be allergic, stay off all dairy produce for 14 days. If it makes no difference, limit your intake of milk to 1 pint a week