Most of us grew up being told to drink our milk. The white stuff occupied a sacred spot in our refrigerators, our school cafeterias, and the minds of our parents. Dairy products were a crucial component of the government’s nutrition pyramid, and the dairy industry spent millions and millions in advertising dollars asking us, “Got milk?”
In recent years, however, the milk myth has eroded in the face of numerous scientific studies. We are learning that the promises offered on behalf of milk may in fact not be true. A large study conducted in Sweden determined that women who consumed more than three glasses of milk daily had almost twice the mortality rate over 20 years, compared to women who consumed less than one glass each day. Also, the high milk drinkers did not experience improved bone health. In reality, they had more fractures, especially hip fractures.
The same study did find that fermented milk products such as cheese and yogurt did significantly reduce mortality and fractures among women. For each daily serving of fermented milk products, the rate of mortality and hip fractures declined by 10 – 15 percent. The researchers attribute the negative effects of milk on D-galactose. D-galactose is a breakdown product of lactose which has been shown to increase inflammation. Milk is much higher in D-galactose than either cheese or yogurt.
Research offers twelve other important cautions about dairy consumption:
1. Higher dairy intake has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. This has been demonstrated in observational studies across countries as well as within single populations.
2. Higher dairy intake has been linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer in observational cohort studies.
3. The protein in cow’s milk may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes.
4. Throughout the world, populations that eat more dairy have higher rates of multiple sclerosis.
5. Dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels. These higher levels have been liked to several types of cancer.
6. In both animal and human experiments, dairy protein has been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels, and in human experiments, to atherosclerosis.
7. In experimental studies, casein (the primary protein in milk) has been shown to promote cancer initiated by a carcinogen.
8. As noted above, D-galactose has been proven pro-inflammatory, and accelerates aging in animal models.
9. Higher milk consumption is linked to acne.
10. Milk consumption has been implicated to ear infections and constipation.
11. Milk is the most commonly self-reported food allergen anywhere in the world.
12. Because of lactose intolerance, much of the global population cannot properly digest milk.
Scientists, and the population at large, are beginning to regard cows’ milk in a different light, as a lactation fluid designed by nature to nourish and rapidly increase the growth of calves. Our previous view of milk as protection against bone fractures in human beings has been proven inaccurate, although the benefits of cheese and yogurt continue to shine. Instead, we are seeing milk as a source of numerous problems, and problematic in terms of human consumption.