• Finally, someone takes on the milk-industrial complex!

    You heard me. Time to take on Big Dairy.

    I know those milk mustache commercials are a hit. I know you’ve been told that milk does a body good. But seriously, for so long I’ve felt like I was all alone in my quest to point out the milk emperor has no clothes. Seriously, people, has it occurred to none of you that we are the only mammals on the planet who consume milk after the early childhood period? We’re so obsessed with it that we’re forced to go get the milk from other species in order to keep up this practice.

    Hear me: I’m all for breastfeeding. It’s what all other mammals do, and I believe the evidence shows that breastfeeding is good for kids. I also understand that we likely breastfeed for a shorter duration than nature intended, and in those cases formula and milk are fine. But after age 2 or so, or whenever the brain no longer needs the extra fat for development, there is no good reason for us to keep on drinking the stuff. Really! Don’t take my word for it. Here’s David Ludwig in JAMA Pediatrics:

    Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet. Anatomically modern humans presumably achieved adequate nutrition for millennia before domestication of dairy animals, and many populations throughout the world today consume little or no milk for biological reasons (lactase deficiency), lack of availability, or cultural preferences.

    Yes! A thousand times yes! I know what some of you are saying: we need the calcium! It’s good for bones! Try again (links added by me):

    Adequate dietary calcium for bone health, often cited as the primary rationale for high intakes of milk, can be obtained from many other sources. Indeed, the recommended levels of calcium intake in the United States, based predominately on balance studies of 3 weeks or less, likely overestimate actual requirements and greatly exceed recommended intakes in the United Kingdom. Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis.

    Getting past my obvious glee at this development, I have some serious reasons for tilting at this windmill. Tons of nutrition recommendations say that we should limit children’s consumption of calorie-containing beverages, but milk always gets a pass. In fact, some of them recommend three cups a day of nonfat milk. That’s still more than 240 calories in beverages, and more than 36g of sugar. Ironically, nonfat milk contains more sugar than whole milk. Why do we recommend this?

    Moreover, drinking too much milk can be awful for your gut. It makes it bleed. Every single year of residency, I admitted at least one child who was drinking a ton of milk and had slowly bled from his GI track to a level of anemia that would kill an adult. It was always shocking, and the parents were always horrified to hear that it was excessive milk consumption that had put their kid in the hospital for an extended stay. Here’s a news story. Or take the word of Duke University Health System:

    Cow’s milk is low in iron and can actually prevent iron from being absorbed from the diet. In addition, some children develop small amounts of bleeding from their intestines when they have too much cow’s milk.

    Am I saying milk is the devil? NO. It’s an important part of a small child’s diet, and you should listen to your doctor about your toddler’s consumption. Moreover, like most things, in moderation it’s totally awesome. What else are kids going to drink with apple pie? An Oreo without milk is close to a sin.

    But at some point, in older children and adults, we should own that milk is a calorie-laden beverage like many others. It holds no special place, and you don’t need it. Phenomenal marketing and a lot of “wisdom” have convinced you otherwise. We should get over it.

    Let the hate mail commence…


    • I won’t argue with anything here, but maybe milk’s virtues lie in harm reduction. If the alternative is sugar-laden Coke or fruit juice, I have a hard time believing milk is harmful relative to either. If we compare it to water, maybe there are some harms (per the data quoted here).

    • No hate mail here. The evidence is what it is. My only problem with a massive reduction in milk consumption – at present milk is effectively subsidising delicious non-milk dairy items like cream (and thus the best ice creams). Less milk = fewer cows. Fewer cows = less cream and higher prices.

    • What single food has been part of every human diet throughout history? If that is the criteria, nothing passes. Milk, in fact, may be the closest.

    • thanks for the milk rant! loved it.

      but it’s still rather mild by the standards of “the China Study” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study). Anyone out there read it? Do you believe it? Would love a post on it if you know the area.

    • How is cream non-milk?

      I drink milk for the same reason I have drunk it throughout my life: I like it. I also like pies, potatoes, pastries and pasties; I like cakes, cannelloni, cheese and chips (fries); I like bread, butter, peanut butter, bagels and buns. I do not need any of these or most of the other foods I ingest. Most of them are nutritionally void and I obviously eat those entirely for pleasure.

      I don’t need sex either as I already have all the kids I intend to sire. I certainly need no TV other than perhaps the news and even my limited alcohol intake is wholly pointless but I’m not a monk. I am atheist so I have no “sins” to avoid and the only reason for life apart from reproduction (which I covered above) is the sheer enjoyment of it.

      I am sure you understand my point of vies but I will add one thing: you did not need to tell us we don’t need it, you’d be just as healthy keeping your killjoy findings to yourself: I don’t give a toss about the advertised “wisdom”, I like milk.

      Have a lovely day.

      • Um, I didn’t say don’t drink milk. It should be in the same category as other “optional” beverages. Drink it in moderation if you like it. But it shouldn’t be pushed as a specifically healthy thing you “need”.

    • Are you telling me that intense advertising by the producers of a good with the connivance of the supposed regulating governmental agency is not a reliable source of information? Next you’ll be telling me that much of what we believe as a society comes from internalization of propaganda that self-interested parties use to dominate the public discourse!
      BTW, my ethnic/social background avoids milk drinking beyond early childhood, but we do love cheese.

    • Not to mention methane – greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than CO2 – they produce.

      “Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day (or about 26 gallons to about 53 gallons), while others say it’s up to 500 liters (about 132 gallons) a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.” http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/mammals/methane-cow.htm

      BTW, It astounds me that people don’t realize that the sugars in skim milk contribute calories – as do most “non-fat” foods. One source said 86 calories per cup of skim milk.

    • Concentrating on milk ignores the history of dairy products. Dairy is more than milk. It’s also cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream and while ice cream doesn’t have a long history, there have been cultures which rely on the ability of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) to convert grasses into milk which can be turned into cheese, yogurt, and butter and stored to provide sustenance during the time when the animals are eating stored forages (hay, silage).

      Dairy farms — at least the smallish family-run ones in my area — are the epitome of sustainable agriculture. The manure fertilizes the fields which produce the grain and forage crops to be consumed by the cows. To be sure, there are purchases of fertilizers, seed, and fuel which require cash and there are no farmers who raise only what they can consume themselves anymore. The industry as a whole is focused on Class I fluid milk because it produces more income than manufacturing grades. And like other forms of agriculture in the USA, government subsidies help keep prices low so dairy farmers often have trouble breaking even as grain prices rise to support ethanol production.

    • Everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that ice cream has medicinal purposes.

      As any parent knows, ice cream heals almost all ailments and injuries.

    • Many European countries use a lot of dairy products, but the US is the only one where people drink milk by the glass. I’m wondering if this is the result of dairy subsidies started during the Great Depression. When a lot of people are going hungry, milk provides a good (and relatively cheap) source of protein. When I was growing up, in the early 1960s, we still had daily milk breaks in school.

    • Reminds me of an inspiring teacher/physician i had in medical school, Frank Oski (may he rest in peace), who wrote “Don’t Drink Your Milk”….

    • Amen Aaron Carrol, I do not see how milk is supposed to be so great.