Recently I received an email from an organization that sends health tips to interested folks. Information about staying healthy always catches my attention; and when I read the title was about the health benefits of milk, this made me even more interested to read on. It stated that there was little evidence to associate dairy products with heart disease, cancers and osteoporosis. This is contradictory to many of the research reports I have read on this topic and I am concerned that we are not hearing the entire truth about the health effects of dairy. From my reading it appears that drinking milk is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (since the saturated fat in milk raises the level of LDL/bad cholesterol), obesity, prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. Before I explain more about these problems, let’s think about a few questions.
Why do humans continue to drink milk (especially from another animal) long after the infancy period? Did you know that once a calf is weaned from its mother’s milk, it never again drinks milk? This is the case for all other mammals. Why is it that after human babies no longer need (human) mothers’ milk do we feed them milk from another (non-human) mother? Advocates will say it is for the protein, calcium and the “healthy” calories. Cow’s milk does contain protein but three times the amount human milk contains. Do we really need all this extra protein? Probably not, since most Americans already take in too much protein and this places a burden on the kidney and other parts of the body.
Did you know that cow’s milk also contains antibiotics and Bovine growth hormone (BGH)? Antibiotics are given to the cows since they are raised in such unhealthy environments where they get many infections. The BGH is to fatten them up quickly but BGH increases the levels of Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) which is linked to several cancers including breast cancer.
Milk also contains potassium and calcium but there are healthier sources of these essential minerals (think vegetables and fruits). When it comes to calcium and bone health, it has been shown that the countries with the lowest rates of dairy consumption have the lowest rates of Osteoporosis (Africa and Asia). The bottom line is that calcium from dairy products does not decrease the risk of bone disease; it actually makes it worse.
Results from the 12 year long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study (77,761 women aged 34-59) found that those who drank the most milk had the highest rate of fracture. This is because milk makes the body more acidic (it lowers the pH) and thus the body needs to buffer this acid; and since calcium is a great buffer, calcium comes out of the bones to raise the pH and the overall effect is a weakening of the bones.
Also since weight problems in the USA have become epidemic we should be limiting the intake of calories. In one cup of 2% milk there is 138 calories. The USDA recommends drinking 3 cups of milk daily. This would add 366 calories to the American diet which in most cases already contains too many calories. Obesity has become one of the top reasons for the astronomical climb in health care expense and unless we do something soon, we will continue to place a severe medical and financial burden on our country. Allergies and lactose intolerance are other problems associated with dairy products.
So where is the benefit? I just do not see it. If I am missing something, please let me know. I am always open to other points of view but I would love to see the research and the true scientific data.
In summary, in order for us to become and stay healthy, we need information that is accurate and backed by scientific evidence. We need to be reading and listening to credible information that is not tainted by individuals or groups that have a financial interest in selling a product. Health care reform must be about health care and not just about financial reform. As a society, we must expect that our food sources are healthy and that we have access to all the products and services that improve the quality and length of our lives. In this way we become a stronger nation and continue to contribute to making the world a better place.
Stay healthy my friends and as always, please send comments and questions to Dr.Sal@Leememorial.org
Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina
VP of Health & Wellness
Lee Memorial Health System
As published on 10-24-13 in The News-Press and available at www.news-press.com