Don’t Drink Your Milk!

“Nature’s perfect food” is being linked to a variety of serious health problems,
in addition to those associated with high fat intake.

By: Nathaniel Mead

Asked what single change in the American diet would produce the greatest health benefit, Washington, D.C-based pediatrician Russell Bunai, says, “Eliminating dairy products.” Bunai has observed the effects of cow’s milk on the health of children and their families for more than two decades. In the 1960’s, when he served as a missionary in Ghana, West Africa, Bunai noticed that certain diseases prevalent in areas where people ate dairy were absent in areas free of dairy consumption.
“At first I noticed that where people consumed milk products, asthma and allergic conditions were common. In contrast, I rarely saw asthma, hives, or other allergies in areas free from dairy consumption. Gradually it became clear that arthritis, appendicitis, and inflammatory bowel disease followed a similar pattern. Over the years, the list of diseases associated with dairy continued to lengthen.”
Bunai is not alone in believing that our health would be improved if we cut out dairy. Increasing numbers of researchers, physicians, nutritionists, and other health professionals have begun to see milk as a food we could do without. (References to milk and dairy products in this article are to cow’s milk; there are far fewer studies of the milks of other animals.)


  We were raised to think of cow’s milk as the perfect food. The National Dairy Council advertises that “milk is a natural” and “you never outgrow your need for milk.” If you don’t drink milk, the Council warns, your bones will become brittle and your strength will fade. Partly out of fear, many Americans make dairy products a staple of their diets.
 Milk is also an easy sell. “We are moved from mother’s milk to cow’s milk very early {in life}, so that the taste of cow’s milk is associated with being held next to mother’s breast,” said Steven Locke, instructor in psychiatry and director of the psycho immunology research project at Harvard Medical School, in a 1988 interview with The New York Times. “Milk has a bigger-than-life image because it’s {linked} to mothering in ways that only Madison Avenue could appreciate.”
But the scientific case against milk consumption grows stronger by the day. Most of the publicity about milk’s dangers has focused on its fat content, which is a real concern. Fat is a known contributing factor in heart disease and has been associated with cancers of the mouth, stomach, colon, rectum, cervix, bladder, lung, and breast. While the problems with milk fat are reduced by substituting low fat or skim milk for whole milk, other serious problems remain.

Scientists have found numerous reasons to be wary of dairy, including the following:

Galactose. Ovarian cancer rates parallel dairy-eating patterns around the world. The culprit seems to be galactose, the simple sugar broken down from the milk sugar lactose. Animals fed galactose go on to develop ovarian cancer. According to Boston gynecologist Daniel Cramer, women with this cancer often have trouble breaking down galactose.
“About 10 percent of the U.S. population lacks the enzymes to metabolize galactose,” says Cramer. “Since you can’t tell whether you lack these enzymes [unlike lactose intolerance, in which there are clear signs of digestive upset], I just tell my patients they don’t need dairy.” Yogurt, cheese, and other fermented dairy products, as well as those containing Lactaid, are the richest sources of galactose.

Pesticides. Pesticides concentrate in milk of both farm animals and humans. A study by the Environmental Defense Fund found widespread pesticide contamination of human breast milk among 1,400 women in forty-six states. The levels of contamination were twice as high among the meat and dairy-eating women as among vegetarians.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. Joseph Beasley, M.D., and Jerry Swift wrote in The Kellogg Report (The Institute of Health Policy and Practice, 1989) that even “moderate use of antibiotics in animal feed can result in the development of antibiotic resistance in animal bacteria-and the subsequent transfer of that resistance to human bacteria.” According to an August 1992 report in Science, “Doctors…around the world are losing the battle against an onslaught of new drug-resistant bacterial infections including staph, pneumonia, strep, tuberculosis, dysentery, and other diseases.”

Vitamin D Toxicity. Heavy consumption of milk, especially by small children, may result in vitamin D toxicity. Records show that dairies do not carefully regulate how much vitamin D is added to milk. (Milk has been “fortified” with vitamin D ever since deficiencies were found to cause rickets, even though the vitamin is easily obtained through minimal exposure to sunlight.) A study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (April 30,1992) showed that of forty-two milk samples, only 12 percent were within the expected range of vitamin D content. Testing of ten infant formula samples revealed seven with more than twice the vitamin D content reported on the label; one sample had more than four times the label amount.

Growth hormones. Recently, cows have started to receive growth hormones to increase their milk production, although the long-term effects on humans are unknown. The General Accounting Office says the hormone, bovine somatotropin, or BST, increases the risk of mastitis, an udder disease that must be treated with antibiotics.

The Biggest Reason Not To Cry Over Spilled Milk

Perhaps the biggest health problem with cow’s milk arises from the proteins in it: Cow’s milk proteins damage the human immune system. Amino acids, the units that make up proteins, are building blocks for all living cells. When protein in our food is properly broken down by the digestive system into amino acids, it does no harm to the immune system. Some food proteins, however, are absorbed into the blood fully undigested, provoking an immune response. Repeated exposure to these proteins disrupts normal immune function and may eventually lead to disease.
Cow’s milk contains many proteins that are poorly digested and harmful to the immune system. Fish and meat proteins are much less damaging, while plant proteins pose the least hazard. “When we lose our wellness,” Bunai says, “it is most often due to immune system damage and dysfunction. Most nutritionists and physicians focus only on the quantity of protein taken in, and ignore the pathogenic characteristics of the protein.”
Removing dairy from the diet has been shown to shrink enlarged tonsils and adenoids, indicating relief for the immune system. Similarly, doctors experimenting with dairy-free diets often report a marked reduction in colds, flu, sinusitis, and ear infections.
“Dairy is a tremendous mucus producer and a burden on the respiratory, digestive, and immune system,” says Christiane Northrup, a gynecologist based in Yarmouth, Maine. “If women eliminate dairy foods for an extended period and eat a balanced diet they suffer less from colds and sinus infections.” 
In fact, the list of health problems attributed to the immune-damaging, or antigenic, properties of dairy goes on:

Colic and Ear Infections. One out of every five infants in the United States suffers bouts of colic. The colicky infant has severe belly cramps. When a mother eats dairy products, milk proteins pass into her breast milk and end up in the baby’s blood; some studies have found that cow’s milk proteins (from milk drunk by the mother) might trigger colic like symptoms in infants fed only human milk and no cow’s milk. Another common problem among infants receiving dairy, either directly or indirectly, is chronic ear infections. “You just don’t see this painful condition among infants and children who aren’t getting cow’s milk into their system,” Northrup says.

Allergies, Asthma, and Sinus Problems. Poorly digested bovine antigens (substances that provoke an immune reaction) like casein become “allergens” in allergic individuals. Physician rank A. Oski, author of Don’t Drink Your Milk (Teach Services, 1992) and chief of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, cites evidence that at least 50 percent of all children in the United States are allergic to cow’s milk, many undiagnosed. Dairy products are the leading cause of food allergy, often revealed by diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue. Many cases of asthma and sinus infections are reported as being relieved and even eliminated by cutting out dairy. The exclusion of dairy, however, must be complete to see any benefit.

Arthritis. Antigens in cow’s milk may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. When antibody-antigen complexes (resulting from an immune response) are deposited in the joints, then pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness result. These complexes increase in arthritic people who eat dairy products, and the pain fades rapidly after patients eliminate dairy products from their diets. In a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, when people with rheumatoid arthritis fasted on water, fruit and vegetable juices, and tea for seven to ten days, their joint pain stiffness were greatly reduced. When they ate a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (including only milk and eggs as animal foods), the symptoms became aggravated and they remained ill.

Diabetes and Autoimmune Diseases. Consumption of cow’s milk has been associated with insulin-dependent diabetes. The milk protein bovine serum albumin (BSA) somehow leads to an autoimmune reaction aimed at the pancreas and ultimately to impairment of the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin. According to a 1992 report in The New England Journal of Medicine, all of 142 diabetic children studied had abnormally high levels of BSA antibodies. This research suggests that a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to cow’s milk leads to juvenile diabetes.

Childhood Anemia. Cow’s milk causes loss of iron and hemoglobin in infants (one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants not drink cow’s milk) by triggering blood loss from the intestinal tract. Some research also shows that iron absorption is blocked by as much as 60 percent when dairy products are consumed in the same meal.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Lung Cancer. A 1989 study in Nutrition and Cancer linked the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with the consumption of cow’s milk and butter. A growing consensus among scientists is that animal proteins, particularly dairy proteins, play a major role in the genesis of this cancer of the immune system. High levels of the cow’s milk protein beta-lacto globulin have also been found in the blood of lung cancer patients, suggesting a link with this cancer as well.
The Bottom Line

People in different parts of the world eat varying amounts of dairy food. What determines whether it becomes a health-negating food seems to depend on two things: your innate resistance (how well your body can cope with the proteins, fats, sugars, and chemicals) and how much of it you consume. There is a big difference between consuming large amounts of milk, cheese, and ice cream and adding a teaspoon or so of milk to your morning beverage or a few tablespoons of yogurt to your fruit.
However, if you or anyone in your family is experiencing health problems of almost any kind and dairy is a part of your diet, it makes sense to completely eliminate the dairy for at least a month and observe the results. It would
not surprise Bunai and others if you found relief. 
Author: Nathaniel Mead, who managed a herd or Jersey cows in the 1970’s, considers himself weaned. He is coauthor of: Udder Non-sense: Why Milk Is No Longer Required or Recommended ©, to be published by Avery Publishing Group, 1995.



 If you’re like many people, your plans to curtain your milk consumption will run into a snag on the first morning, as you sit staring balefully at your dry cereal. But there are other creamy, sweet white liquids to use on that granola, and they don’t come from a cow.
 Soymilk is the most popular; since some soymilks carry a heavier soy flavor than others, try different brands to find one that suits your taste. Some of the “light” versions have a texture similar to that of whole milk. Most soymilks are lightly sweetened with rice or maple syrup. For creaminess, most have added vegetable oils, making their overall fat content about the same as that of low-fat milk (the fat, however, is unsaturated). Some soymilks are made with organic ingredients.
 Rice beverages are thin but creamy enough to be a milk substitute. They are sweeter than soymilks but with a sharper aftertaste. Like soymilks, these include vegetable oils, but they often have about half the fat of soymilks. Some are organic.
Amasake, an organic rice product, is a thicker and naturally sweeter drink (no sweeteners are added), with a pulpy, granular texture. Along with brown rice, ingredients include sweet brown rice and a cultured rice fermentation starter called koji rice. Other products blend soymilk with rice to make a beverage that is thicker and slightly sweeter than milk. There are also almond milks, made with brown rice syrup, almonds, lecithin, and barley malt.
 Although “original formula” non-dairy beverages contain considerably less calcium than milk, many brands now fortify some of their products with calcium and vitamins. Several companies have also introduced light (low-fat) versions of their products.
Cheese and ice cream lovers cutting back on dairy should sample some of the non-dairy cheeses and ice creams sold in natural foods stores. Although in texture and flavor they are not identical, the3 cheeses are similar to processed dairy cheeses and may take some getting used to. (Note: Most soy cheeses contain casein, a milk protein that helps the cheese to form. As described in the accompanying article, milk protein may cause allergic reactions in some people. At least one soy cheese manufacturer now makes its soy cheese without casein.) Ice creams made from soy or rice, if not tasting the same as their high-butterfat counterparts, is a surprisingly pleasant substitution.

This article contributed by: Karen Dempsey


Many Americans consume dairy in order to get enough calcium, too little of which is believed to cause osteoporosis, the “brittle bone” condition that occurs in older people. But calcium is clearly not the only factor involved in osteoporosis. Maize-eating Guatemalans get as much as 1,500 mg of calcium daily (well above the 800mg recommended for adult males in the United States or the 1,200mg recommended for females), yet they have no less bone loss than rice-eating Panamanians who get less than 500mg of calcium a day. And elderly people in a number of develo9ping countries show low osteoporosis rates despite calcium intakes as low as 200mg a day. 
This is not to say that Americans can necessarily afford to cut their calcium intake. Other factors, such as outdoor activity and weight-bearing exercise, may enable people in other cultures to get by on less calcium. And the typical American diet, which includes large amounts of animal proteins, probably increases the amount of calcium the body requires since protein depletes calcium reserves in the bones. Countries with the highest rate of hip fractures among the elderly---Norway, Denmark, and Sweden---also show the highest consumption of animal protein (primarily from dairy products); evidence shows that people in cultures where less protein is eaten enjoy good bone health while having less calcium in their diets.
Calcium depletion is also found among people who eat large quantities of refined sugars and phosphorus-rich junk foods. Such as carbonated beverages and potato chips, which figure prominently in many Americans’ diets.
A 1993 study in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, surveyed diets and activity levels in 220 women in their twenties. Bone density was positively associated with dietary calcium and exercise, and negatively associated with protein and phosphorus (the latter largely from carbonated beverages and potato chips).
“These results suggest that the ability to attain peak bone mass may be limited by large amounts of protein,” says Oregon Health Sciences University’s Jill Metz, who spearheaded the study. “Relative to the amount of calcium ingested, protein and phosphorus are being consumed in amounts that may be too high for optimal bone health.”
What all this means is that calcium must be viewed in context. Though dairy presents an easy way to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), avoiding meat, eggs, and phosphorus-rich junk foods could reduce the actual requirements for this mineral. (The RDA is designed to compensate for calcium losses resulting from a “Basic Four” type of diet.) If you eat plenty of green vegetables and possibly sea vegetables (all high in calcium), reduce your overall consumption of animal protein, and exercise outdoors on a regular basis, then you likely can cast dairy into a minor role in your diet, if not eliminate it altogether.
Article by: ---Nathaniel Mead



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