***Note - Because I’m currently living in the United States facts, figures and statements about the dairy industry or various government agencies will be primarily limited to those operating in the United States, unless otherwise stated. However it’s my understanding that dairy industries in several other countries run similarly, and considering that the arms of the United States dairy industry have begun to reach farther then the boarders of the United States itself, some of these things might be good to keep in mind. It might also be incredibly beneficial for anyone reading outside of the U.S. to do your own research about how the dairy industries in your country influences and dictates both public opinion and government policy.***
The Dangers of Dairy - Why It’s Bad for Our Health from Heart Disease to Cancer, and Beyond...
Since my Post about protein I’ve wanted to do a sort of follow up about dairy, however where to begin in dispelling the myths so heavily perpetrated by the Dairy Industry is a difficult one. Though there are many different aspects to the Dairy industry, and many things that can be said for each, this post will primarily be dealing with the health risks and consequences of consuming dairy products. More and more through my contact and conversations with people, I’ve come to realize just how important addressing these issues is. Most of us don’t understand that consuming dairy is a problem, let alone why it’s a problem or just how big a problem it is. We can understand things like trans fat, saturated fat, and chemical additives even if we choose to ignore them, but few of us deem to dig deeper into the biochemistry of our food. Rather then discern the truth for ourselves we’ve blindly and willingly let our minds become flooded and confused by the cleverly worded ‘information’ of the billion dollar marketing and add campaigns funded by the very same people who have the most to gain off of our laziness and ignorance.
The number of people who unquestioningly believe and repeat the lies generated by the dairy industry astounds me. Especially considering these myths have been debunked time and time again, by various scientists, doctors, educators, authors and activists. What shocks me even more is those same people’s disbelief, and doubt when faced with the cold hard facts presented by these doctors, researchers and scientists on the subject. I’d like to point out here that The Dairy Industry is a business - like any business - it’s a rich and powerful industry, with large lobbies in Washington D.C. and huge influence on the government. The dairy industry has everything to gain when they encourage you to drink more milk, or eat more cheese. Every penny of that carton of milk you buy or that block of cheddar you purchase goes right into The Dairy Industry’s pocket. It is in their best interest to keep you buying, and to encourage you to buy more, even when you don’t need or want it, even at the risk of your own health. However when your doctor, a scientist or a researcher tells you that eating too much cheese, or drinking too much milk has negative and even fatal consequences on your health, they gain nothing. Subsequently I gain nothing from presenting this post for you. I’m not being paid for it, I’m not generating income for it, none of your hard earned pennies are going into my pocket. I’m writing this post simply because it saddens me to see people dying and becoming ill from preventable disease. It also saddens me to see people so mislead, so disastrously duped and lied to, and cheated. Particularly when those who are doing the lying are the very people who are meant to be keeping us safe. As a compassionate person I want to do everything I can to limit the suffering of others. So if these words help you in any minuscule way, then I am grateful.
We as a culture have been indoctrinated from birth to believe that milk is everything from "Natures most natural food" to "A Miracle Health Food" to "A Vital necessity of everyday life" Think back to the commercials of your childhood where happy families sat around a breakfast table drinking full perspiring glasses of glossy white liquid, as they pour more from a bulging jug onto their breakfast cereal. Think of the 1950's aproned mom with curlers in her hair and her "Leave it to Beaver" attitude, chortling to her children that milk will make them strong and healthy. Think of the Got Milk? Adds of the 90's, with beautiful half clothed celebrities wearing foamy frothy milk mustaches, over their enticing smiles. All of these different adds and marketing ploys have two things in common. The first is that they’re bought and paid for by the tremendously rich dairy industry, and second, each one of these adds is selling you a lie. So what, you may ask, exactly is the problem with dairy? Let me tell you.
First we should start at the beginning, with Milk. What is milk? Milk is simply the mammary secretion produced during and after the pregnancy of all lactating female human and non human animals. Most people don’t think of milk in such terms, but that’s the honest truth. Any female mammal capable of reproduction, can and does produce milk. Whether that female is a human female, a Bison female, a Rabbit Female, a Rat Female, a Panda Female or a Gorilla Female, all female mammals produce lactation fluid (milk). However, considering that this post is primarily about the dairy industry, and the dairy industry consists mainly of cows, (Though goats, and now sheep are certainly becoming a bit more common here in the west) I will be using the term ‘milk’ to specifically relate to cow’s milk.
So now that we know what milk is, what is the problem? There are many, but I think I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t start with the most serious and most troubling.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. rBGH is a powerful genetically engineered drug produced by Monsanto. (A company entirely deserving of it’s own post, perhaps in the near future.) This drug when injected into dairy cows forces them to produce up to 25% more milk then they would naturally. Unfortunately not only does rBGH provoke this reaction in cows, but several studies have shown accelerated tumor and cancer growth in lab animals that were fed diets high in rBGH milk and other dairy products. In fact in 1998 Canadian Government Scientists revealed that Monsanto’s own research and data (Carefully concealed by both the company and the FDA) on feeding rBGH to rats indicated cancer danger to humans. Since 1994 every industrialized country in the World, except for the U.S. has banned the use of rBGH. In addition to this researchers from the Cancer Prevention Coalition have found that milk from rBGH cows contains substantially higher amounts of a powerful cancer tumor promoter IGI-1 (more about this hormone below) It was also discovered that rBGH milk contained higher levels of pus, bacteria, and antibiotics. If that weren’t enough it’s also been shown that neither rBGH or IGI-1 are destroyed during the pasteurization process. Yet despite the vast warnings and overwhelming disapproval expressed by the health community the FDA voted not only to approve the drug without any further testing but vetoed any bill that would force companies to include rBGH on their product labels. You may be asking yourselves how could, or why would the FDA approve a drug that was found to have such negative consequences? The simple answer is corruption and an extreme conflict of interest. As several key FDA decision makers had either previously worked for or currently worked for Monsanto at the time.
As if that weren’t enough, right? A survey conducted in 1998 by Family Farm Defenders found that rBGH injected cows living on factory dairy farms in Wisconsin had a life span of only two and a half years, when A cows natural life span can be as much as 25 years. Personally I feel that this in itself is enough proof of the negative consequences of the drug. I mean think about it, if rBGH can shorten a cows natural life span by 22 and a half years, what’s it doing to us?
Currently more then a quarter of U.S. Factory Farmed dairy cows are routinely injected with rBGH. Unfortunately rBGH contamination is more widespread then that because most of the nations 1500 dairy companies are allowing the co-mingling of rBGH milk with non-rBGH milk. Thereby contaminating up to 80-90% of the nations dairy supply with rBGH. (Including all major infant formula brands) Meanwhile cows treated with rBGH have a 25% increase in painful Udder infections (Mastitis) and a 50% increase in Lameness. To counter these health problems the cows are routinely injected with more and more antibiotics, at higher and higher doses. Which means 80-90% of the milk on the market is contaminated with a combination of rBGH, higher levels of IGI-1, higher levels of various antibiotics, bacteria, pus, blood, and feces. It sure sounds delicious, nutritious and natural to me!
So that’s rBGH, and there are tons of studies you can look up for yourself, if you’re interested in more information. Numerous research has been conducted, and I highly recommend that you consult the data compiled specifically by those countries that have banned the use of rBGH. (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, All countries belonging to the European Union etc..) As much of the research compiled in the United States was bought and paid for by Monsanto (the company that developed the drug, also known as the people with the most to gain off of your ignorance.)
Now you may read all that about rBGH and think, okay well it doesn’t apply to me because I live in one of the countries that has banned rBGH. Or if you are in the U.S. you’ll think to yourself, okay I’ll just buy Organic milk from now on. It’s true that Organic Milk (as of this moment) does not contain rBGH, and some companies have even gone to great lengths to label their products rBGH free. (Despite being handed heavy lawsuits from Monsanto) but even organic milk, as well as non-rBGH milk in other countries contains IGI-1. In fact all milk, everywhere, from every lactating female mammal contains IGI-1. Including the breast milk ofhuman females. So now a little bit about it.
IGI-1 stands for Insulin-Like Growth Factor, and as the name suggests it stimulates growth. It’s sole purpose is to stimulate the growth in an infants (human or non human) body. The amount of IGI-1 produced by any lactating female depends entirely on what stage of pregnancy or breast feeding she is in. How much is produced is also determined by the species that female belongs to. Human breast milk contains significantly less IGI-1 then cows milk. Some studies have shown that Cow’s milk (those not injected with rBGH) can produce more then 4 times the amount of IGI-1 then that of a human females milk. While rBGH cows can produce more then 10 times the amount of IGI-1 then non rBGH injected cows. (To put things into a little bit of perspective) So again, a rBGH cow can produce 10x as much IGI-1 then a human female, while a non rBGH cow can produce as much as 4x the amount of IGI-1 then a human female.
The problem with IGI-1 is that not only does it encourage the growth of normal cell tissue which is necessary in infants consuming their mothers breast milk, but with prolonged consumption, especially at those high quantities found in cows milk it also stimulates the growth of many cancers. Particularly breast cancer. Researchers have found that mixing IGI-1 with cancer cells in a test tube, caused the cancer cells to multiply. Studies have also shown that men with the highest levels of IGI-1 in their bodies had more then 4 times the risk of prostate cancer then men with the lowest levels of IGI-1. As stated above IGI-1 is not destroyed by pasteurization. It’s also not broken down by the digestion process as it was once thought. Research suggests that IGI-1 may be carried intact, passing from the digestive tract into the blood stream and even directly into the breast tissue of woman.
Human exposure to IGI-1 through human breast milk is at a smaller dosage and further limited by the fact that most humans are weaned from their mothers breast milk anywhere between the age of 1and 4. If after being weaned from your own mothers milk, you continue to supplement your diet with cow’s milk you are not only prolonging your consumption of IGI-1 but you’re also consuming more of it then you would from naturally drinking human milk. As stated above, non rBGH cows produce more then 4 times the amount of IGI-1 that human females produce, and rBGH injected cows can produce more then 10 times the amount of IGI-1 than non rBGH cows.
Humans, in fact all creatures are not designed by nature to continue consuming their species or any other species milk after weaning. Our own physiology supports this as fact. By the age of five our bodies stop producing the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down the lactose. (Milk sugar) found in milk. It’s because of this that the majority of the world is lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is more common then most people think, effecting 95% of Asians, 74% of Native Americans/First Nations (Canada), 70% of Africans, 53% of Hispanics, and 15% of Caucasians (Although many people don’t even realize they are lactose intolerant so this number may actually be higher) Such widespread lactose intolerance in my opinion is just another poignant example of nature telling us we shouldn’t continue to drink milk after weaning. Humans in fact are the only species on the planet that continue to consume milk into adulthood. Humans are also the only species on the planet who seek out the milk of other species. There isn’t another species of animal alive or dead that continues to seek out it’s mothers milk once being weaned, or for that matter the milk of any other creature. Think about it, have you ever seen an adult cow sucking on the teat of another cow? Have you ever seen an adult cat sucking on the teat of a dog? No! It doesn’t happen, because after an infant is weaned, lactation fluid (milk) becomes an un-necessary, un-important substance for every creature on earth.
Now that we’ve covered both rBGH and IGI-1 lets move onto Casein. Casein is a protein found in all milk and milk products regardless of weather or not they are conventional or Organic. It’s a naturally occurring substance in cow’s milk, the problem is that this animal protein has been extensively linked with cancer. Casein makes up 80-85% of the protein found in cows milk, (Whey makes up the other 15-20%) and has been shown to promote cancer growth in all stages of it’s development. The link between casein and cancer is well documented, particularly in the book "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. It’s so profound in fact that scientists can literally turn cancer growth on and off like a light switch in laboratory animals by altering the levels of casein in their diet. It was also found that feeding laboratory animals the same levels of gluten and soy did not promote any cancer growth at all.
Casein has been labeled a carcinogen, and is the number 1 carcinogen that people come into contact with on a daily or semi-daily basis. Every time you ingest milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk based chocolate, butter, or any other foods containing milk, or milk protein you are ingesting casein. Again it makes no difference if you are eating or drinking organic or non organic dairy products, casein is in both. Also just as an FYI here, cheese holds the highest concentration of casein then any other dairy product. This has a lot to do with how cheese is produced. To understand this better I’ll give a brief explanation. Cheese is made by curdling milk. Once the milk is curdled you have two separate substances solid and liquid. The solid is the curd, or rather the casein. The liquid is the whey. Cheese is made by using the curd. Therefore cheese no matter how you slice it, is made up of about 90% casein. That delicious cheddar you’re munching on right now is 90% carcinogenic. That combined with the fact that cheese is high in fat and is known to raise cholesterol, blood pressure, contribute to heart disease and clogged arteries, as well as be a contributing factor in obesity, you’d probably be better off sucking back on your car’s exhaust pipe.
Estrogen is yet another concern, especially for woman. Particularly those who have had breast cancer in the past, currently have it or who have a family history of it. As Cows have to be pregnant in order to produce milk. -Contrary to the popular belief that cows continually produce milk year round for no apparent reason. Cows like humans, and indeed any female mammal need to be pregnant in order to produce milk. A cow who is not pregnant, as a human who is not pregnant will not produce milk. Also contrary to popular belief cows never need to be milked, just as a human female does not need to be milked. - Pregnancy in any human or non-human animal produces more estrogen. High levels of estrogen are then found in the milk, and this is problematic for woman because it’s been well documented that excess estrogen causes breast cancer cells to multiply. This is why doctors avoid prescribing estrogen supplements to cancer patients while drugs that counter estrogen’s actions such as tamoxifen remain hugely important in breast cancer treatment. Another FYI here but fat in milk, just like the fat in any food rapidly causes excess estrogen to be produced in a woman’s body.
I consider these factors to be the most severe when considering dairy, but there are many other health risks associated with high consumption of dairy and other animal based fats and proteins. Type 1 Diabetes, obesity and Cardiovascular Disease being chief amongst them. Dairy products also contain significant amounts of saturated fat, and cholesterol, both of which are major factors in development of cardiovascular disease. Limiting or excluding intake of dairy products can not only prevent cardiovascular disease but may actually reverse it, as some studies have suggested. Milk is also surprisingly rather high in sugar, whether that is natural, or it’s added in afterwards I’m not 100% sure on. But if you read the labels on milk products vs. non-dairy milk products you’ll see a massive difference between them. For example there are 12g of sugar per one cup of my mother-in-law’s 2% milk compared to the 1g of sugar per one cup of my unsweetened almond milk, or 7g of sugar per one cup of my ‘original’ flavored soy milk.
Milk is also touted as preventing osteoporosis, but recent research shows otherwise. The Harvard Nurses health Study which fallowed 75 000 woman for 12 years showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact higher consumption of calcium from dairy products was associated with higher fracture risk. A separate Australian study also came to the same conclusion. The reason for this is because all animal protein leaches calcium away from our bones. Milk, like all animal proteins acidifies the bodies PH level, and this rise in acidity triggers the body to correct the problem. Calcium interestingly is an excellent acid neutralizer, and the biggest storage of calcium of course can be found in the bones, so when we eat animal based products, including consuming cow’s milk, the calcium is pulled out of our bones to counter the acidity that, that consumption brings to our bodies. Once the acidity has been neutralized, the calcium that’s been sucked out of our bones to do the job is then excreted through our urine. Leaving us with a calcium deficit, rather then a calcium storage. That’s why you see statistics showing that the countries with the lowest amount of dairy milk consumption have the lowest risk of osteoporosis, and bone fracture, while countries with the highest consumption of dairy milk, have the highest levels of osteoporosis and bone fracture.
Now I know a lot of people who say they could never give up dairy, they could never give up cheese. I know how that feels, because I felt like that once myself, and I’d like to point out that there’s a very real and valid reason for that. Recent research shows that there is indeed such a thing as cheese or dairy addiction. The reason why people find cheese so addictive, or the reason why people have difficulty letting go of milk, is because of the casomorphins that are found in dairy products. Casomorphins are opiates found in cows milk (or rather the milk of any lactating human or non human female, in differing degrees) Speaking in evolutionary terms these opiates present in milk, are there to provide a positive association between the calf and it’s mother. (Or the human baby and it’s human mother) this positive association strengthens the mother/child bond, and also these opiates make the calf or the child in question docile while feeding. Another aspect of the opiates is that the calf or child becomes slightly addicted to it’s mothers milk. This is very important because one of the largest growth spurts any human or non human animal goes through is during the time of breast feeding. You may start with a 6 pound baby, who by the time they’re weaned can be up to 25-40 pounds. The same goes for the growth spurt of a calf during it’s breast feeding. You start with a 100 pound calf and by the time it’s weaned it can have grown to 8 times that size. This is important historically not only in animal evolution but human evolution as well. As a larger, stronger, more sturdy child or mammal has a better chance of survival, particularly before the advent of modern medicine. Unfortunately what this also means for humans who continue to consume milk, cheese and other dairy products after weaning is that we can very seriously become addict to these foods. The opiates present in cheese may not be as strong as those present in a shot of heroine, or a line of cocaine, and the side effects might not be as severe, but if you’ve ever been or known a cheese addict then you know what I’m talking about. Addiction to cheese, as funny as it sounds, is real, and scientifically founded. Subsequently as already noted here as well as many, many other places, high intake of dairy can be just as devastating to one’s health as any other addictive substance.
Those are the facts about dairy, and I strongly encourage you to do your own research. Dairy is not a health food, it’s a commodity that’s been marketed and sold by the dairy industry for decades. The dairy industry is rich and powerful, and it’s arms spread far and wide. Their influence on us (The consumer) starts at a very early age, we’re indoctrinated from birth to believe in the goodness of dairy. To the point where the dairy industry even provides ‘educational material’ on diary products to public schools. We are taught very early on that we’re ‘suppose’ to consume cow’s milk, and despite everything in nature that points to the contrary, this has become a very powerfully ingrained habit, but habits can be broken, and bad ones most certainly should be. This idea that dairy is good for us is so powerful that most of us don’t ever question it or give it a second thought, but I urge you to do so. Consider for a moment all that is gained by the industry when you buy that carton of milk or that block of cheese, and consider also all that you have to loose by purchasing that same item.
After reading all of this, you may be wondering, So what do I do? Where do I get my nutrients? Where do I get my calcium? How do I protect my bones? Etc.... Because the dairy industry has been so successful in it’s use of propaganda, that many people have little to no idea where their nutrients really come from, or how they can attain them without the aid of cows milk.
So to help you, let’s break it down simply. What is Calcium? It’s a mineral, and all minerals are found in the ground. Historically cows milk was found to have such high calcium content because cows eat grass, and grass has tons of calcium. Therefore because of the cow’s diet, the cow’s milk was rich in this mineral. However due to the introduction of factory farming, (both meat and dairy factory farming) 3 out of 4 cows don’t even graze on grass. The majority of cows kept as dairy cows are kept in barns or dirt lots and never see a blade of grass in their lives. These cows are fed grain, and because that grain is lacking in essential nutrients and minerals their feed has to be supplemented and fortified with calcium and other important nutrients. Personally I find the idea of supplementing a cow’s diet with calcium so that we can get that calcium through drinking milk is beyond ridiculous. What’s the point of this? I can easily supplement my own diet with calcium by eating calcium rich foods like leafy greens or drinking soy milk that’s high in calcium. We don’t need the middle man. Of course Grass-Fed Dairy will contain calcium that isn’t supplemented, but then I’ve already mentioned the dangers of dairy products above.
If you want to give up dairy but are worried about calcium, your absolute best source of it is sesame seeds and leafy greens. Think spinach, think kale, chard, collards, broccoli, Brussel’s Sprouts. You can also find calcium in white beans, and almonds. You can even buy calcium fortified tofu and soy, rice, almond, hemp, hazelnut, and oat milks that have been fortified with calcium if you’re really worried and these same non-dairy milks have the added bonus of usually coming fortified with vitamin D. Or you can simply take a daily multi-vitamin. However I strongly recommend you get your calcium from whole plant foods like leafy greens, as we were meant to do, but a daily multi-vitamin is certainly good insurance in addition to that.
Something else I find fascinating that I thought relevant to add here is that our culture considers things like Soy, Rice and Nut milks to be the ‘alternatives’ to cow’s milk, when in fact cow’s milk is actually the alternative to these non-dairy milks. Though cattle were domesticated sometime between 8000-10 000 years ago, milk production was not a common practice. (Due to cost, access, ability, and quick spoilage) Where as Soy milk was discovered in China in 164 B.C. and then transplanted to Japan. Almond milk was used extensively and almost exclusively throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa and West Asia for thousands of years. Mainly because almond trees grow in abundance in that region but also because almond milk keeps for much longer then cow’s milk, and it’s entirely plant composition made it suitable for consumption during lent and other fasting days. Almond milk was a staple in every kitchen in the middle ages. While Rice Milk, or more accurately Horchata (Rice milk blended with vanilla and cinnamon) was developed in Spain in the 13th century, and was then transplanted to Mexico through colonization. Cow’s milk really did not increase in popularity until the early 1900's, and it’s use did not become widespread until the age of household refrigeration in the 30's and 40's.
In addition to non-dairy milks being delicious it should be noted that they’re packed full of healthful benefits and have no saturated fat or cholesterol. (Except coconut milk which is high in both, but that’s another story) they also contain fiber which dairy milk does not, and as already stated they can be fortified with calcium, if that’s a concern for you.
So in closing I would like to remind you that Cow’s milk as well as other dairy products are not a necessary part of a healthy human diet. It’s historically, biologically, and scientifically proven. Dairy is a business, a big business that means a lot of money for corporations and conglomerates. They have everything to loose if you stop buying into their hype, and everything to gain if you continue to blindly digest their propaganda. For you on the other hand it’s the opposite, you have everything to loose if you continue to believe in them, and everything to gain if you decide to open your eyes to the truth. Keep in mind that companies care about profits not people, and the dairy industry is no different. So for your own health as well as the health of your children I urge you to do what you can to limit or eliminate dairy from your diets. Your lives will be the better for it I promise you, and there’s nothing like expanding the horizons of your palate, or the possibilities of your plate.
PS: There are many other reasons why not to support the dairy industry, mainly those related to the cruelty dairy cows face on a day to day basis. However that is a subject for another post, one I hope to write in the coming months so if that topic interests you stay tuned.
P.P.S: For more information on this topic I highly suggest checking out the books "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell, "The Food Revolution" by John Robbins, "Vegan Freak"by Bob and Jenna Torres, "Skinny Bitch" by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (Ignore the ridiculous title because this book is full of good information) "Whitewash: The Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health" Joseph Keon PH.D Also check out the websites connected with these authors for further information, as well as vegetarian podcasts such as "Vegan Freak Podcast" by Bob and Jenna Torres, and "The Vegetarian Food for Thought Podcast" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Any Vegan cookbook generally contains a section on this topic as well such as Alicia Silverstone’s "The Kind Diet"
***Disclaimer - I realize that cancer may not be 100% preventable no matter what you do, but my philosophy is that we should do as much as possible to prevent it. Therefore if you know for a fact that something causes cancer, eliminate it from your life.***