I am alarmed because Jane Brody, who has been an important opinion
maker on food and nutrition issues, seems to have a voice and a
platform which immunize her and her employer against public comment.
She has often been quite responsible in her reporting on health
issues, especially since she has virtually no formal education in
nutrition or any experience in original
nutrition research. But in this instance, especially because of
her widely published views in the food and nutrition area, she has
an even greater need to be responsible for her opinions and to be
open to comment.
I am exercised over this issue because I spent many years doing
research on this and closely related topics and have acquired and
spent millions of precious American tax dollars to pursue these
interests. I have also come from a place similar to that of Ms.
Brody, thus I think that I understand her views. Like her, I accepted
the virtual religion surrounding this food. Perhaps, I
was even more enamored with this view on dairy because of my being
raised on a dairy farm before pursuing its virtues in my graduate
research program at Cornell and later in our research program. However,
after teaching and doing the relevant research in depth and in breadth
for many, many years, I now have had to acknowledge an alternative
I have been struck by the exceptionally profound results and observations,
some of which are decades old, which now question the health claims
for this food. Indeed, after publishing dozens of research papers
on our findings in the professional literature, I finally engaged
my mouth a few years ago to say what I came to believe. This included
my recently giving a seminar here at Cornell posing the proposition
that cows' milk protein may be the single most significant chemical
carcinogen to which humans are exposed, to say nothing of its other
adverse health effects. I am especially concerned about its effect
on breast cancer and other cancers of the reproductive tract.
It is time to take these findings seriously. It is time that we
consider having candid and professionally responsible public dialogue.
But, alas, this is one topic that either becomes buried in isolated
research papers receiving precious little recognition in the public
media or that is dismissed as the words of someone who has a personal
agenda. And this problem is no stranger to academia itself. From
first hand experience, I have observed an unforgivable corruption
of the academic process caused by the dairy lobby. If the public
only knew what I have come to know, I have no doubt that the outcry
would be deafening. At least, I take the liberty of believing that
the public would be so attentive and so wise.
Prior to my writing the short letter that I had hoped to have published
and before I knew the word limitation, I had written a slightly
longer perhaps slightly more informative piece, as follows:
Jane Brody has recently
been offering opinions in a New York Times column on cows' milk
and human disease (e.g., 6/20/98; 9/26/00) that beg scientific
credibility. As a widely known health journalist, she is taking
too much liberty of stating "known facts" without adequate
scientific scrutiny. I seriously challenge her views on most of
her so-called "facts" alleging the health benefits of
cows' milk while dismissing evidence to the contrary.
There IS compelling evidence, now published in top scientific
journals and some of which is decades old, showing that cows'
milk is associated, possibly even causally, with a wide variety
of serious human ailments, including various cancers, cardiovascular
diseases, diabetes, and an array of allergy related diseases.
And, this food contains no nutrients that cannot be better obtained
from other far more nutritious and tasty foods. A national dialogue
is desperately needed for there is far too much at stake, especially
concerning the 26 million children in the school lunch program.
Much of this disturbing evidence on the adverse health effects
of dairy, obtained both from human and experimental animal studies,
meets the test of biological plausibility.
Research in our own laboratory at Cornell University, supported
by more than two decades of funding from the National Institutes
of Health, the American Cancer Society and the American Institute
for Cancer Research, has produced findings to support this concern.
These extensive findings, published in the top scientific journals,
show that cows' milk protein, for example, rather vigorously promotes
tumor development in experimental animal studies at consumption
levels equivalent to that of human consumption. And, when considering
the remaining nutrient composition of cows' milk, this observation
on protein is made even more disturbing.
The question is not whether we have air tight evidence on these
disturbing observations. Rather, it is now time to begin taking
seriously this disturbing evidence in respect to its consistency,
its comprehensiveness, its plausibility, and its relevance for
human health. Understandably, it is a difficult task to challenge
such a popular food, especially when promoted by an industry with
virtually unlimited funding to pedal their product. I know very
well this difficulty, for I come from a background of dairy farming
and graduate school training having indoctrinated me in the more
traditional point of view. Nonetheless, it is now time, both within
and beyond the professions, to begin a serious dialogue to consider
the worthiness of these observations.
We must begin to seriously challenge, for example, a school lunch
program used by 26 million school children that mandates the cows'
milk option, only to risk compromising the health of so many children
who are predisposed to allergenic and disease producing disturbances,
simply to satisfy a government subsidy. We can no longer afford
to be so constrained within a research funding environment that
seriously limits an honest exploration of this issue. And we can
no longer tolerate a media that, for whatever reason, finds it
more acceptable to hide their own agenda at the expense of public
If anyone reading this piece has any ideas on how this topic might
get a wider audience, please feel free to do with it as you wish
(perhaps even including sending it to Ms. Brody, who should consider
coming back to her alma mater here at Cornell to take my course
in nutrition--I would welcome her participation and critique!).
Regardless what the evidence may turn out to be, it is imperative
that, at a minimum, we agree to discuss the evidence--the good and
the bad--in open forums. I once thought that that was what science
is all about.
T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Paracelsian, Inc., Ithaca, NY
Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry
Cornell University, On Leave