Who is right? Why the confusion? Where best to get our answers?
Can we trust milk industry spokesmen? Can you trust any industry
spokesmen? Are nutritionists up to date or are they simply repeating
what their professors learned years ago? What about the new voices
I believe that there are three reliable sources of information.
The first, and probably the best, is a study of nature. The second
is to study the history of our own species. Finally we need to look
at the world’s scientific literature on the subject of milk.
Let’s look at the scientific literature first. From 1988 to 1993
there were over 2,700 articles dealing with milk recorded in the
“Medicine” archives. Fifteen hundred of theses had milk as the main
focus of the article. There is no lack of scientific information
on this subject. I reviewed over 500 of the 1,500 articles, discarding
articles that dealt exclusively with animals, esoteric research
and inconclusive studies.
How would I summarize the articles? They were only slightly less
than horrifying. First of all, none of the authors spoke of cow’s
milk as an excellent food, free of side effects and the “perfect
food” as we have been led to believe by the industry. The main focus
of the published reports seems to be on intestinal colic, intestinal
irritation, intestinal bleeding, anemia, allergic reactions in infants
and children as well as infections such as salmonella. More ominous
is the fear of viral infection with bovine leukemia virus or an
AIDS-like virus as well as concern for childhood diabetes. Contamination
of milk by blood and white (pus) cells as well as a variety of chemicals
and insecticides was also discussed. Among children the problems
were allergy, ear and tonsillar infections, bedwetting, asthma,
intestinal bleeding, colic and childhood diabetes. In adults the
problems seemed centered more around heart disease and arthritis,
allergy, sinusitis, and the more serious questions of leukemia,
lymphoma and cancer.
I think that an answer can also be found in a consideration of
what occurs in nature – what happens with free living mammals and
what happens with human groups living in close to a natural state
Our paleolithic ancestors are another crucial and interesting group
to study. Here we are limited to speculation and indirect evidences,
but the bony remains available for our study are remarkable. There
is no doubt whatever that these skeletal remains reflect great strength,
muscularity (the size of the muscular insertions show this), and
total absence of advanced osteoporosis. And if you feel that these
people are not important for us to study, consider that today our
genes are programming our bodies in almost exactly the same way
as our ancestors of 50,000 to 100,000 years ago.
WHAT IS MILK?
Milk is a maternal lactating secretion, a short term nutrient for
new-borns. Nothing more, nothing less. Invariably, the mother of
any mammal will provide her milk for a short period of time immediately
after birth. When the time comes for “weaning”, the young offspring
is introduced to the proper food for that species of mammal. A familiar
example is that of a puppy. The mother nurses the pup for just a
few weeks and then rejects the young animal and teaches it to eat
solid food. Nursing is provided by nature only for the very youngest
of mammals. Of course, it is not possible for animals living in
a natural state to continue with the drinking of milk after weaning.
IS ALL MILK THE SAME?
Then there is the matter of where we get our milk. We have settled
on the cow because of its docile nature, its size, and its abundant
milk supply. Somehow this choice seems “normal” and blessed by nature,
our culture, and our customs. But is it natural? Is it wise to drink
the milk of another species of mammal?
Consider for a moment, if it was possible, to drink the milk of
a mammal other than a cow, let’s say a rat. Or perhaps the milk
of a dog would be more to your liking. Possibly some horse milk
or cat milk. Do you get the idea? Well, I’m not serious about this,
except to suggest that human milk is for human infants, dogs’ milk
is for pups, cows’ milk is for calves, cats’ milk is for kittens,
and so forth. Clearly, this is the way nature intends it. Just use
your own good judgement on this one.
Milk is not just milk. The milk of every species of mammal is unique
and specifically tailored to the requirements of that animal. For
example, cows' milk is very much richer in protein than human milk.
Three to four times as much. It has five to seven times the mineral
content. However, it is markedly deficient in essential fatty acids
when compared to human mothers' milk. Mothers' milk has six to ten
times as much of the essential fatty acids, especially linoleic
acid. (Incidentally, skimmed cow’s milk has no linoleic acid). It
simply is not designed for humans.
Food is not just food, and milk is not just milk. It is not only
the proper amount of food but the proper qualitative composition
that is critical for the very best in health and growth. Biochemists
and physiologists - and rarely medical doctors - are gradually learning
that foods contain the crucial elements that allow a particular
species to develop its unique specializations.
Clearly, our specialization is for advanced neurological development
and delicate neuromuscular control. We do not have much need of
massive skeletal growth or huge muscle groups as does a calf. Think
of the difference between the demands make on the human hand and
the demands on a cow's hoof. Human new-borns specifically need critical
material for their brains, spinal cord and nerves.
Can mother’s milk increase intelligence? It seems that it can.
In a remarkable study published in Lancet during 1992 (Vol. 339,
p. 261-4), a group of British workers randomly placed premature
infants into two groups. One group received a proper formula, the
other group received human breast milk. Both fluids were given by
stomach tube. These children were followed up for over 10 years.
In intelligence testing, the human milk children averaged 10 IQ
points higher! Well, why not? Why wouldn’t the correct building
blocks for the rapidly maturing and growing brain have a positive
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1982) Ralph Holman
described an infant who developed profound neurological disease
while being nourished by intravenous fluids only. The fluids used
contained only linoleic acid - just one of the essential fatty acids.
When the other, alpha linoleic acid, was added to the intravenous
fluids the neurological disorders cleared.
In the same journal five years later Bjerve, Mostad and Thoresen,
working in Norway found exactly the same problem in adult patients
on long term gastric tube feeding.
In 1930 Dr. G.O. Burr in Minnesota working with rats found that
linoleic acid deficiencies created a deficiency syndrome. Why is
this mentioned? In the early 1960s pediatricians found skin lesions
in children fed formulas without the same linoleic acid. Remembering
the research, the addition of the acid to the formula cured the
problem. Essential fatty acids are just that and cows’ milk is markedly
deficient in these when compared to human milk.
WELL, AT LEAST COW'S MILK IS PURE
Or is it? Fifty years ago an average cow produced 2,000 pounds
of milk per year. Today the top producers give 50,000 pounds! How
was this accomplished? Drugs, antibiotics, hormones, forced feeding
plans and specialized breeding; that's how.
The latest high-tech onslaught on the poor cow is bovine growth
hormone or BGH. This genetically engineered drug is supposed to
stimulate milk production but, according to Monsanto, the hormone's
manufacturer, does not affect the milk or meat. There are three
other manufacturers: Upjohn, Eli Lilly, and American Cyanamid Company.
Obviously, there have been no long-term studies on the hormone's
effect on the humans drinking the milk. Other countries have banned
BGH because of safety concerns. One of the problems with adding
molecules to a milk cows' body is that the molecules usually come
out in the milk. I don't know how you feel, but I don't want to
experiment with the ingestion of a growth hormone. A related problem
is that it causes a marked increase (50 to 70 per cent) in mastitis.
This, then, requires antibiotic therapy, and the residues of the
antibiotics appear in the milk. It seems that the public is uneasy
about this product and in one survey 43 per cent felt that growth
hormone treated milk represented a health risk. A vice president
for public policy at Monsanto was opposed to labelling for that
reason, and because the labelling would create an “artificial distinction”.
The country is awash with milk as it is, we produce more milk than
we can consume. Let’s not create storage costs and further taxpayer
burdens, because the law requires the USDA to buy any surplus of
butter, cheese, or non-fat dry milk at a support price set by Congress!
In fiscal 1991, the USDA spent $757 million on surplus butter, and
one billion dollars a year on average for price supports during
the 1980s (Consumer Reports, May 1992: 330-32).
Any lactating mammal excretes toxins through her milk. This includes
antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals and hormones. Also, all cows'
milk contains blood! The inspectors are simply asked to keep it
under certain limits. You may be horrified to learn that the USDA
allows milk to contain from one to one and a half million white
blood cells per millilitre. (That’s only 1/30 of an ounce). If you
don’t already know this, I’m sorry to tell you that another way
to describe white cells where they don’t belong would be to call
them pus cells. To get to the point, is milk pure or is it a chemical,
biological, and bacterial cocktail? Finally, will the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) protect you? The United States General Accounting
Office (GAO) tells us that the FDA and the individual States are
failing to protect the public from drug residues in milk. Authorities
test for only 4 of the 82 drugs in dairy cows.
As you can imagine, the Milk Industry Foundation's spokesman claims
it's perfectly safe. Jerome Kozak says, "I still think that
milk is the safest product we have."
Other, perhaps less biased observers, have found the following:
38% of milk samples in 10 cities were contaminated with sulfa drugs
or other antibiotics. (This from the Centre for Science in the Public
Interest and The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 29, 1989).. A similar
study in Washington, DC found a 20 percent contamination rate (Nutrition
Action Healthletter, April 1990).
What’s going on here? When the FDA tested milk, they found few
problems. However, they used very lax standards. When they used
the same criteria , the FDA data showed 51 percent of the milk samples
showed drug traces.
Let’s focus in on this because it’s critical to our understanding
of the apparent discrepancies. The FDA uses a disk-assay method
that can detect only 2 of the 30 or so drugs found in milk. Also,
the test detects only at the relatively high level. A more powerful
test called the “Charm II test” can detect 4o drugs down to 5 parts
One nasty subject must be discussed. It seems that cows are forever
getting infections around the udder that require ointments and antibiotics.
An article from France tells us that when a cow receives penicillin,
that penicillin appears in the milk for from 4 to 7 milkings. Another
study from the University of Nevada, Reno tells of cells in “mastic
milk”, milk from cows with infected udders. An elaborate analysis
of the cell fragments, employing cell cultures, flow cytometric
analysis , and a great deal of high tech stuff. Do you know what
the conclusion was? If the cow has mastitis, there is pus in the
milk. Sorry, it’s in the study, all concealed with language such
as “…macrophages containing many vacuoles and phagocytosed particles,
IT GETS WORSE
Well, at least human mothers' milk is pure! Sorry. A huge study
showed that human breast milk in over 14,000 women had contamination
by pesticides! Further, it seems that the sources of the pesticides
are meat and--you guessed it--dairy products. Well, why not? These
pesticides are concentrated in fat and that's what's in these products.
(Of interest, a subgroup of lactating vegetarian mothers had only
half the levels of contamination).
A recent report showed an increased concentration of pesticides
in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer when compared to
the tissue of women with fibrocystic disease. Other articles in
the standard medical literature describe problems. Just scan these
1.“Cow’s Milk as a Cause of Infantile Colic Breast-Fed Infants.
Lancet 2 (1978): 437 2.“Dietary Protein-Induced Colitis in Breast-
Fed Infants, J. Pediatr. I01 (1982): 906 3.“The Question of the
Elimination of Foreign Protein in Women’s Milk”, J. Immunology 19
There are many others. There are dozens of studies describing the
prompt appearance of cows’ milk allergy in children being exclusively
breast-fed! The cows’ milk allergens simply appear in the mother’s
milk and are transmitted to the infant.
A committee on nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics
reported on the use of whole cows’ milk in infancy (Pediatrics 1983:
72-253). They were unable to provide any cogent reason why bovine
milk should be used before the first birthday yet continued to recommend
its use! Doctor Frank Oski from the Upstate Medical Centre Department
of Pediatrics, commenting on the recommendation , cited the problems
of occult gastrointestinal blood loss in infants, the lack of iron,
recurrent abdominal pain, milk-borne infections and contaminants,
Why give it at all - then or ever? In the face of uncertainty about
many of the potential dangers of whole bovine milk, it would seem
prudent to recommend that whole milk not be started until the answers
are available. Isn’t it time for these uncontrolled experiments
on human nutrition to come to an end?
In the same issue of Pediatrics he further commented:
It is my thesis that whole milk should not be fed to the infant
in the first year of life because of its association with iron deficiency
anemia (milk is so deficient in iron that an infant would have to
drink an impossible 31 quarts a day to get the RDA of 15 mg), occult
gastrointiestinal bleeding, and various manifestations of food allergy.
I suggest that unmodified whole bovine milk should not be consumed
after infancy because of the problems of lactose intolerance, its
contribution to the genesis of atherosclerosis, and its possible
link to other diseases.
In late 1992 Dr. Benjamin Spock, possibly the best known pediatrician
in history, shocked the country when he articulated the same thoughts
and specified avoidance for the first two years of life. Here is
I want to pass on the word to parents that cows’ milk from the
carton has definite faults for some babies. Human milk is the right
one for babies. A study comparing the incidence of allergy and colic
in the breast-fed infants of omnivorous and vegan mothers would
be important. I haven’t found such a study; it would be both important
and inexpensive. And it will probably never be done. There is simply
no academic or economic profit involved.
Let's just mention the problems of bacterial contamination. Salmonella,
E. coli, and staphylococcal infections can be traced to milk. In
the old days tuberculosis was a major problem and some folks want
to go back to those times by insisting on raw milk on the basis
that it's "natural." This is insanity! A study from UCLA
showed that over a third of all cases of salmonella infection in
California, 1980-1983 were traced to raw milk. That'll be a way
to revive good old brucellosis again and I would fear leukemia,
too. (More about that later). In England, and Wales where raw milk
is till consumed there have been outbreaks of milk-borne diseases.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (251: 483, 1984)
reported a multi-state series of infections caused by Yersinia enterocolitica
in pasteurised whole milk. This is despite safety precautions.
All parents dread juvenile diabetes for their children. A Canadian
study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Mar.
1990, describes a "...significant positive correlation between
consumption of unfermented milk protein and incidence of insulin
dependent diabetes mellitus in data from various countries. Conversely
a possible negative relationship is observed between breast-feeding
at age 3 months and diabetes risk.".
Another study from Finland found that diabetic children had higher
levels of serum antibodies to cows’ milk (Diabetes Research 7(3):
137-140 March 1988). Here is a quotation from this study:
We infer that either the pattern of cows’ milk consumption is altered
in children who will have insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or,
their immunological reactivity to proteins in cows’ milk is enhanced,
or the permeability of their intestines to cows’ milk protein is
higher than normal.
The April 18, 1992 British Medical Journal has a fascinating study
contrasting the difference in incidence of juvenile insulin dependent
diabetes in Pakistani children who have migrated to England. The
incidence is roughly 10 times greater in the English group compared
to children remaining in Pakistan! What caused this highly significant
increase? The authors said that ”the diet was unchanged in Great
Britain. Do you believe that? Do you think that the availability
of milk, sugar and fat is the same in Pakistan as it is in England?
That a grocery store in England has the same products as food sources
in Pakistan? I don’t believe that for a minute. Remember, we’re
not talking here about adult onset, type II diabetes which all workers
agree is strongly linked to diet as well as to a genetic predisposition.
This study is a major blow to the “it’s all in your genes” crowd.
Type I diabetes was always considered to be genetic or possibly
viral, but now this? So resistant are we to consider diet as causation
that the authors of the last article concluded that the cooler climate
in England altered viruses and caused the very real increase in
diabetes! The first two authors had the same reluctance top admit
the obvious. The milk just may have had something to do with the
The latest in this remarkable list of reports, a New England Journal
of Medicine article (July 30, 1992), also reported in the Los Angeles
Times. This study comes from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto
and from Finnish researchers. In Finland there is "...the world's
highest rate of dairy product consumption and the world's highest
rate of insulin dependent diabetes. The disease strikes about 40
children out of every 1,000 there contrasted with six to eight per
1,000 in the United States.... Antibodies produced against the milk
protein during the first year of life, the researchers speculate,
also attack and destroy the pancreas in a so-called auto-immune
reaction, producing diabetes in people whose genetic makeup leaves
them vulnerable." "...142 Finnish children with newly
diagnosed diabetes. They found that every one had at least eight
times as many antibodies against the milk protein as did healthy
children, clear evidence that the children had a raging auto immune
disorder." The team has now expanded the study to 400 children
and is starting a trial where 3,000 children will receive no dairy
products during the first nine months of life. "The study may
take 10 years, but we'll get a definitive answer one way or the
other," according to one of the researchers. I would caution
them to be certain that the breast feeding mothers use on cows'
milk in their diets or the results will be confounded by the transmission
of the cows' milk protein in the mother's breast milk.... Now what
was the reaction from the diabetes association? This is very interesting!
Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, the president of the association says:
"It does not mean that children should stop drinking milk or
that parents of diabetics should withdraw dairy products. These
are rich sources of good protein." (Emphasis added) My God,
it's the "good protein" that causes the problem! Do you
suspect that the dairy industry may have helped the American Diabetes
Association in the past?
LEUKEMIA? LYMPHOMA? THIS MAY BE THE WORST--BRACE YOURSELF!
I hate to tell you this, but the bovine leukemia virus is found
in more than three of five dairy cows in the United States! This
involves about 80% of dairy herds. Unfortunately, when the milk
is pooled, a very large percentage of all milk produced is contaminated
(90 to 95 per cent). Of course the virus is killed in pasteurisation--if
the pasteurisation was done correctly. What if the milk is raw?
In a study of randomly collected raw milk samples the bovine leukemia
virus was recovered from two-thirds. I sincerely hope that the raw
milk dairy herds are carefully monitored when compared to the regular
herds. (Science 1981; 213:1014).
This is a world-wide problem. One lengthy study from Germany deplored
the problem and admitted the impossibility of keeping the virus
from infected cows' milk from the rest of the milk. Several European
countries, including Germany and Switzerland, have attempted to
"cull" the infected cows from their herds. Certainly the
United States must be the leader in the fight against leukemic dairy
cows, right? Wrong! We are the worst in the world with the former
exception of Venezuela according to Virgil Hulse MD, a milk specialist
who also has a B.S. in Dairy Manufacturing as well as a Master's
degree in Public Health.
As mentioned, the leukemia virus is rendered inactive by pasteurisation.
Of course. However, there can be Chernobyl like accidents. One of
these occurred in the Chicago area in April, 1985. At a modern,
large, milk processing plant an accidental "cross connection"
between raw and pasteurised milk occurred. A violent salmonella
outbreak followed, killing 4 and making an estimated 150,000 ill.
Now the question I would pose to the dairy industry people is this:
"How can you assure the people who drank this milk that they
were not exposed to the ingestion of raw, unkilled, bully active
bovine leukemia viruses?" Further, it would be fascinating
to know if a "cluster" of leukemia cases blossoms in that
area in 1 to 3 decades. There are reports of "leukemia clusters"
elsewhere, one of them mentioned in the June 10, 1990 San Francisco
Chronicle involving No. California.
What happens to other species of mammals when they are exposed
to the bovine leukemia virus? It’s a fair question and the answer
is not reassuring. Virtually all animals exposed to the virus develop
leukemia. This includes sheep, goats, and even primates such as
rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees. The route of transmission includes
ingestion (both intravenous and intramuscular) and cells present
in milk. There are obviously no instances of transfer attempts to
human beings, but we know that the virus can infect human cells
in vitro. There is evidence of human antibody formation to the bovine
leukemia virus; this is disturbing. How did the bovine leukemia
virus particles gain access to humans and become antigens? Was it
as small, denatured particles?
If the bovine leukemia viruses causes human leukemia, we could
expect the dairy states with known leukemic herds to have a higher
incidence of human leukemia. Is this so? Unfortunately, it seems
to be the case! Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin
have statistically higher incidence of leukemia than the national
average. In Russia and in Sweden, areas with uncontrolled bovine
leukemia virus have been linked with increases in human leukemia.
I am also told that veterinarians have higher rates of leukemia
than the general public. Dairy farmers have significantly elevated
leukemia rates. Recent research shows lymphocytes from milk fed
to neonatal mammals gains access to bodily tissues by passing directly
through the intestinal wall.
An optimistic note from the University of Illinois, Ubana from
the Department of Animal Sciences shows the importance of one’s
perspective. Since they are concerned with the economics of milk
and not primarily the health aspects, they noted that the production
of milk was greater in the cows with the bovine leukemia virus.
However when the leukemia produced a persistent and significant
lymphocytosis (increased white blood cell count), the production
fell off. They suggested “…a need to re-evaluate the economic impact
of bovine leukemia virus infection on the dairy industry”. Does
this mean that leukemia is good for profits only if we can keep
it under control? You can get the details on this business concern
from Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences, U.S. Feb. 1989. I added emphasis
and am insulted that a university department feels that this is
an economic and not a human health issue. Do not expect help from
the Department of Agriculture or the universities. The money stakes
and the political pressures are too great. You’re on you own.
What does this all mean? We know that virus is capable of producing
leukemia in other animals. Is it proven that it can contribute to
human leukemia (or lymphoma, a related cancer)? Several articles
tackle this one:
1.“Epidemiologic Relationships of the Bovine Population
and Human Leukemia in Iowa”. Am Journal of Epidemiology
112 (1980): 80
2.“Milk of Dairy Cows Frequently Contains a Leukemogenic Virus”.
Science 213 (1981): 1014 3.“Beware of the Cow”.
(Editorial) Lancet 2 (1974):30
4.“Is Bovine Milk A Health Hazard?”. Pediatrics; Suppl. Feeding
the Normal Infant. 75:182-186; 1985
In Norway, 1422 individuals were followed for 11 and a half years.
Those drinking 2 or more glasses of milk per day had 3.5 times the
incidence of cancer of the lymphatic organs. British Med. Journal
61:456-9, March 1990.
One of the more thoughtful articles on this subject is from Allan
S. Cunningham of Cooperstown, New York. Writing in the Lancet, November
27, 1976 (page 1184), his article is entitled, “Lymphomas and Animal-Protein
Consumption”. Many people think of milk as “liquid meat” and Dr.
Cunningham agrees with this. He tracked the beef and dairy consumption
in terms of grams per day for a one year period, 1955-1956., in
15 countries . New Zealand, United States and Canada were highest
in that order. The lowest was Japan followed by Yugoslavia and France.
The difference between the highest and lowest was quite pronounced:
43.8 grams/day for New Zealanders versus 1.5 for Japan. Nearly a
30-fold difference! (Parenthetically, the last 36 years have seen
a startling increase in the amount of beef and milk used in Japan
and their disease patterns are reflecting this, confirming the lack
of “genetic protection” seen in migration studies. Formerly the
increase in frequency of lymphomas in Japanese people was only in
those who moved to the USA)!
An interesting bit of trivia is to note the memorial built at the
Gyokusenji Temple in Shimoda, Japan. This marked the spot where
the first cow was killed in Japan for human consumption! The chains
around this memorial were a gift from the US Navy. Where do you
suppose the Japanese got the idea to eat beef? The year? 1930.
Cunningham found a highly significant positive correlation between
deaths from lymphomas and beef and dairy ingestion in the 15 countries
analysed. A few quotations from his article follow:
The average intake of protein in many countries is far in excess
of the recommended requirements. Excessive consumption of animal
protein may be one co-factor in the causation of lymphomas by acting
in the following manner. Ingestion of certain proteins results in
the adsorption of antigenic fragments through the gastrointestinal
This results in chronic stimulation of lymphoid tissue to which
these fragments gain access…Chronic immunological stimulation causes
lymphomas in laboratory animals and is believed to cause lymphoid
cancers in men…The gastrointestinal mucous membrane is only a partial
barrier to the absorption of food antigens, and circulating antibodies
to food protein is commonplace especially potent lymphoid stimulants.
Ingestion of cows’ milk can produce generalized lymphadenopathy,
hepatosplenomegaly, and profound adenoid hypertrophy. It has been
conservatively estimated that more than 100 distinct antigens are
released by the normal digestion of cows’ milk which evoke production
of all antibody classes [This may explain why pasteurized, killed
viruses are still antigenic and can still cause disease.
Here’s more. A large prospective study from Norway was reported
in the British Journal of Cancer 61 (3):456-9, March 1990. (Almost
16,000 individuals were followed for 11 and a half years). For most
cancers there was no association between the tumour and milk ingestion.
However, in lymphoma, there was a strong positive association. If
one drank two glasses or more daily (or the equivalent in dairy
products), the odds were 3.4 times greater than in persons drinking
less than one glass of developing a lymphoma.
There are two other cow-related diseases that you should be aware
of. At this time they are not known to be spread by the use of dairy
products and are not known to involve man. The first is bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), and the second is the bovine immunodeficiency
virus (BIV). The first of these diseases, we hope, is confined to
England and causes cavities in the animal's brain. Sheep have long
been known to suffer from a disease called scrapie. It seems to
have been started by the feeding of contaminated sheep parts, especially
brains, to the British cows. Now, use your good sense. Do cows seem
like carnivores? Should they eat meat? This profit-motivated practice
backfired and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease,
swept Britain. The disease literally causes dementia in the unfortunate
animal and is 100 per cent incurable. To date, over 100,000 cows
have been incinerated in England in keeping with British law. Four
hundred to 500 cows are reported as infected each month. The British
public is concerned and has dropped its beef consumption by 25 per
cent, while some 2,000 schools have stopped serving beef to children.
Several farmers have developed a fatal disease syndrome that resembles
both BSE and CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease). But the British Veterinary
Association says that transmission of BSE to humans is "remote."
The USDA agrees that the British epidemic was due to the feeding
of cattle with bonemeal or animal protein produced at rendering
plants from the carcasses of scrapie-infected sheep. The have prohibited
the importation of live cattle and zoo ruminants from Great Britain
and claim that the disease does not exist in the United States.
However, there may be a problem. "Downer cows" are animals
who arrive at auction yards or slaughter houses dead, trampled,
lacerated, dehydrated, or too ill from viral or bacterial diseases
to walk. Thus they are "down." If they cannot respond
to electrical shocks by walking, they are dragged by chains to dumpsters
and transported to rendering plants where, if they are not already
dead, they are killed. Even a "humane" death is usually
denied them. They are then turned into protein food for animals
as well as other preparations. Minks that have been fed this protein
have developed a fatal encephalopathy that has some resemblance
to BSE. Entire colonies of minks have been lost in this manner,
particularly in Wisconsin. It is feared that the infective agent
is a prion or slow virus possible obtained from the ill "downer
The British Medical Journal in an editorial whimsically entitled
"How Now Mad Cow?" (BMJ vol. 304, 11 Apr. 1992:929-30)
describes cases of BSE in species not previously known to be affected,
such as cats. They admit that produce contaminated with bovine spongiform
encephalopathy entered the human food chain in England between 1986
and 1989. They say. "The result of this experiment is awaited."
As the incubation period can be up to three decades, wait we must.
The immunodeficency virus is seen in cattle in the United States
and is more worrisome. Its structure is closely related to that
of the human AIDS virus. At this time we do not know if exposure
to the raw BIV proteins can cause the sera of humans to become positive
for HIV. The extent of the virus among American herds is said to
be “widespread”. (The USDA refuses to inspect the meat and milk
to see if antibodies to this retrovirus is present). It also has
no plans to quarantine the infected animals. As in the case of humans
with AIDS, there is no cure for BIV in cows. Each day we consume
beef and diary products from cows infected with these viruses and
no scientific assurance exists that the products are safe. Eating
raw beef (as in steak Tartare) strikes me as being very risky, especially
after the Seattle E. coli deaths of 1993.
A report in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research , October
1992, Vol. 56 pp.353-359 and another from the Russian literature,
tell of a horrifying development. They report the first detection
in human serum of the antibody to a bovine immunodeficiency virus
protein. In addition to this disturbing report, is another from
Russia telling us of the presence of virus proteins related to the
bovine leukemia virus in 5 of 89 women with breast disease (Acta
Virologica Feb. 1990 34(1): 19-26). The implications of these developments
are unknown at present. However, it is safe to assume that these
animal viruses are unlikely to “stay” in the animal kingdom.
OTHER CANCERS--DOES IT GET WORSE?
Unfortunately it does. Ovarian cancer--a particularly nasty tumour--was
associated with milk consumption by workers at Roswell Park Memorial
Institute in Buffalo, New York. Drinking more than one glass of
whole milk or equivalent daily gave a woman a 3.1 times risk over
non-milk users. They felt that the reduced fat milk products helped
reduce the risk. This association has been made repeatedly by numerous
Another important study, this from the Harvard Medical School,
analyzed data from 27 countries mainly from the 1970s. Again a significant
positive correlation is revealed between ovarian cancer and per
capita milk consumption. These investigators feel that the lactose
component of milk is the responsible fraction, and the digestion
of this is facilitated by the persistence of the ability to digest
the lactose (lactose persistence) - a little different emphasis,
but the same conclusion. This study was reported in the American
Journal of Epidemiology 130 (5): 904-10 Nov. 1989. These articles
come from two of the country’s leading institutions, not the Rodale
Press or Prevention Magazine.
Even lung cancer has been associated with milk ingestion? The beverage
habits of 569 lung cancer patients and 569 controls again at Roswell
Park were studied in the International Journal of Cancer, April
15, 1989. Persons drinking whole milk 3 or more times daily had
a 2-fold increase in lung cancer risk when compared to those never
drinking whole milk.
For many years we have been watching the lung cancer rates for
Japanese men who smoke far more than American or European men but
who develop fewer lung cancers. Workers in this research area feel
that the total fat intake is the difference.
There are not many reports studying an association between milk
ingestion and prostate cancer. One such report though was of great
interest. This is from the Roswell Park Memorial Institute and is
found in Cancer 64 (3): 605-12, 1989. They analyzed the diets of
371 prostate cancer patients and comparable control subjects:
Men who reported drinking three or more glasses of whole milk daily
had a relative risk of 2.49 compared with men who reported never
drinking whole milk…the weight of the evidence appears to favour
the hypothesis that animal fat is related to increased risk of prostate
cancer. Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer diagnosed
in US men and is the second leading cause of cancer mortality.
WELL, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Is there any health reason at all for an adult human to drink cows'
It's hard for me to come up with even one good reason other than
simple preference. But if you try hard, in my opinion, these would
be the best two: milk is a source of calcium and it's a source of
amino acids (proteins).
Let's look at the calcium first. Why are we concerned at all about
calcium? Obviously, we intend it to build strong bones and protect
us against osteoporosis. And no doubt about it, milk is loaded with
calcium. But is it a good calcium source for humans? I think not.
These are the reasons. Excessive amounts of dairy products actually
interfere with calcium absorption. Secondly, the excess of protein
that the milk provides is a major cause of the osteoporosis problem.
Dr. Hegsted in England has been writing for years about the geographical
distribution of osteoporosis. It seems that the countries with the
highest intake of dairy products are invariably the countries with
the most osteoporosis. He feels that milk is a cause of osteoporosis.
Reasons to be given below.
Numerous studies have shown that the level of calcium ingestion
and especially calcium supplementation has no effect whatever on
the development of osteoporosis. The most important such article
appeared recently in the British Journal of Medicine where the long
arm of our dairy industry can't reach. Another study in the United
States actually showed a worsening in calcium balance in post-menopausal
women given three 8-ounce glasses of cows' milk per day. (Am. Journal
of Clin. Nutrition, 1985). The effects of hormone, gender, weight
bearing on the axial bones, and in particular protein intake, are
critically important. Another observation that may be helpful to
our analysis is to note the absence of any recorded dietary deficiencies
of calcium among people living on a natural diet without milk.
For the key to the osteoporosis riddle, don’t look at calcium,
look at protein. Consider these two contrasting groups. Eskimos
have an exceptionally high protein intake estimated at 25 percent
of total calories. They also have a high calcium intake at 2,500
mg/day. Their osteoporosis is among the worst in the world. The
other instructive group are the Bantus of South Africa. They have
a 12 percent protein diet , mostly plant protein, and only 200 to
350 mg/day of calcium, about half our women’s intake. The women
have virtually no osteoporosis despite bearing six or more children
and nursing them for prolonged periods! When African women immigrate
to the United States, do they develop osteoporosis? The answer is
yes, but not quite are much as Caucasian or Asian women. Thus, there
is a genetic difference that is modified by diet.
To answer the obvious question, "Well, where do you get your
calcium?" The answer is: "From exactly the same place
the cow gets the calcium, from green things that grow in the ground,"
mainly from leafy vegetables. After all, elephants and rhinos develop
their huge bones (after being weaned) by eating green leafy plants,
so do horses. Carnivorous animals also do quite nicely without leafy
plants. It seems that all of earth's mammals do well if they live
in harmony with their genetic programming and natural food. Only
humans living an affluent life style have rampant osteoporosis.
If animal references do not convince you, think of the several
billion humans on this earth who have never seen cows’ milk. Wouldn’t
you think osteoporosis would be prevalent in this huge group? The
dairy people would suggest this but the truth is exactly the opposite.
They have far less than that seen in the countries where dairy products
are commonly consumed. It is the subject of another paper, but the
truly significant determinants of osteoporosis are grossly excessive
protein intakes and lack of weight bearing on long bones, both taking
place over decades. Hormones play a secondary, but not trivial role
in women. Milk is a deterrent to good bone health.
THE PROTEIN MYTH
Remember when you were a kid and the adults all told you to “make
sure you get plenty of good protein”. Protein was the nutritional
“good guy” when I was young. And of course milk is fitted right
As regards protein, milk is indeed a rich source of protein--"liquid
meat," remember? However that isn't necessarily what we need.
In actual fact it is a source of difficulty. Nearly all Americans
eat too much protein.
For this information we rely on the most authoritative source that
I am aware of. This is the latest edition (1oth, 1989: 4th printing,
Jan. 1992) of the “Recommended Dietary Allowances” produced by the
National Research Council. OF interest, the current editor of this
important work is Dr. Richard Havel of the University of California
in San Francisco. First to be noted is that the recommended protein
has been steadily revised downward in successive editions. The current
recommendation is 0.75 g/kilo/day for adults 19 through 51 years.
This, of course, is only 45 grams per day for the mythical 60 kilogram
adult. You should also know that the WHO estimated the need for
protein in adults to by .6g/kilo per day. (All RDA's are calculated
with large safety allowances in case you're the type that wants
to add some more to "be sure.") You can "get by"
on 28 to 30 grams a day if necessary!
Now 45 grams a day is a tiny amount of protein. That's an ounce
and a half! Consider too, that the protein does not have to be animal
protein. Vegetable protein is identical for all practical purposes
and has no cholesterol and vastly less saturated fat. (Do not be
misled by the antiquated belief that plant proteins must be carefully
balanced to avoid deficiencies. This is not a realistic concern.)
Therefore virtually all Americans, Canadians, British and European
people are in a protein overloaded state. This has serious consequences
when maintained over decades. The problems are the already mentioned
osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and kidney damage. There is good evidence
that certain malignancies, chiefly colon and rectal, are related
to excessive meat intake. Barry Brenner, an eminent renal physiologist
was the first to fully point out the dangers of excess protein for
the kidney tubule. The dangers of the fat and cholesterol are known
to all. Finally, you should know that the protein content of human
milk is amount the lowest (0.9%) in mammals.
IS THAT ALL OF THE TROUBLE?
Sorry, there's more. Remember lactose? This is the principal carbohydrate
of milk. It seems that nature provides new-borns with the enzymatic
equipment to metabolize lactose, but this ability often extinguishes
by age 4 or 5 years.
What is the problem with lactose or milk sugar? It seems that it
is a disaccharide which is too large to be absorbed into the blood
stream without first being broken down into monosaccharides, namely
galactose and glucose. This requires the presence of an enzyme,
lactase plus additional enzymes to break down the galactose into
Let’s think about his for a moment. Nature gives us the ability
to metabolize lactose for a few years and then shuts off the mechanism.
Is Mother Nature trying to tell us something? Clearly all infants
must drink milk. The fact that so many adults cannot seems to be
related to the tendency for nature to abandon mechanisms that are
not needed. At least half of the adult humans on this earth are
lactose intolerant. It was not until the relatively recent introduction
of dairy herding and the ability to “borrow“ milk from another group
of mammals that the survival advantage of preserving lactase (the
enzyme that allows us to digest lactose) became evident. But why
would it be advantageous to drink cows’ milk? After all, most of
the human beings in the history of the world did. And further, why
was it just the white or light skinned humans who retained this
knack while the pigmented people tended to lose it?
Some students of evolution feel that white skin is a fairly recent
innovation, perhaps not more than 20,000 or 30,000 years old. It
clearly has to do with the Northward migration of early man to cold
and relatively sunless areas when skins and clothing became available.
Fair skin allows the production of Vitamin D from sunlight more
readily than does dark skin. However, when only the face was exposed
to sunlight that area of fair skin was insufficient to provide the
vitamin D from sunlight. If dietary and sunlight sources were poorly
available, the ability to use the abundant calcium in cows’ milk
would give a survival advantage to humans who could digest that
milk. This seems to be the only logical explanation for fair skinned
humans having a high degree of lactose tolerance when compared to
dark skinned people.
How does this break down? Certain racial groups, namely blacks
are up to 90% lactose intolerant as adults. Caucasians are 20 to
40% lactose intolerant. Orientals are midway between the above two
groups. Diarrhea, gas and abdominal cramps are the results of substantial
milk intake in such persons. Most American Indians cannot tolerate
milk. The milk industry admits that lactose intolerance plays intestinal
havoc with as many as 50 million Americans. A lactose-intolerance
industry has sprung up and had sales of $117 million in 1992 (Time
May 17, 1993.)
What if you are lactose-intolerant and lust after dairy products?
Is all lost? Not at all. It seems that lactose is largely digested
by bacteria and you will be able to enjoy your cheese despite lactose
intolerance. Yogurt is similar in this respect. Finally, and I could
never have dreamed this up, geneticists want to splice genes to
alter the composition of milk (Am J Clin Nutr 1993 Suppl 302s).
One could quibble and say that milk is totally devoid of fibre
content and that its habitual use will predispose to constipation
and bowel disorders.
The association with anemia and occult intestinal bleeding in infants
is known to all physicians. This is chiefly from its lack of iron
and its irritating qualities for the intestinal mucosa. The pediatric
literature abounds with articles describing irritated intestinal
lining, bleeding, increased permeability as well as colic, diarrhea
and vomiting in cows’ milk-sensitive babies. The anemia gets a double
push by loss of blood and iron as well as deficiency of iron in
the cows’ milk. Milk is also the leading cause of childhood allergy.
One additional topic: the matter of "low fat" milk. A
common and sincere question is: "Well, low fat milk is OK,
The answer to this question is that low fat milk isn't low fat.
The term "low fat" is a marketing term used to gull the
public. Low fat milk contains from 24 to 33% fat as calories! The
2% figure is also misleading. This refers to weight. They don't
tell you that, by weight, the milk is 87% water!
“Well, then, kill-joy surely you must approve of non-fat milk!”
I hear this quite a bit. (Another constant concern is: “What do
you put on your cereal?) True, there is little or no fat, but now
you have a relative overburden of protein and lactose. It there
is something that we do not need more of it is another simple sugar-lactose,
composed of galactose and glucose. Millions of Americans are lactose
intolerant to boot, as noted. As for protein, as stated earlier,
we live in a society that routinely ingests far more protein than
we need. It is a burden for our bodies, especially the kidneys,
and a prominent cause of osteoporosis. Concerning the dry cereal
issue, I would suggest soy milk, rice milk or almond milk as a healthy
substitute. If you're still concerned about calcium, "Westsoy"
is formulated to have the same calcium concentration as milk.
To my thinking, there is only one valid reason to drink milk or
use milk products. That is just because we simply want to. Because
we like it and because it has become a part of our culture. Because
we have become accustomed to its taste and texture. Because we like
the way it slides down our throat. Because our parents did the very
best they could for us and provided milk in our earliest training
and conditioning. They taught us to like it. And then probably the
very best reason is…ICE CREAM! I’ve heard it described “…to die
I had one patient who did exactly that. He had no obvious vices.
He didn’t smoke or drink, he didn’t eat meat, his diet and lifestyle
was nearly a perfectly health promoting one; but he had a passion.
You guessed it, he loved rich ice cream. A pint of the richest would
be a lean day’s ration for him. On many occasions he would eat an
entire quart - and yes there were some cookies and other pastries.
Good ice cream deserves this after all. He seemed to be in good
health despite some expected “middle age spread” when he had a devastating
stroke which left him paralyzed, miserable and helpless, and he
had additional strokes and died several years later never having
left a hospital or rehabilitation unit. Was he old? I don’t think
so. He was in his 50s.
So don't drink milk for health. I am convinced on the weight of
the scientific evidence that it does not "do a body good."
Inclusion of milk will only reduce your diet's nutritional value
Most of the people on this planet live very healthfully without
cows' milk. You can too.
It will be difficult to change; we've been conditioned since childhood
to think of milk as "nature's most perfect food." I'll
guarantee you that it will be safe, improve your health and it won't
cost anything. What can you lose?