is as pure white as fresh fallen snow and as familiar as a mother's warm
touch. Common sense once led me to believe that if a single food, milk,
could sustain a baby as the sole source of nutrients, then it must be “nature's
most perfect food.” Milk builds strong bones – I have learned
over and over again – and since the hardest parts of my body are made
mostly of calcium, this liquid food must be essential for my strength and
stability. Milk is for life, because they tell me I never outgrow my need
for milk. All these “facts” were the “truth” until
I took the trouble to think a little about the subject on my own and to
look into the scientific research. May I share with you some of my surprising
Milk Can Be a Perfect Food
the same species – like cow for calf, cat for kitten, mare for foal
– mother's milk can be the perfect food for the very young –
not, after weaning, for older offspring, and certainly, not for the fully-grown.
All mammals nourish their developing young with this ready-to-eat liquid
synthesized by specialized sweat glands, called the mammary glands. This
life-giving fluid contains the nutrients, antibodies and hormones that optimize
the chances for growth and survival of the infant.
essential is mother's milk? Human infants deprived of the advantages of
human breast milk have:*1
to four times the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (crib death),
than 60 times the risk of pneumonia in the first three months of life,*2
times the risk of hospitalization during their first year
intelligence as measured by IQ score
and speech difficulties
increased chance of suffering from infections, asthma, eczema, type I
diabetes, and cancer (lymphoma and leukemia) in early life
greater risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis,
food allergies, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease later in
No one argues against the fact that human breast milk is nature’s
most perfect food for human babies. There is also no satisfactory substitute;
therefore, every effort should be made to have every infant breast-fed
exclusively for six months; and then, with the addition of healthy solid
food choices, partially breast-fed until the age of two. (More information
on this is found in The McDougall Program for Women book).
Milk is Species Specific
nutritional needs of very young animals are met by the unique qualities
of the milk of that particular species. The composition of this infant food
has evolved over millions of years to be ideally suited for that animal.
Let me explain in terms of one essential nutrient: protein.
amount of protein in the milk of an animal varies to meet the growth demands
of the very young – the faster an animal grows the greater the protein
per 100 milliliters (in terms of % of calories, cow's milk has four times
more protein than human milk; 21% vs. 5%4)
required to double birth weight
to the much higher protein content, consider the other nutrient differences
between cow's milk and human:
surprisingly, since a calf doubles its birth weight nearly four times faster
than a human infant does, the concentrations of protein and calcium are
nearly four times greater. Rapid growth requires a much higher density of
all kinds of nutrients.
of Excess Nutrients
people think of health problems in terms of deficiencies of nutrients; this
is the reason vitamin and mineral supplements are so popular. However, I
do not see diseases of deficiency in my patients. For example, I see no
vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), B1 deficiency (Beriberi), or protein deficiency
in my patients. Rather, I see diseases of excess – such as excess
dietary fat (obesity), cholesterol (heart disease), and salt (hypertension).
Therefore, feeding an overly-concentrated food such as cow's milk to people
(infants, children, and adults) promotes diseases of excess. (Some of you
are still thinking cow's milk corrects calcium deficiency in people, preventing
osteoporosis. Be patient, in a moment I will show you this is not true.)
human breast milk with cow's milk was once tried in the mid-1800s in the
United States for emergency situations (such as when a mother died in childbirth).
The result was a quick death for most of the infants, because the high protein
content of the cow's milk forced fluid losses from the infant's kidneys,
resulting in dehydration.*5 Once this problem was recognized, then infant
formulas were developed which added sugar to the cow's milk in order to
reduce the protein concentration of the cow's milk and make it more resemble
human milk. Some of you may be old enough to remember making or drinking
infant formula made from Carnation evaporated cow's milk and Karo syrup
(sugar).*6 (This is a very unhealthy formula for infants – do not
the purpose of cow's milk. This is an ideal food to grow a calf from its
60-pound birthweight to a 600-pound young cow, ready to wean. This is a
high “octane” fuel. One obvious consequence of people eating
“calf food” is rapid fat gain – and dairy products are
one of the leading contributors to the epidemic of excess body fat affecting
25% of children and 65% of adults in Western populations. Matters are made
even worse when cow's milk is converted into even more concentrated products,
milk products have some important nutritional deficiencies.*4 They are completely
devoid of fiber; and contain insufficient amounts of vitamins, like C and
niacin, and minerals, like iron, to meet the human body's needs.
Promise #1: Milk Builds Strong Bones
ask people why they drink milk, they'll tell you it's for the calcium. Milk
has lots of calcium and its supporters have "milked" that point
for all it's worth. One of your first clues that cow's milk is not ideal
for bone health comes from comparison of the calcium content of the two
kinds of milk (shown above). Cow's milk has more than four times the calcium
content as human breast milk. If this exaggerated amount of calcium is not
required during our greatest time of growth – babies double in weight
in six months – then why should a concentration of calcium ideal for
calves be required when we stop growing bones as adults? Without a doubt
growing the hefty skeleton of a cow takes much more calcium than growing
relatively small human bones.
of people worldwide do not consume milk after weaning and they grow normal
adult skeletons.*7 For example, Bantu women in Africa consume no dairy products
at all, and take in only about 250 to 400 mg of calcium each day through
vegetable sources*8 (about half the recommended daily intake in the U.S.).
These women typically have ten children each and breast-feed each one for
about 10 months. Yet despite a diet with no dairy products and the tremendous
calcium drain of pregnancy and breast-feeding, osteoporosis is virtually
unknown among these women.*8 When rural African women migrate to cities
or move to Western counties and adopt rich, high-calcium diets, osteoporosis
becomes common.*9 You will soon understand this is because their new diet
becomes very high in animal protein.*10
world picture fails to support benefits claimed by the dairy industry. Countries
that have the highest traditional consumption of dairy products (United
States, Sweden, Israel, Finland, and the United Kingdom) also have the highest
rates of osteoporosis-related hip fractures.11 Places in the world with
a traditionally low intake of dairy - Hong Kong, Singapore, countries in
rural Africa - have the lowest incidence of osteoporosis.
is the key and milk is such a great source, why are there still 10 million
Americans with osteoporosis? Long-standing recommendations to increase calcium
intakes have had little or no effect on the prevalence of osteoporosis or
fractures in the United States.*7
the incidence of osteoporosis correlates directly and strongly with animal
protein intake. The highly acidic nature of animal protein is the major
cause of bone loss.*10 (You can read more about this at www.drmcdougall.com
in the February 2003 McDougall Newsletter in the article, “Fish is
not health food.”)
Promise #2: Research Supports Dairy’s Benefits
of 2000, two researchers compiled a review of the 57 studies on dairy products
and bone health which had been published in the scientific literature since
1985. This review was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.*12
Not surprisingly, most of this research was financed by the dairy industry.
The researchers reported that 53 percent of the studies showed no benefit
from dairy. Then they excluded studies with weak evidence or poor techniques,
which eliminated more than half of the studies. Of the 21 remaining studies,
57 percent again showed no benefit from dairy, and another 14 percent found
that dairy products actually weaken bones. Think about that – this
means that 71 percent of the scientifically sound research did not support
the bone building benefits of dairy products and some showed actual harm.
controlled studies compare an experimental group with a control group and
are considered the most valid form of scientific research. Of the seven
randomized controlled studies which have been completed on the effects of
dairy products on bone health, six were financed by the dairy industry.
Only one looked at the benefits of fluid milk on the health of the women
most likely to benefit: postmenopausal women.*13 At the conclusion of this
study, the women in the experimental group, fed three eight-ounce glasses
of skim milk daily for a year, were still losing more calcium from their
bodies than they were absorbing (they were in negative calcium balance).
Even though they consumed more than 1400 mg of calcium daily they still
lost twice as much bone as the women in the control group, who were not
getting the supplemental milk. Yet the industry continues to proclaim its
pro-milk message from every rooftop.
Promise #3: Dairy Foods Make Meeting Calcium Recommendations Easy
intakes of calcium to prevent osteoporosis are now so high that it is difficult,
if not impossible, to make up practical diets that meet these recommendations.*7
The National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference and The National
Osteoporosis Foundation support a calcium intake of 1,500 milligrams per
day for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen, and for adults 65 years
or older. Assuming 300-400 mg of calcium comes from starches, vegetables,
fruits, eggs, poultry, fish, and meats,*4 then 1,200 mg would have to be
obtained from dairy products daily. An average postmenopausal sedentary
woman consumes 1500 calories a day. The amount of dairy required to meet
her recommended calcium needs would be:*4
ounces Cheddar cheese (which is 74% fat). This would mean that 46% of the
calories in her diet must be from cheese; or
quart (32 ounces) of whole milk (which is 50% fat) which would mean 40%
of her diet is from milk; or
quart (32 ounces) of non-fat milk (which is 3% fat) which would mean 23%
of her diet would be non-fat milk.
dairy industry is happy about these grand recommendations, but consuming
that much cow's milk product daily would replace too many other more filling
(satisfying) and nutritious foods, and be unhealthy.
Promise #4: We Require 1500 mg of Calcium a Day
requirements for calcium are far less than recommended. Scientific research
demonstrates people need as little as 150 to 200 mg/day, even when pregnant
the great variation in calcium intakes and recommendation:
Requirement Based on Research 150-200 mg
Intake for Underdeveloped Countries 300-500 mg
Intake for Average American 500-600 mg
Health Organization Recommendation 400-500 mg
Food and Nutrition Board 1000- 1300 mg
Institutes of Health 1000-1500 mg
the large variation in figures for calcium intakes and recommendations?
The simple answer is the amount of calcium in the foods you eat has little
effect on the quantity of calcium that is eventually taken into the body
and on the health of your bones.*15
intestine will always absorb sufficient calcium to meet your needs from
the foods you eat. On a diet low in calcium, the efficiency of mineral absorption
is increased, and the intestine takes in more calcium. On a high-calcium
diet, more calcium is left in the intestine to be excreted, unused, in the
feces.16 The intestine is so “smart” about calcium that it never
fails to meet the body’s needs. If you look over the last hundred
years of scientific and nutritional literature you will find there is no
evidence that dietary calcium deficiency occurs in humans, even though most
people in the world don't drink milk after weaning – because of custom,
lactose intolerance, or simply because milk is not generally available in
their part of the world. *7,*14, *17-20 This means there is no such disease
as “dietary calcium deficiency” – think again if your
mind drifts to osteoporosis – remember, populations with the lowest
calcium intakes have the strongest bones; the least osteoporosis, worldwide.*11
Promise #5: Milk is the Best Food for Bones
truth is, milk is not the only source of calcium and it is not the best
source of calcium. Consider that the original source of calcium is the ground.
Calcium, and other minerals, are dissolved in watery solutions and absorbed
by the roots of plants. These minerals are then incorporated in the roots,
stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of the plants. Humans can get plenty
of calcium the same way it gets into cow's milk; from the plant foods they
concern about calcium intake may divert attention and resources from more
important nutritional issues. Calcium isn't the only nutrient that affects
bone health. Studies have shown that potassium and magnesium may be even
more critical in preventing bone loss, and that beta-carotene, phosphorus,
and fiber play important roles as well.*21,*22 Plants are excellent sources
of these nutrients. Milk provides no beta-carotene and no dietary fiber.*4
Most important, bone health can be more about what you don't eat than what
you do eat. Certain foods and substances – like animal proteins, cigarettes,
soft drinks, caffeine, and salt – all affect your body's ability to
absorb and use calcium vs. the loss of calcium from the body. *23,*24
Promise #6: Milk is Necessary for vitamin D
people will point out milk's vitamin D content as evidence of its critical
place in a healthy diet. Well, that's a fabrication, too. Vitamin D is not
really a vitamin; it's a hormone that the body produces in reaction to sunlight.
And it isn't present naturally in milk – it's added as a supplement
at the dairy processing factory. This addition was supposedly done to prevent
rickets, a painful, deforming bone condition that is caused by vitamin D
deficiency. But rickets is really caused by limited exposure to sunlight,
and the body levels of vitamin D are only slightly affected by dietary sources.*25,*26
The amount of sunlight we get during the summer holidays is reflected in
our vitamin D levels all year long. More than 90% of the vitamin D in the
body is produced by sunlight. Exposing the face and arms for as little as
15 minutes 3 times a week provides adequate amounts of vitamin D. However,
this activity is modified by the use of sunscreens and by skin pigmentation.*27
So nearly everyone gets enough vitamin D every day just through normal activities
– we don't need to drink milk to get it. Plus, vitamin D is fat-soluble,
which means it is stored in our body fat for long periods of time –
and most importantly, for periods of low sun exposure in the winter months.
#7: Milk Cures Hypertension
from the National Dairy Council supported a large review of the influence
of dietary (dairy products) and nondietary (supplements) calcium supplementation
on blood pressure and came to the conclusion “that calcium supplementation
leads to a small reduction in systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom
number) blood pressure.”*28 Of the 67 studies published, 47 proved
eligible for review. The actual decrease in blood pressure was paltry: Decreases
of 1.44 mmHg systolic and 0.84 mmHg diastolic. The mechanism causing this
almost undetectable reduction in blood pressure from consuming calcium is
our results from the McDougall residential center show a 23/14 mmHg decrease
in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (150/90 mmHg or greater)
in less than 10 days; and almost all of these people were taken off all
of their blood pressure medication during the 10 days.
Promise #8: Milk Prevents Colon Cancer
cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States and other
places where people eat the Western diet. There is general agreement in
the scientific community that this form of cancer is due to the high-meat,
high-fat, low-dietary fiber, low-vegetable diet that people eat.*29,*30
However, among those unfortunate people who eat this unhealthy diet, those
who have a higher calcium intake also have a lower risk of colon cancer.
The reason for this may be that calcium in the colon binds and neutralizes
cancer-causing substances, such as fats and bile acids, which are produced
by the Western diet.*31
recommendation to increase your calcium intake, rather than change to a
healthy diet, makes good economic sense for the dairy and calcium supplement
industry. However, as a sensible person, you would come to the conclusion
that stopping the cause of colon cancer – the Western diet –
should be the focus of your attention.
Promise #9: Low-fat Dairy Products are Health Food
or skim milk and dairy products are widely consumed today, but in some ways
they may be even more of a health hazard than the high-fat versions. The
process of skimming the fat from the milk increases the relative proportions
of protein and lactose.
the fat is removed from whole milk to make low-fat and skim milk the relative
amounts of proteins and carbohydrates (sugars) are increased.*4
Fat 49% 31% 2%
Protein 21% 28% 41%
CHO 30% 41% 57%
CHO = carbohydrate = lactose = milk sugar
causes calcium loss*10,*11 and is the #1 source of food allergies in people;
and the milk sugar (lactose) results in lactose intolerance (diarrhea, stomach
cramps and gas). Although skim milk may have less fat, it is still devoid
of fiber; and contains insufficient amounts of vitamins, like C and niacin,
and minerals, like iron, to meet the human body's needs.*4
Promise #10: Milk Is As Pure White As Fresh Fallen Snow
may be white but it is far from pure. Unfortunately, some of that white
comes from white blood cells – commonly referred to as “pus
cells” – which are cells produced by the cow's immune system
to fight off infections, especially those of bacterial origin, such as mastitis.
The dairy industry calls these somatic cells and refers to their presence
as the somatic cell count (SCC). The SCC is the number of (mostly) white
blood cells per milliliter (cells/ml) of milk. (There are 20 drops per milliliter;
30 milliliters to an ounce)
July 1, 1993, the SCC level in milk must be less than 750,000 SCC to comply
with the State and Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.*32 This means one
8 ounce glass of milk (240 milliliters) can contain 180 million white blood
cells and still be fine for you to drink and feed to your family. In a recent
study of milk sold in New York State the average SCC was 363,000 cells/ml.*33
These white blood cells were produced by the cow to fight off the 24,400
bacteria/ml found in this milk.
this is a disgusting way to end this article, but I must prepare you for
next month’s article concerning the health risks you take for yourself
and your family by consuming dairy products, such as obesity, heart disease,
cancer, type-I diabetes, food allergies, and the potential for infections
with AIDS and leukemia viruses found in almost all vats of milk in the United
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