The Truth About Dairy


According to Dr. Willett, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on this topic, there are many reasons to pass up milk, including:

  1. Milk doesn't reduce fractures.(i) Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses' Health Study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent!
  2. Less dairy, better bones. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
  3. Calcium isn't as bone-protective as we thought.(ii) Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.
  4. Calcium may raise cancer risk. Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man's risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent.(iii) Plus, dairy consumption increases the body's level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) -- a known cancer promoter.
  5. Calcium has benefits that dairy doesn't. Calcium supplements, but not dairy products, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.(iv)
  6. Not everyone can stomach dairy.(v) About 75 percent of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products -- a problem called lactose intolerance.

Based on such findings, Dr. Willet has come to some important conclusions:

Simply put, the FTC asked the dairy industry, "Got Proof?" -- and the answer was NO!

Plus, dairy may contribute to even more health problems, like:

Due to these concerns, many have begun to consider raw milk an alternative. But that isn't really a healthy form of dairy either ...

Yes, raw, whole, organic milk eliminates concerns like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and the effects of homogenization and pasteurization -- but to me, these benefits don't outweigh dairy's potential risks.

From an evolutionary point of view, milk is a strange food for humans. Until 10,000 years ago we didn't domesticate animals and weren't able to drink milk (unless some brave hunter-gather milked a wild tiger or buffalo!).

If you don't believe that, consider this: The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase - the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk -- sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize milk after they have been weaned.

Our bodies just weren't made to digest milk on a regular basis. Instead, most scientists agree that it's better for us to get calcium, potassium, protein, and fats from other food sources, like whole plant foods -- vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seaweed.

Mark Hyman, MD


(i) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.

(ii) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;77(2):504-11.

(iii) Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54.

(iv) Huncharek M, Muscat J, Kupelnick B. Colorectal cancer risk and dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and dairy products: a meta-analysis of 26,335 cases from 60 observational studies. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):47-69.

(v) Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall KE, Hui SL, Lupton JR, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Suchy FJ, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 24;27(2).

(vi) Bartley J, McGlashan SR. Does milk increase mucus production? Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):732-4.

(vii) Luopajärvi K, Savilahti E, Virtanen SM, Ilonen J, Knip M, Akerblom HK, Vaarala O. Enhanced levels of cow's milk antibodies in infancy in children who develop type 1 diabetes later in childhood. Pediatr Diabetes. 2008 Oct;9(5):434-41.

(viii) El-Hodhod MA, Younis NT, Zaitoun YA, Daoud SD. Cow's milk allergy related pediatric constipation: Appropriate time of milk tolerance. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2009 Jun 25.


From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann