Chef Jeff's Weekly Health Update
contributed by Trevor Chin -
They are at it again.
The dairy industry and their misleading advertisements
that make false health claims about their products.
The dairy industry is running and ad campaign now
claiming that low-fat dairy product consumption is beneficial to people
suffering from high blood pressure.
The ad claims "Dairy Makes the Difference in DASH." This
is a reference to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
multicenter study funded by the federal National Heart Lung and Blood
Institute. The DASH Study did not conclude that dairy product
consumption is responsible for a reduction in blood pressure. Its design
did not isolate dairy products for examination. In fact, in 1998, the
Food and Drug Administration denied the dairy industry permission to
make the claim that low-fat dairy products protect against hypertension.
This advertisement, which is running in medical
journals, is unsupported by scientific studies and is in direct
violation of the FTC Act. "Dairy products do not lower blood pressure to
any meaningful degree, and ads that imply that they do are pushing
potentially deadly advice," says Amy Lanou, Ph.D, nutrition director for
the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
Hypertension, also known as "the silent killer," affects
50 million American adults, and is especially prevalent among African
Americans and elderly individuals. "In the absence of appropriate
treatment, hypertension is a major contributor to fatal heart disease
and stroke. The suggestion that dairy products can cause a clinically
important reduction in blood pressure is false and poses the danger that
hypertensive individuals may be less likely to seek effective
treatment," states Dr. Lanou.
In a petition that was submitted on the March 28, 2001
before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is calling on the agency to halt a dairy
industry ad claiming that low-fat dairy product consumption is
beneficial to people suffering from high blood pressure.
PCRM says that the dairy industry is also twisting the
findings of a report of sporadic cases of rickets (a disease caused by
vitamin D deficiency) to scare people into drinking cow's milk.
The report, released last week by the federal Centers
for Disease Control and discussed in the April issue of Pediatrics,
attributed cases of rickets to a decrease in sun exposure (sunlight on
the skin creates vitamin D naturally) and to an increase in
breast-feeding (breast milk can be short on vitamin D). The report also
attributed one case of rickets to a milk alternative, which was not
fortified with vitamin D. Given the many health problems associated with
dairy consumption, PCRM is concerned the
public is being misled into thinking that dairy is the best way to
"Insisting that our children drink cow's milk to get
their vitamin D is like encouraging them to play in traffic to get their
exercise," says Amy J. Lanou, Ph.D., and PCRM nutrition director.
"Yes, cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D, but it's
also jam-packed with saturated fat and problematic proteins," says Dr.
Lanou. "And cow's milk is hardly the only food fortified with vitamin D.
It's readily available in much healthier foods, such as fortified soy
and rice milks." A study conducted last Friday by PCRM shows that most
soy and rice milks, such as Silk and Pacific Soy, have 25 percent of the
daily requirement of vitamin D, the same as cow's milk.
PCRM doctors and dietitians, who have included such
well-respected child health experts as the late Benjamin Spock, M.D.,
have long maintained that cow's milk is not a health food. In children,
dairy consumption is linked with anemia, colic, allergies, constipation,
and juvenile-onset diabetes. In adults, it's related to heart disease,
prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and possibly breast cancer.
"Milk is the least healthy source of vitamin D," says
Neal D. Barnard, M.D., PCRM president. "Rather, we should encourage
increased outdoor activity, which would not only help children produce
enough vitamin D naturally, but would help strengthen their bones,
improve fitness, and reduce obesity. For kids who do not get enough
sunlight, any typical multivitamin will do the job."
The national advertising slogan being used by the dairy
industry "Got Milk?" should be replaced with one that is really in the
best interest of public health. It should be "Not Milk!"
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes
preventive medicine, especially good nutrition, and higher standards in
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