"MILK"Just the word itself sounds comforting! "How about
a nice cup of hot milk?" The last time you heard that question it was from
someone who cared for you--and you appreciated their effort.
The entire matter of food and especially that of milk is
surrounded with emotional and cultural importance. Milk was our very first
food. If we were fortunate it was our mother's milk. A loving link, given
and taken. It was the only path to survival. If not mother's milk it was
cow's milk or soy milk "formula"--rarely it was goat, camel or water
Now, we are a nation of milk drinkers. Nearly all of us.
Infants, the young, adolescents, adults and even the aged. We drink dozens
or even several hundred gallons a year and add to that many pounds of
"dairy products" such as cheese, butter, and yogurt.
Can there be anything wrong with this? We see reassuring
images of healthy, beautiful people on our television screens and hear
messages that assure us that, "Milk is good for your body." Our dieticians
insist that: "You've got to have milk, or where will you get your
calcium?" School lunches always include milk and nearly every hospital
meal will have milk added. And if that isn't enough, our nutritionists
told us for years that dairy products make up an "essential food group."
Industry spokesmen made sure that colourful charts proclaiming the
necessity of milk and other essential nutrients were made available at no
cost for schools. Cow's milk became "normal."
You may be surprised to learn that most of the human
beings that live on planet Earth today do not drink or use cow's milk.
Further, most of them can't drink milk because it makes them ill.
There are students of human nutrition who are not
supportive of milk use for adults. Here is a quotation from the
March/April 1991 Utne Reader:
If you really want to play it safe, you may decide to
join the growing number of Americans who are eliminating dairy products
from their diets altogether. Although this sounds radical to those of us
weaned on milk and the five basic food groups, it is eminently viable.
Indeed, of all the mammals, only humans--and then only a minority,
principally Caucasians--continue to drink milk beyond babyhood. "Indeed,
of all the mammals, only humans--and then only a minority, principally
Caucasians--continue to drink milk beyond babyhood.
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 urging
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
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 as "hunter-gatherers".
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.
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