People who have been taught that cow's milk is the "perfect food" may be shocked to hear many prominent medical doctors are now saying dairy consumption is a contributing factor in nearly two dozen diseases of children and adults.
Doctors say cow's milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia, allergies, diarrhea, heart disease, colic, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, sinusitis, skin rashes, acne, increased frequency of colds and flus, arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more, possibly even lung cancer, multiple sclerosis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
In American society, one of the most sacred of all sacred cows is the milk of the cow itself. Cow's milk is more American than apple pie, but that's because apple pie doesn't have Congressional lobbyists and a multi-million dollar advertising budget. Most parents wouldn't think of raising their children without the benefit of cow's milk to help their little bones to grow big and strong. Its silky, white texture is the very epitome of our concept of wholesome purity.
Our "nutritional education" in school (funded in part by the dairy industry) taught us that dairy products are one of the four basic food groups we all need for proper nutrition. And with more than 60 of the most powerful Congressional leaders in Washington receiving campaign contributions from the National Dairy Council, we can be assured that dairy products are well-entrenched as a major staple of our government-sponsored school lunch programs.
Cow's milk is promoted as the "perfect food" for humans, and especially for our children. This advertising has put such a strong emphasis on the health of our children that some people view milk commercials as more of a public service announcement than an attempt to sell a product. These ads have told us "Milk is a Natural," "Everybody Needs Milk," "Milk is the Perfect Food," etc. This advertising has served its purpose well because the average American consumes 375 pounds of dairy products a year. One out of every seven dollars spent on groceries in the U.S. goes to buy dairy products.
But to gauge the full impact of this promotion, we must consider more than just the dollar amount spent on dairy products. We must also consider the impact this massive advertising, promotion, lobbying, "nutritional education" and public relations effort has had by creating a widely-held perception of cow's milk as a very wholesome and healthy product. This promotion has been so effective that it is common for even people who give up meat to still feel that they should continue consuming dairy products to ensure they receive sufficient protein or calcium. People buy cow's milk for their families based on the premise that this product provides essential nutrition, helps to build a healthy body, and that indeed, their precious health may be in jeopardy if they do not drink milk. If this is the premise on which Americans spend an incredible chunk of their grocery bill to provide for the health and nutrition of their loved ones, we need to further examine this premise. Despite what the dairy industry has led us to believe, many medical doctors and nutritionists are now saying that cow's milk is not healthy for human consumption, and that it can lead to many serious diseases. When you look at the credentials of the doctors making these statements, it would be hard for the dairy industry to accuse these physicians of being on the lunatic fringe of the medical world.
Frank Oski, M.D., author of Don't Drink Your Milk! is the Director of the Department of Pediatrics of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 19 medical textbooks and has written 290 medical manuscripts.
In the first chapter of his book, Dr. Oski states, "The fact is: the drinking of cow milk has been linked to iron-deficiency anemia in infants and children; it has been named as the cause of cramps and diarrhea in much of the world's population, and the cause of multiple forms of allergy as well; and the possibility has been raised that it may play a central role in the origins of atherosclerosis and heart attacks." Dr. Oski comments, "Being against cow milk is equated with being un-American," but still he notes, "Among physicians, so much concern has been voiced about the potential hazards of cow milk that the Committee on Nutrition of the prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics, the institutional voice of practicing pediatricians, released a report entitled, 'Should Milk Drinking by Children Be Discouraged?' Although the Academy's answer to this question has (as of this writing) been a qualified 'maybe,' the fact that the question was raised at all is testimony to the growing concern about this product, which for so long was viewed as sacred as the proverbial goodness of mother and apple pie."
Another outspoken critic of cow's milk is Dr. William Ellis, a retired osteopathic physician and surgeon in Arlington, Texas, who has researched the effects of dairy products for 42 years. Dr. Ellis is listed in Marquis' Who's Who in the East, Leaders of American Science, the Dictionary of International Biography and Two Thousand Men of Achievement. Dr. Ellis says dairy products are "simply no good for humans... There is overwhelming evidence that milk and milk products are harmful to many people, both adults and infants. Milk is a contributing factor in constipation, chronic fatigue, arthritis, headaches, muscle cramps, obesity, allergies and heart problems." When Washington D.C.-based pediatrician Dr. Russell Bunai was asked what single change in the American diet would produce the greatest health benefit, his answer was, "Eliminating dairy products." Dr. Christiane Northrup, a gynecologist in Yarmouth, Maine, states, "Dairy is a tremendous mucus producer and a burden on the respiratory, digestive and immune systems." Dr. Northrup says when patients "eliminate dairy products for an extended period and eat a balanced diet, they suffer less from colds and sinus infections."
Dr. Oski's book includes a letter written by Dr. J. Dan Baggett, a pediatrician in Alabama who describes his experience after six years of recommending that all his patients eliminate cow's milk from their diets. He writes, "In general, they cooperate much better than I had earlier anticipated except for the pre-teenagers and teenagers." Dr. Baggett's letter, states in part:
"During the years 1963 through 1967, I referred an average of four appendectomy cases per year. During the past five and a half years, I have referred only two patients for appendectomy, the last one being three years ago. Both of these children were professed milk guzzlers. "I do not have a single patient with active asthma. In fact, I have nearly forgotten how to prescribe for them.
"Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned is that Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus germ will not, under ordinary circumstances, establish an infection in a child kept on an absolutely no-milk-protein dietary regimen. I have been aware of this for the past two and a half years and, so far, there have been no exceptions. Any time a patient of mine is found to have streptococcal pharyngitis or pyoderma, we can establish by history that he has ingested milk protein within five days prior to onset of symptoms or signs bringing him to the office. "I now admit an average of 12-14 patients per year to the hospital. Their average hospital stay is three days. Between 1963 and 1967, I admitted an average of 100+ patients to the hospital per year. Their average stay was five days."
So how can all these medical statements be explained in light of what we have been taught all of our life about milk? Remember "Milk is the Perfect Food"... "Milk is a Natural"... "Everybody Needs Milk." Are we talking about the same food here? Perhaps we are not. It would appear that promoters of cow's milk are creating advertising statements that are meant to appeal on a subconscious level to our positive feelings and experiences with human breast milk. All mammals, including humans, are intended to be nourished during infancy by milk from their mother. Part of the very definition of a mammal is that the female of the species has milk-producing glands in her breasts which provide nourishment for her young. Each species of mammal produces its unique type of milk designed specifically to strengthen the immune system and provide nourishment for their babies, which are weaned after their birth weight has approximately tripled.
So, absolutely yes, "milk is a natural"... in the proper context. It is perfectly natural for infant mammals, including humans, to be nourished exclusively by milk from their mother's breasts. So if we are talking about human breast milk for babies, yes, "milk is the perfect food." And yes, during infancy when we have no teeth for eating solid food, and as we need to strengthen our immune system, "everybody needs milk." I have just quoted three of the most popular advertising slogans of the dairy industry and they are undisputably as true as any words that could be spoken on the subject of nutrition... if they are applied to a baby's need for human breast milk. In fact, not one of the doctors I have quoted in describing the terrible problems caused by cow's milk would disagree that milk is a natural, milk is the perfect food or that everybody needs milk, in this context. But whoa. The dairy industry has begun with these three statements that we all know are true about a baby's need for human breast milk, and twisted them out of context to apply them to a completely different product they are selling. And the sad result is that most Americans still think these noble statements about our babies needing to suckle their mother's breast milk are true when applied to the advertising claim that humans of all ages need to buy and drink cow's milk. So, in an effort to undo the damage caused by this manipulation, let us consider the differences in human breast milk versus cow's milk, and further examine the physical problems caused by humans trying to subsist on the milk of another species well past the age when any mammal should be drinking any milk.
A good place to start in analyzing the distinction between milk of different species is to begin to understand how nature works. As Dr. Oski explains in Don't Drink Your Milk!, "The milk of each species appears to have been specifically designed to protect the young of that species. Cross-feeding does not work. Heating, sterilization, or modification of the milk in any way destroys the protection." So, how much of a difference is there between a human baby drinking the milk of its mother versus drinking the milk of a cow? Dr. Oski cites a "study of over twenty thousand infants conducted in Chicago as far back as the 1930s... The overall death rate for the babies raised on human milk was 1.5 deaths per 1,000 infants while the death rate in the babies fed cow milk was 84.7 per 1,000 during the first nine months of life. The death rate from gastrointestinal infections was forty times higher in the non-breast-fed infants, while the death rate from respiratory infections was 120 times higher. An earlier analysis involving infants in eight American cities showed similar results. Infants fed on cow milk had a twenty times greater chance of dying during the first six months of life."
Dr. Michael Taylor, a Chiropractic Physician, doctoral candidate to become a Doctor of Nutrition and fellow of the American Academy of Orthomolecular Medicine, agrees, stating, "It is a dietary error to cross species to get milk from another animal." He notes there is a tremendous difference between human babies and baby calves, and a corresponding difference between the milk that is intended to nourish human babies and baby calves. In an interview on "Let's Eat," a Seventh-day Adventist television program, Dr. Taylor notes that human infants take about 180 days to double their birth weight, and that human milk is 5 to 7 percent protein. Calves require only 45 days to double their birth weight and cow's milk is 15 percent protein. In addition to the difference in the amount of protein in these two different types of milk, there are also major differences in the composition of this protein. The primary type of protein in cow's milk is casein. Cow's milk has 20 times as much casein as human milk, which makes the protein from cow's milk difficult or impossible for humans to assimilate, according to Dr. John R. Christopher, N.D., M.H. Protein composes 15 percent of the human body and when this protein cannot be properly broken down, it weakens the immune system, causing allergies and many other problems. Allergies caused by cow's milk are extremely common. In fact, Dr. Taylor states that when a single food can be isolated as the cause of an allergy, 60 percent of the time, that food is cow's milk. Dr. Ellis notes that symptoms of this allergic reaction to cow's milk in infants can include asthma, nasal congestion, skin rash, chest infections, irritability and fatigue. Dr. Oski's book cites evidence from Dr. Joyce Gryboski, director of the Pediatric Gastrointestinal Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, who states "they see at least one child a week who is referred for evaluation of chronic diarrhea and proves to have nothing more than an allergy to cow milk."
Another reason many people suffer various symptoms of disease from drinking milk is that, according to Dr. Oski, the majority of the world's adult population is "lactose intolerant," meaning they cannot digest lactose, the sugar in milk (cow's milk and human milk). An enzyme known as lactase is required to digest lactose, and Dr. Oski states that "between the age of one and a half and four years most individuals gradually lose the lactase activity in their small intestine. This appears to be a normal process that accompanies maturation.... Most people do it. All animals do it. It reflects the fact that nature never intended lactose-containing foods, such as milk, to be consumed after the normal weaning period."
In fact, so many people have bad reactions to drinking cow's milk that in 1974 the Federal Trade Commission felt compelled to take legal action against advertising claims made by the California Milk Producers. The ads claimed "Everybody Needs Milk." The FTC prosecuted the milk producers for "false, misleading and deceptive" advertising. The FTC complaint cited the high incidence of lactose intolerance, allergies caused by cow's milk and the increased risk of heart disease. The FTC won and the milk producers had to come up with a new slogan for their ads: "Milk Has Something for Everybody." One medical researcher, Dr. Kevin McGrady, commented, "Milk has something for everybody all right -- higher blood cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke." Three reasons cited by medical researchers that dairy products contribute to heart disease are their high content of cholesterol and fat, along with an enzyme in cow's milk called xanthine oxidase (XO). This enzyme, which creates problems only when milk is homogenized, causes heart disease by damaging arteries. Explaining the significance of XO, Dr. Ellis cites research by Dr. Kurt Oster, Chief of Cardiology at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut: "From 1971 to 1974, we studied 75 patients with angina pectoris (chest pain due to heart disease) and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). All the patients were taken off milk and given folic acid (a B-vitamin) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), both of which combat the action of XO. The results were dramatic. Chest pains decreased, symptoms lessened, and each of those patients is doing great today." Dr. Oster's article states that Dr. Kurt Esselbacher, Chairman of the Department of the Harvard Medical School, was in full agreement. Dr. Esselbacher writes: "Homogenized milk, because of its XO content, is one of the major causes of heart disease in the U.S."
Dr. Oski warns, "The consumption of cow milk from an early age may have life-long consequences... One pathologist has reviewed the heart vessels of over 1,500 children and adolescents who had died as a result of accidents.... These children and adolescents had not died as a result of disease, yet many of them showed signs of diseased arteries in the heart.... The majority of children with normal blood vessels had been breast-fed; the majority of children with diseased vessels had been fed cow milk or cow milk based formulas. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the differences between human milk and cow milk were responsible for the early changes in the coronary arteries." But don't we need to drink milk to get calcium? No. The best way to add calcium to your diet is to eat more fresh green vegetables. Cow's milk is high in calcium, but Dr. Ellis explains, the problem is that it is in a form that cannot be assimilated very well by humans. Dr. Ellis states, "Thousands and thousands of blood tests I've conducted show that people who drink 3 or 4 glasses of milk a day invariably had the lowest levels of blood calcium." Dr. Ellis adds, "Low levels of blood calcium correspond with irritability and headaches. In addition, the low calcium level in milk-drinkers also explains why milk-drinkers are prone to have muscle spasms and cramps. Since calcium is necessary for muscles to relax, a lack of calcium causes muscle cramps, etc."
One of the most serious problems caused by a calcium deficiency is osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of 50 to 75 percent of the person's original bone material. In the U.S., 25 percent of 65-year-old women suffer from osteoporosis. Their bones become brittle and easily broken. They can crack a rib from something as minor as a sneeze. Our pervasive dairy advertising has led to one of the most commonly held, and solidly disproved, fallacies about bones, which is that the best way to build strong bones is to increase calcium consumption by drinking plenty of milk. Actually, the consensus among leading medical researchers is that the best way for most people to increase their calcium level and strengthen their bones is to reduce their protein intake, and specifically to reduce consumption of animal products. Research has conclusively shown we can do more to increase the calcium level in our bones by reducing protein intake than by increasing calcium intake. The reason is that animal products and other sources of high protein are very acidic, and the blood stream must balance this acidic condition by absorbing alkaline minerals such as calcium from the bone structure. Thus, numerous studies, including those published in the Aug. 22, 1984 Medical Tribune and the March 1983 Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have found that vegetarians have much stronger bones than meat-eaters. Indeed, the Journal of Clinical Nutrition article found that by age 65, meat-eaters had five to six times as much measurable bone loss as vegetarians.
Speaking of minerals, another serious problem caused by consumption of cow's milk is iron-deficiency anemia. Dr. Oski notes that 15 to 20 percent of children under age 2 in the U.S. suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Cow's milk contributes to this condition in two ways. First, he notes that cow's milk is extremely low in iron, containing less than 1 milligram of iron per quart. Because of this, he writes that it is estimated that a 1-year-old would need to drink 24 quarts of cow's milk a day to meet his iron requirements, which would be impossible. He states many infants may drink from one to two quarts of cow's milk a day, which satisfies their hunger to the point that they do no have the appetite to consume enough of other foods that do have a high iron content. The second way that cow's milk leads to iron-deficiency anemia in many infants is a form of gastrointestinal bleeding caused by increased mucus and diarrhea associated with dairy consumption. "It is estimated that half the iron-deficiency in infants in the United States is primarily the result of this form of cow milk induced gastrointestinal bleeding," Dr. Oski writes. "Mucus is frequent and some stools contain obvious traces of bright red blood... The diarrhea impairs the infant's ability to retain nutrients from his feedings. In addition, the changes produced in the gastrointestinal tract by the allergic reaction result in seepage of the child's own blood into the gut. This loss of plasma and red cells leads to a lowering of the infant's blood protein level and to the development of anemia."
The mucus created by dairy products causes other problems as well. It is well-known that dairy products cause excessive mucus in the lungs, sinuses and intestines. Dr. Ellis notes this excess mucus in the breathing passages contributes to many respiratory problems and that mucus hardens to form a coating on the inner wall of the intestines that leads to poor absorption of nutrients, which can cause chronic fatigue. This mucus also causes constipation, which can lead to many other problems. Two very common problems with infants are colic and ear infections, both of which can be caused by cow's milk. Medical studies have found cow's milk can contribute to these problems either directly, when the infant drinks cow's milk, or indirectly, when the infant breast feeds from a mother who has been consuming dairy products. Colic, suffered by one out of every five infants in the U.S., is characterized by severe stomach cramps. The July/August 1994 issue of Natural Health reports, "When a mother eats dairy products, milk proteins pass into her breast milk and end up in the baby's blood; some studies have found that cow's milk proteins (from milk drunk by the mother) might trigger colick-like symptoms in infants fed only human milk and no cow's milk." Concerning ear infections, Dr. Northrup states, "You just don't see this painful condition among infants and children who aren't getting cow's milk into their systems." The Natural Health article also notes, "Removing dairy from the diet has been shown to shrink enlarged tonsils and adenoids, indicating relief for the immune system. Similarly, doctors experimenting with dairy-free diets often report a marked reduction in colds, flus, sinusitis and ear infections."
Another common problem for children is the bellyache. Dr. Oski states in his book that up to 10 percent of all children in this country suffer from a syndrome known as "recurrent abdominal pain of childhood." He says studies performed in Boston and San Francisco each concluded "that about one-third of such children had their symptoms on the basis of lactose intolerance. The simple solution was to remove all milk and milk-containing foods from the diet and watch for signs of improvement." The Natural Health article also notes that antigens in cow's milk may contribute to arthritis and osteoarthritis. "When antibody-antigen complexes (resulting from an immune response) are deposited in the joints, pain, swelling, redness and stiffness result; these complexes increase in arthritic people who eat dairy products, and the pain fades rapidly after patients eliminate dairy products from their diets. In a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, when people with rheumatoid arthritis fasted on water, fruit and vegetable juices, and tea for seven to ten days, their joint pain and stiffness were greatly reduced. When they ate a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (including only milk and eggs as animal foods), the symptoms became aggravated and they remained ill." A 1992 report in The New England Journal of Medicine also notes that cow's milk can contribute to juvenile diabetes and autoimmune diseases by impairing the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. The Natural Health article also states a 1989 study published in Nutrition and Cancer found a link between consumption of cow's milk and butter with the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. The article adds, "High levels of the cow's milk protein beta-lactoglobulin have also been found in the blood of lung cancer patients, suggesting a link with this cancer as well."
Dr. Oski's book also cites studies by two scientists from the University of Michigan who have conducted extensive research on factors associated with multiple sclerosis. There is an unusual geographic distribution of MS victims in the U.S. and throughout the world, which has baffled medical researchers for decades. This distribution of MS victims has no correlation to wealth, education or quality of medical care. Dr. Oski notes the Michigan scientists found in this pattern in the U.S. and 21 other countries, "the only significant link was between multiple sclerosis and average milk consumption." Dr. Oski's book even cites a possible link between excessive consumption of cow's milk and juvenile delinquency, based on a study conducted in Tacoma, Wash. Dr. Oski writes, "When the diets of young criminals were contrasted with those of adolescents from a similar background, it was found that the juvenile delinquents consumed almost ten times the amount of milk that was drunk by the control group. The juvenile offenders ate less fruit, nuts and vegetables."
When a reasonable person considers all this evidence, it would be difficult to still believe cow's milk is healthy for human consumption. So, what do we drink instead? Dr. Oski partly answers this question by writing, "For the newborn infant, there are two obvious alternatives -- the right and left breast of the healthy mother." After a child is weaned, there is no reason to drink any milk. We shouldn't drink any liquid with our meals because this dilutes our digestive fluids. When we are thirsty, we should drink distilled water. Or, if you want to drink something nutritional between meals, the best choice is freshly-extracted vegetable juice.