Avoid Milk? Yes!

I don’t know Mark Hyman personally, nor have I read his
book, but I do subscribe to his e-mail listserv and he seems to know what he’s
talking about when I can follow his reasoning and the science behind it. At any
rate, it’s just plain fun to read a MD ream the agriculture industry, food
processing industry, medical research establishment (as if there is a such a
single unified entity as that) and U.S. government. (There’s a link to his blog at the end of the article, which is behind the cut).

Enjoy!

  Got milk?

  These days, it seems like almost everybody does.

  Celebrities, athletes, and even former president Clinton's
  head of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, are all
  proud to wear the white "milk mustache." After all, everyone
  knows that you need milk to be healthy, right?

  Not necessarily!

  Sure, dairy is nature's perfect food -- but only if you're a
  calf.

  If that sounds shocking to you, it's because very few people
  are willing to tell the truth about dairy. In fact,
  criticizing milk in America is like taking on motherhood,
  apple pie, or baseball. 

  But that's just what I'm about to do.

  Based on the research and my experience practicing medicine,
  I typically advise most of my patients to avoid dairy
  products completely.

  I like ice cream just as much as the next person, but as a
  scientist, I have to look honestly at what we know.  In just
  a second, I will explore the many documented ill-effects of
  dairy.

  That advice flies in the face of the new, "up-to-date" food
  pyramid from the United States Department of Agriculture
  (USDA).  The USDA's pyramid recommends drinking 3 glasses of
  milk a day.

  What's wrong with that? Well, for one thing, it's not a
  recommendation that's based on strict science. And some of
  the "experts" who helped create the pyramid actually work
  for the dairy industry -- not exactly the most unbiased
  group of people!

  In fact, Walter Willett, M.D., Ph.D -- the second-most-cited
  scientist in all of clinical medicine and the head of
  nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health -- is one of
  the pyramid's most vocal critics. He's even called its
  guidelines "udderly [JC1]ridiculous."

  That's not something a Harvard scientist says lightly.

  But Dr. Willett is right.

  The pyramid just isn't based on key scientific findings
  about health. Just take a look at some of the pyramid's
  recommendations -- and why I disagree with them.

  1. Consume a variety of foods within and among the basic
  food groups while staying within your body's energy needs.

  Sounds sensible -- but which food groups?  If you choose
  dairy, meat, fats, and carbohydrates, the "perfect" meal
  could be a cheeseburger, milkshake, and fries with ketchup
  (potatoes and tomatoes are the two top vegetables consumed
  in America).  Generic advice like that is pretty meaningless
  and potentially harmful.

  2. Control your caloric intake to manage body weight.

  Again, that sounds good, but as I wrote in my book
  UltraMetabolism, even the best-trained nutritionists and
  dietitians can't come close to correctly estimating their
  own caloric intake in a day. And is it okay to consume all
  of my calories from cola or ice cream as long as I stay
  within my caloric needs? Of course not.  So this is more
  useless advice.

  3. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains,
  nonfat or low-fat milk products.

  Well, fruits, veggies, and whole grains are great.  Milk?
  Not so much. I'll get back to that in a minute.

  4. Choose carbohydrates wisely.

  Who could argue with that?  But how do they define "wisely"?
  The real advice here should be to cut down sugar intake from
  185 pounds per person per year (what we currently consume)
  to less than a pound, avoid flour products (except as a
  treat), and stick to whole-food carbohydrates like
  vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

  5. Choose to prepare food with little salt.

  That's not bad advice. But what if most of what you eat is
  packaged or processed foods that you don't actually prepare?
  Like most Americans who eat half of their meals outside
  their homes, this isn't helpful. A better recommendation
  would be to avoid packaged, processed, canned, prepared, and
  fast foods (unless you know exactly how they are made).

  6. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

  Sounds good - but if you're usually drinking two bottles of
  wine a night, then one seems like moderation!  I think a
  better suggestion is to limit your alcohol consumption to
  half a drink a day or 3 glasses a week (the amount that
  seems to have the most health benefit).

  7. Don't eat unsafe foods.

  Of course you shouldn't leave your egg salad out in the hot
  sun or toss your salad with hands that just handled raw
  chicken coated with salmonella.  But the food pyramid
  guidelines don't mention pesticides, hormones, antibiotics,
  or genetically modified foods, despite scientific evidence
  of their harm.  Shame on the USDA!

  You can see now why I have big problems with the food
  pyramid!

  Mostly, its guidelines try to sound sensible -- while still
  protecting the interests of the food industry, the
  agriculture industry, and all of the lobbyists paying for
  the elections of the Congress.

  Everybody's happy, right?

  Well, I'm not, you shouldn't be, either. The public just
  isn't served by this watered down, confusing, and useless
  pyramid. 

  Worse, some of the recommendations are downright harmful --
  like the one to drink more milk and dairy products.

  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.

  Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never
  been shown to reduce fracture risk -- but dairy may increase
  risk of fractures by 50 percent (according to the large
  Nurses' Health Study)!

  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.

  Studies of calcium supplementation have showed 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. 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.

  6) Not everyone can stomach dairy.

  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:

  *  Everybody needs calcium -- but probably not as much as our
  government's recommended daily allowance (RDA).

  *  Calcium probably doesn't prevent broken bones. Few people
  in this country are likely to reduce their fracture risk by
  getting more calcium.

  * Men may not want to take calcium supplements. Supplements
  of calcium and vitamin D may reasonable for women.

  * Dairy may be unhealthy. Advocating dairy consumption may
  have negative effects on health.

  If all that isn't enough to swear you off milk, there are a
  few other scientific findings worth noting.

  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently asked the UDSA
  to look into the scientific basis of the claims made in the
  "milk mustache" ads. Their panel of scientists stated the
  truth clearly:

  * Milk doesn't benefit sports performance.

  * There's no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or
  prevents osteoporosis -- in fact, the animal protein it
  contains may help cause bone loss!

  * Dairy is linked to prostate cancer.

  * It's full of saturated fat and is linked to heart disease.

  * Dairy causes digestive problems for the 75 percent of
  people with lactose intolerance.

  * Dairy aggravates irritable bowel syndrome.

  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:

  * Allergies
  * Sinus problems
  * Ear infections
  * Type 1 diabetes
  * Chronic constipation
  * Anemia (in children)

  But what about raw milk?

  Isn't that a healthier form of dairy?

  Not really.

  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 then 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.

  Convinced yet?

  Here's my advice for dealing with dairy:

  * If you want healthy bones, get plenty of exercise and
  supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily -- don't rely on
  dairy.

  * Get your calcium from dark green leafy vegetables, sesame
  tahini, sea vegetables, and sardines or salmon with the
  bones.

  * Try giving up all dairy -- that means milk, cheese,
  yogurt, and ice cream for two weeks and see if you feel
  better. You should notice improvements with your sinuses,
  post-nasal drip, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome,
  energy, and weight. Then start eating dairy again and see
  how you feel. If you feel worse, you should try to give it
  up for life.

  * If you can tolerate dairy, then use only raw, organic
  dairy products, preferably fermented products like
  unsweetened yogurt and kefir, occasionally.

  * If you have to feed your child formula from milk, don't
  worry. The milk in infant formula is hydrolyzed or broken
  down and easier to digest (although it can still cause
  allergies). Once your child is a year old, switch him or her
  to real food and almond milk.

  Still got milk?

  I hope not!

  Remember, dairy is not crucial for good health.

  I encourage you to go dairy-free and see what it does for
  you.

  Now I'd love to hear from you:  Do you agree or disagree
  that dairy is bad for you?  Have you experienced any
  problems consuming dairy?  Or, more importantly, what
  changes - for better or worse - have you experienced if
  you've tried eliminating dairy?

  Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment to my
  blog at:

  ==>  http://www.ultrametabolism.com/blog

  To your good health,

  Mark Hyman, MD

About Jon Frater

A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jonathan Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters, and Robotech Adventures: Lancer's Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He's currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan's first full-length novel.

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