Milk is no miracle food and the consumption of dairy products has been linked to a number of health issues and diseases. We're not meant to consume milk after weaning and are best off without it.
Drinking milk is the most innate thing in the world – if you’re a baby and you’re suckling from your mum, that is. Like all 5,000 or so species of mammals on this planet, we have evolved to drink the milk of our mothers until weaned. But we are the only mammal to drink milk after weaning and certainly the only one to drink the milk of another species! If this sounds strange, think how you’d feel if your friend told you that they suckle from their pet dog or cat. Or even directly from a cow.
Cow’s milk: ideal for calves not humans
The composition of milk varies widely from animal to animal, providing the perfect first food for the young of that species. Cow’s milk is very different from human milk – which is why we mustn’t give ordinary cow’s milk to a baby - it has to be changed into a formula that attempts to replicate human milk.
Cow’s milk is meant to get a calf to triple his or her weight within a year to a whopping 300-400kg – that’s why it contains a lot of fat, hormones and proteins that are perfect for a calf but can be very unhealthy and even harmful for a human!
Did you know that over 70 per cent of the world’s population are lactose intolerant? For example, most people in China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan - as they lose the enzyme needed to break down the sugar (lactose) in milk after weaning. If they drink milk, the main symptoms include diarrhoea, a bloated and painful stomach and, on some occasions, nausea and vomiting. Even in the UK, lactose intolerance is the most common adverse reaction to cow's milk among adolescents and adults.
There's nothing wrong with being lactose intolerant - adult mammals (including humans) have no need for digesting lactose as they are not supposed to suckle so it's actually unusual that some people can digest it. It's only possible for some populations due to a couple of genetic mutations that occurred several thousands of years ago.
Every hour is cocktail hour!
In a typical glass of milk or bite of cheese, there are 35 hormones, including IGF-1, oestrogen and progesterone, adrenal, pituitary, hypothalamic and other hormones. And as two-thirds of milk is taken from pregnant cows, with the rest coming from animals who have recently given birth, levels are sky-high.
IGF wot not?
IGF-1 stands for insulin-like growth factor 1. It is a growth hormone that controls growth and development in both cattle and people but each species has very different rates of growth. It is thought that compounds in cow’s milk also make us produce more of our own IGF-1. Even small increases in our levels of IGF-1 increase the risk of several common cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and colon.
Higher intakes of milk and dairy products are linked to raised levels of IGF-1, whereas high vegetable consumption is linked to lower levels. Science looking at adult milk drinkers shows that increased dairy consumption is a major dietary risk factor for the development of prostate and breast cancers.
Pus in milk
Another undesirable component of milk is pus! Milk containing up to 400 million pus (somatic) cells per litre is legally allowed to be sold for human consumption - even higher levels in goats’ milk. Why so much? Because modern, intensive dairy farming ensures that 30 per cent of British dairy cows have mastitis – a painful infection of the udders – at any given time. Pus is a product of the cow’s almost constant fight against bacterial invasion (made up of white blood cells, bacteria and dead udder tissue cells) and some of it finds its way into her milk.
Dairy damns ‘dem bones!
Worried about your bones? Don’t be, most peoples of the world don’t drink milk and their bones are strong but those who drink the most (in Northern Europe and the US) have the highest levels of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease). The World Health Organisation say that: “The paradox clearly calls for an explanation. To date, the accumulated data indicate that the adverse effect of protein, in particular animal (but not vegetable) protein, might outweigh the positive effect of calcium intake on calcium balance.”
Cow’s milk is not the best source of calcium; our bones benefit more from plant calcium sources. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running and dancing), is the most important factor for maintaining healthy bones, followed by improving diet (plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, seeds and nuts) and lifestyle. To protect your bones – use ‘em or lose ‘em!
Mending a broken heart
Every two minutes, someone has a heart attack or stroke in the UK. Heart disease occurs when arteries carrying blood to the heart become blocked. Gradually, they become furred with ‘plaques’ - a thick sludge formed from cholesterol and other substances.
Animal protein and animal fats found mainly in dairy (hard cheese, cream, ice cream, milk chocolate and butter), red and white meats and eggs, as well as hydrogenated fats in junk foods, raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease.
Not cool for kids
Acne, asthma, colic, eczema, ear infections and obesity are all linked to dairy. So is childhood anaemia, caused by milk allergy-induced intestinal bleeding. Childhood diabetes (type 1) is increasing dramatically in younger children; early exposure to cow’s milk and infant formula is a recognised trigger. Type 2 diabetes is now a disease of our children. Lack of exercise and poor diets with high-fat dairy products are to blame. Four-cheese pizzas do us no favours!
Milk — The Wrong Stuff
Drinking milk is unnatural for us. Many humans find milk hard to digest, suffering from discomfort and pain. Despite relentless claims by the dairy industry, milk is neither the only nor the best source of calcium and can even increase your risk of bone fracture. Beans, lentils, broccoli, kale, watercress, nuts, seeds, soya and other plant foods are better and healthier sources.
Ditching dairy products has never been easier as supermarkets and health food shops now stock a wide selection of delicious and nutritious dairy-free alternatives to milk, yogurt, ice cream, margarine and cheese!