According to Walter Willet, M.D., Ph.D – Walter Willett is professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and the author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on this topic concludes that there are many reasons to pass up milk.
The dietary information Willett and his colleagues analyzed was gathered over a 12-year period, from nearly 80,000 women, ages 30 to 55. They found no evidence that women who consumed one to three servings daily of dairy reduced their risk of hip fractures, the standard measure for osteoporosis.
These findings became more dramatic when the Harvard researchers examined women who consumed three or more servings of dairy a day and found that none had any added protection against bone fractures. Three servings contain 1,000 milligrams of calcium, which the National Academy of Sciences has set as the new Recommended Dietary Allowance.
The reasons to give up milk:
1. Dairy does not reduce fractures.(i) Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses’ Health Study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent!
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 does not as protect us as we thought.(ii) Studies shown that calcium supplementation has 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.(iii) Plus, dairy consumption increases the body’s level of insulin 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.(iv)
6. Not everyone can stomach dairy.(v) 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 findings, Dr. Willet concludes:
• Calcium probably doesn’t prevent broken bones. Few people in this country are likely to reduce their fracture risk by getting more calcium.
• Everybody needs calcium — but probably not as much as our government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) and calcium from diet, including greens and beans is better utilized by the body with less risk than calcium supplements.
• Men may not want to take calcium supplements. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D may be 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.
The FTC asked the dairy industry, “Got Proof?” — and the answer was NO!
Plus, dairy may contribute to even more health problems, like:
• Ear infections
• Sinus problems
• Allergies (vi)
• Type 1 diabetes (vii)
• Chronic constipation (viii)
• Anemia (in children)
With these concerns, many have considered raw milk as an alternative. But understand that it is not really a healthy form either …
Raw, whole, organic milk eliminates concerns like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and the effects of homogenization and pasteurization but, these benefits don’t outweigh dairy’s potential risks. From an evolutionary point of view, until 10,000 years ago, we did not domesticate animals and weren’t able to drink milk.
The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactose – 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.
• Don’t rely on dairy for healthy bones. If you want healthy bones, get plenty of exercise and supplement with 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily.
• 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 eliminate 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, use only raw, organic dairy products. I suggest focusing on 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.
Andre Noel Potvin – President and founder of INFOFIT Educators. A school for fitness professionals fosters the development in becoming a BCRPA, ACE, ACSM, and NSCA certified personal trainer. He is also an International Speaker, Author of the Great Exercise Handbook series (which has sold over 1 million copies worldwide) and a former Exercise Physiology Instructor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. If you’d like more information about this topic, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(i) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.
(ii) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;77(2):504-11.
(iii) Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54.
(iv) Huncharek M, Muscat J, Kupelnick B. Colorectal cancer risk and dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and dairy products: a meta-analysis of 26,335 cases from 60 observational studies. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):47-69.
(v) Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall KE, Hui SL, Lupton JR, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Suchy FJ, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 24;27(2).
(vi) Bartley J, McGlashan SR. Does milk increase mucus production? Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):732-4.
(vii) Luopajärvi K, Savilahti E, Virtanen SM, Ilonen J, Knip M, Akerblom HK, Vaarala O. Enhanced levels of cow’s milk antibodies in infancy in children who develop type 1 diabetes later in childhood. Pediatr Diabetes. 2008 Oct;9(5):434-41.
(viii) El-Hodhod MA, Younis NT, Zaitoun YA, Daoud SD. Cow’s milk allergy related pediatric constipation: Appropriate time of milk tolerance. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2009 Jun 25.