Milk and Your Health – Some Facts for You to Think About

What would you say if I told you that cow’s milk may not be as good for you as you might think? The idea that the milk that we know and love might actually be bad for us is not exactly an accepted idea in American society. We see commercials produced by the diary industry plastered with facts about how milk can help us lose weight and lower our cholesterol and prevent osteoporosis. We use sayings that link milk to purity (‘as wholesome as milk’) almost from day one. In fact, if there’s one thing that most of us know for a fact, it’s that milk is good for you.

According to The International Dairy Foods Association (IFDA), milk contains all the essential nutrients that our bodies need to keep us healthy. It contains calcium to prevent osteoporosis, phosphorus to help our bodies absorb the calcium, protein to help our bodies build and repair body tissue, riboflavin to help keep our skin healthy and many, many health benefits. And all we need do is consume three cups a day, every day for good health.

No one I ever knew questioned the benefits of milk consumption until I started doing research on the subject. And while there is some truth in the IFDA’s claims, there’s a great deal that the IDFA leaves out.

Claim # 1 – Milk helps prevent osteoporosis

I’ve worked in health care for a few years and I’ve always found it strange how people just discovering they have osteoporosis have said to me something along the lines of; “But I drink milk! Lots of it!”. If Milk helps prevent osteoporosis, how can you still get it?

According to the Surgeon General’s 2004 report on Bone Health, an estimated 1.5 million people over the age of 50 have bone diseases such as Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. Consider, if most people in the consume dairy products (that includes, milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.) how is it that 1.5 million people are still being diagnosed with bone loss?
Dairy products do contain a great deal of calcium, more than enough for the human body. However, it also contains a great deal of protein and sodium and not nearly enough of potassium and other essential vitamins. The end result is your body losing calcium at the same time as absorbing it. In other words, the more diary you eat, the more calcium you lose.

Claim # 2 – Milk can help you lose weight and prevent heart disease.

Everyone knows that milk contains fat. The IFDA claims that the fat in milk contains “fat soluble vitamins” necessary to a healthy diet.

The fat in diary products makes up about 5 percent of saturated fats, which sounds pretty low until one considers the recommended allowance of saturated fats (according to official U.S. dietary guidelines) is only 10 percent. That means that milk alone provides half of what the recommended allowance is for consumption of saturated fats.

In defense of the IFDA, milk does contain a more than enough B12 – a necessary vitamin that reduces the levels of homocysteine – but considering how much saturated fat is in milk and also considering the fact that you can get just as much (if not more) B12 from certain vegetables without the risk of adding saturated fats to the equation, this negates the argument that ‘milk may prevent heart disease’.

Claim # 3 – Milk is one of the most wholesome foods a person can consume.

In 1993, the FDA approved the use of injecting rBGH, or Bovine Growth Hormone, into cows to make them produce more milk. This hormone has been linked to a good number of diseases, most notably cancer, cystic ovaries, and a host of digestive problems.

Dairy cows already produce a natural form of rBGH, or BST. This hormone increases the Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) levels in milk and is actually been shown to be beneficial for growth and development in children and babies. However, studies have shown that it also causes cancer cells to develop. When the amount of IGF-1 is increased because of the increased amount of BST in the cow, what happens is the IGF-1 becomes less of a benefit to human cells and more of a risk.

IGF-1 has been found in patients suffering from prostate, breast, and colon cancer and while the American Cancer Society has stated that “Extensive testing and research has shown that rBST is indistinguishable from natural bovine growth hormone and thus entails no health risks for consumers”, they make no mention of the increase of IGF-1 in cow’s milk and its effect on human cells.

Now, I’m not above the argument that cow’s milk still has benefits to good health. Given that it is fortified with vitamins that we all need, it can be suggested that dairy products have their good points. But an informed decision to consume milk is far better than an uninformed one. There are plenty of other foods that can give the human body what it needs and more without the risk factors that milk poses on the human body. A proper diet doesn’t have to consist of cow’s milk or any other diary product derived from it.

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