Should We Stop Drinking Milk?
By Noha Yousry
Freelance Writer - Egypt
"Drink your milk" is a phrase each and every one of us remembers hearing growing up. In most children's books, a glass of milk represents the healthiest food for our children's little bodies. Pregnant women are recommended to drink a glass of milk a day and teenagers are recommended dairy with every meal.
For most of us, milk has been touted, for a large part of our lives, as the ultimate health food. Yet could it be possible that this information is actually misguided?
That is what the recent uproar against milk is all about. These days, there is a lot of controversy surrounding milk and dairy products. On one side of the milk debate there are those that tout all of the benefits of milk and dairy and on the other there are those that claim harmful consequences from its consumption. However, things are not that simple.
The Argument Against Milk
Surprisingly, more and more people are turning against milk and dairy, but they don't all have the same reasons. For simplification, those against milk are further divided into three main camps.
Camp 1: Milk Was Not Meant for Human Consumption
Some people are completely against drinking milk beyond infancy. In their opinion, cow's milk is made for baby cows, just as breast milk is made for baby humans. Dr. Hayam El-Shazly, a holistic nutritionist and macrobiotic counselor, told IslamOnline.net that, "As Muslims, we cannot take this stance, for the simple reason that Seerah (life of the Apostle of God) tells us in numerous occasions that Prophet Muhammad (blessing and peace be upon him) drank milk."
One such occasion is the famous incident that occurred in the Mi'raj (The night journey and the ascension of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) where the prophet chose the glass of milk over that of wine. (Sahih Muslim, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 314).
Moreover, the following hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says it loud and clear:
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
I was in the house of Maymunah […] Then the Apostle of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) was brought milk, and he drank [it]. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then said: When one of you eats food, he should say: O Allah, bless us in it, and give us food (or nourishment) better than it. When he is given milk to drink he should say: O Allah! Bless us in it and give us more of it, for no food or drink satisfies like milk.
(Sunan Abu Dawood: Book 26, Number 3721)
Camp 2: Lactose Intolerance
Milk can cause allergic reactions in some people; a medical condition known as lactose intolerance. According to Lori Lipinski, a certified nutritional consultant, "An allergic reaction to dairy can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting (even projectile vomiting), stomach pain, cramping, gas, bloating, nausea, headaches, sinus/chest congestion, and sore or scratchy throat." (Lipinski)
Some scientists have suggested that allergic reactions are found more in people who drink pasteurized milk than in those who consume raw milk (Waser et al); which leads to the assumption that the intolerance is caused by the changes that occur during pasteurization and not by the milk itself. However, some scientists believe that these studies are not conclusive, as they don't take other factors that could influence one's health into consideration. (Grinzi)
As this is an allergic condition, just as any other allergic condition that affects certain people who are prone to it, it should not be taken as a basis for everyone to avoid milk (if some people have an allergy against strawberries, does this mean that we should all stop eating them?)
Camp 3: Commercially Available Milk is Void of Any Benefits and is in Fact Harmful
Instead of fresh green grass and clover, cows are fed high-protein grains, such as corn and soy.
This camp believes that the problem is not with milk in itself but in the milk available today. They argue that we were better off without pasteurized packaged milk. El-Shazly declares, "If you can't find fresh milk from clean, healthy and non-hormone fed cows, then you are better off without dairy at all in your diet!"
Here are the main reasons:
1. Many illnesses have been associated with the consumption of pasteurized dairy and milk. Among these diseases are (Lipinski):
· Cancer (ovarian, breast and colon)
· Chronic infections (especially upper respiratory and ear infections)
2. Pasteurized milk may cause osteoporosis
If pasteurized milk is the primary source of calcium in one's diet, this may actually be promoting osteoporosis, not preventing it!
a. Pasteurization destroys enzymes that enable the absorption of calcium; without these enzymes the calcium in milk is not absorbed into bones. Thus, people who depend on pasteurized milk for their calcium intake are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, contrary to popular belief. (FiasCoFarm)
b. Due to the heat involved in pasteurization, the digestion of animal proteins found in milk by the digestive tract results in the formation of acids that need to be neutralized. If the body doesn't have enough minerals, it will leech alkaline calcium OUT of the bones to help neutralize these acids, leading to less calcium in the bones. (Kaslow)
3. The food available for cows at commercial farms is objectionable (Robinson)
Instead of fresh green grass and clover, cows are fed high-protein grains, such as corn and soy. This creates three problems:
a. Corn and soy "contain 80% of all herbicides used in the U.S." These toxic herbicides are transferred through the milk to us. (Lipinski)
b. Using grains almost exclusively to feed cows reduces certain nutrients in milk such as vitamins A and D and conjugated linoleic acid, an anti-carcinogenic type of fat (Lipinski; Robinson).
c. Grains are difficult to digest in cows, thus causing health problems which are dealt with by giving the cows antibiotics. El-Shazly explained that, "these antibiotics are in turn also transferred to us in the milk." Excessive antibiotic intake harms the body by weakening the immune system in various ways (Wilson).
4. Hormones given to the cows
To make the cows produce more milk, they are given hormones. These hormones produce an enzyme that survives pasteurization, passes on to humans and is highly suspected to be a factor in the growth of breast and colon cancer cells.
On top of that, the hormones themselves cause abnormal growth in the cows which makes the cows more prone to sickness and thus need more antibiotics. These antibiotics and their residues find their way into the milk as well. Moreover, these same hormones reduce the cows' body fat that usually harbors toxins such as pesticides and carcinogens; inducing these toxins to be forwarded on from the cows to the milk directly. (Mercola)
5. Pasteurization: By law, most countries now only allow the selling of milk that has been pasteurized in order to avoid the spread of illnesses through raw milk. However, pasteurization has proven to have so many side effects, that some people are reverting back to the fresh raw milk of the good old days. Here are some of the problems associated with pasteurized milk:
a. Valuable enzymes that help us digest milk and extract calcium and vitamins from it are destroyed, rendering these vitamins and minerals worthless. (Mercola 2)
b. In order to enable the body to digest milk, our pancreas produces enzymes that replicate those that were destroyed during pasteurization. If the pancreas is unable to compensate for these enzymes it may become over-stressed which can lead to diseases such as diabetes. (Mercola 2)
c. The heat used to kill harmful germs during the pasteurization process also destroys useful bacteria and vitamins in the milk, such as the B12 and B6 vitamins. Delicate milk proteins are also denatured. It was found that up to 66% of vitamins A, D, E, and F (fatty acids) are lost in Pasteurized milk. Half of the Vitamin C content of milk is also lost in the process. (Mercola 1)
6. The Skimmed milk myth and non-natural vitamin D addition
Skimming milk means the removal or homogenization of buttermilk, which essentially leads to the loss of many vitamins and minerals in milk. Buttermilk is a great source of vitamin A and an anti-carcinogen. Some commercial milk is fortified with vitamins A and D to overcome this problem, however, this tactic only addresses a fraction of the vitamins lost, in addition to the fact that these synthetic forms are inadequate substitutes to the natural ones (Mercola 2).
7. Milk homogenization:
To hide the bad quality of the milk produced in commercial farms, homogenization is done; however, this homogenization alters the fat molecules in milk. These altered molecules, unlike the natural fat molecules of milk, can pass through into the blood stream and are linked to heart diseases and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the wall of arteries) (Lipinski).
These are the most cited arguments as to why some oppose the inclusion of un-natural milk and dairy products into our daily nutritional diets. These people would argue that if you do not consume commercial milk and dairy for a period of two weeks, your health will greatly improve and you'll never look back.
However, this is a two sided story!
Join us next week for Part 2 which examines the opposite point of view and draws a simple conclusion as to where we might stand in this debate.
Grinzi, Joan. "Got Raw Milk?" Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. Accessed 8 Jan. 2009.
Info on Raw Milk & Pasteurization." FiasCoFarm. Accessed 8 Jan. 2009.
Kaslow, Jeremy E. "Osteoporosis." drkaslow.com. Accessed 8 January 2009.
Lipinski, Lori. "Commercial Milk: It Does Nobody Good." Wellbeingjournal. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008.
Mercola, Joseph 1. "Don't Drink Your Milk." mercola.com. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008.
Mercola, Joseph 2. "The Real Reasons Why Raw Milk is Becoming More Popular." mercola.com. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008
"Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk." Real Milk. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008.
Robinson, Jo. "Super Healthy Milk." eatwild.com. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008.
Waser, M. et al. "Inverse Association of Farm Milk Consumption with Asthma and Allergy in Rural and Suburban Populations Across Europe." Clin Exp Allergy. 2007 May;37(5):627-30. Accessed 8 Jan. 2009.
Wilson, Lawrence. "Beyond Antibiotics." drlwilson.com. Accessed 22 Dec. 2008.
Noha Yousry graduated from the German Univeristy in Cairo, Faculty of Management Technology, majoring in both Human Resources and Strategic Management. She is currently pursuing her various interests from freelance writing to volunteer work and character education especially for young children and youth. She can be reached by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org