Dairy Products – Good For Us Or Not?

Monday, January 31, 2011 by Amanda

For years I have been sceptical of the claims that dairy products provide the necessary calcium for bone strength. I have never liked milk and only every consumed small quantities of dairy products throughout my life. I have also never broken a bone or had any other signs of calcium deficiency. Conversely, I have had friends who drank huge quantities of milk and have had several broken bones. They even seemed to break a bone when others may have just twisted an ankle in the same situation. I realise this is a rather simplistic way of looking at it, and hardly very scientific, but my feelings about it were recently confirmed for me when I read Elaine Hollingsworth’s Book “Take Control of Your Health”.

She makes the following points:

  • Over the years, a very extensive marketing campaign has ingrained into us that we need to consume copious quantities of dairy products to provide our body with sufficient levels of calcium.
  • In New Zealand, we are one of the few countries where the cattle are allowed to roam free and are fed on grass. In many countries, they are fed cheap grains, milk enhancing drugs and are in other ways treated inhumanely. Hardly a healthy combination and unlikely to provide rich nutrient packed milk products. However, even in NZ, the drugs and antibiotics given to the cows, and the chemicals used for cleaning the milking equipment, all end up in the milk we are supplied with.
  • Is lactose intolerance really due to the lactose or is it a reaction to the chemicals in the milk products?
  • The majority of milk we are able to purchase is pasteurised and homogenised and this alters the calcium in such a way that is gets into the bloodstream and sticks to our blood vessels. This can lead to arteriosclerosis or arthritis when it gets into the joints. Unfortunately, any health benefits that milk may have had in the past, have been eliminated by the processing and ways in which cattle are now treated.
  • Dairy products create mucous which can lead to colds, flu and asthma. Inversely, if you have a cold, they will delay your recovery. There goes the icecream to cheer yourself up when you’re sick or the yogurt because it’s easy to eat with a sore throat!

Research has shown:

  • Calves fed only pasteurised milk die within 6 weeks of birth.
  • Calves fed only pasteurised and homogenised milk die within 2 – 4 weeks of birth.
  • The process of pasteurisation destroys 34 enzymes in milk making it indigestible.
  • The consumption of milk products has been linked to increased risk in developing breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
  • Osteoporosis is almost non-existent in Africa and other places where they never drink milk once they are weaned.

I keep coming back to the thought that cows milk is meant for baby cows and as such it is suitable for their development. Mothers milk is designed for human babies and there is really no all encompassing replacement. Often with our health, the effects of our choices are not always immediate or obvious and research into the long term effects can be limited.

The research that is provided is often swayed by the researchers (or sponsors) chosen variables. It is important to look at the limitations of the research and also at who has paid for it (the sponsors) as studies are usually set up to provide a particular answer. You would expect that research conducted or sponsored by Fonterra would show the health benefits of milk. However, it may be less obvious that a doctor publishing “independent” research about the benefits of milk may have been directly or indirectly funded by Fonterra.

When it comes down to it, with a lot of these controversial issues, you can read the research on both sides but in the end you will follow your gut reaction based on what your beliefs are at the time.

Where do you question the popular beliefs? And why?

Source: Take Control of Your Health and Escape the Sickness Industry (11th Edition) by Elaine Hollingsworth.

2 Responses to “Dairy Products – Good For Us Or Not?”

  1. Jan McLellan says:

    In my experience calves raised on pastuerized milk do not usually die. Of course they do far better on untreated milk, just like humans.
    Although not everyone is suited to ingesting milk, some people do very well on raw milk from pasture-fed cows as it contains all the enzymes for proper digestion as well as valuable vitamins and minerals.
    Also the Masai who consume the traditional diet (including raw milk) are far healthier than those on a more modern diet ie low cholesterol and low incidence of other diseases.
    Weston A. Price did many studies on traditional diets, many of which included raw milk and the Weston A. Price Foundation does much valuable work to encourage the consumption of raw and unprocessed foods (including milk).

  2. Amanda says:

    Thanks for your comments Jan. I agree that raw / untreated milk is definitely preferable to what is available for purchase in our supermarkets. In Christchurch there is a delivery service for raw organic cows milk, cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt. Contact Keiran on 021 253 5333.

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