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Milk: Good or Bad?

milk carton

What is milk? You’d expect this to be a rhetorical question, however to give this article any justice I thought it would be important to give a brief definition (though nearly every human being has tasted milk at least once in their lifetime, I think.)

Milk is an opaque liquid that is produced by cows. If you need a further scientific or linguistic breakdown, then pick up a science book.

We have been told since childhood that milk is very good for us and that it helps build strong bones etc. Though these statements were true at one point in time, they do not hold much truth at present (exception: raw organic milk from grass fed cows – see further below).

Ok, so what has happened to our milk you ask?

Well here goes…

First of all, the cows are not treated very well to say the least, they are contained in excruciating environments and subject to various substances (rBGH, antibiotics).

The purpose of Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) – a genetically engineered hormone – is to force the cows to produce more milk than their bodies would usually produce. This in itself doesn’t sound very acceptable, however it gets worse.

As a result of being regularly injected with rBGH and therefore being forced to produce more milk, the cows become highly susceptible to udder infections (mastitis). This results in an increase in the amount of pus which ends up in the milk we drink. Yes I said PUS. Results show that administering cows with rBGH results in a 79% increase in udder infections (mastitis) and this results in a 19% increase in somatic cell counts (i.e. pus and bacteria in the milk we so readily consume!).

Now if that hasn’t put you off wait for this, how do you think this udder infection is treated. That’s right, ANTIBIOTICS!!!

Do these antibiotics end up in our milk, you bet!

The use of rBGH stimulates the production of another hormone called Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) – approximately 5 times more production of IGF-1. IGF-1 is directly responsible for increasing the amount of milk that is produced.

IGF-1 is responsible for the quick growth of infants (both in humans and cows).

When cow’s milk is consumed by non-infants, it can behave as a cancer-accelerator – and no it isn’t destroyed by pasteurization (see below).

Next, come in Louis Pasteur. The man behind pasteurisation. Pasteurisation is the process of heating liquids with the purpose of destroying viruses and harmful organisms (e.g. bacteria, molds, yeast etc.)

This process is beneficial if only the bad bacteria were killed. Unfortunately though, the good bacteria (known to most of you as probiotics) is destroyed too as well as the key enzymes that enable most humans to digest milk properly, notably the enzyme lactase which helps digest the milk sugar lactose. Interesting fact: before pasteurisation, milk contains a good amount of vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids!

Oh yeah, forgot to tell you that pasteurisation also changes the calcium into an insoluble form that the body can no longer absorb. The amount of phosphorous in milk also blocks this absorption, if it may even happen. Did you know that there is a high correlation between osteoporosis and high milk consumption, wonder why that is?

Broccoli, sardines and nuts contain significant amounts of calcium, so don’t worry about not getting your calcium from milk which you won’t get either way.

Step in Mr. Homogenisation. Homogenisation is the process of breaking up the fat into smaller sizes so that the fat does not collect at the top of the milk. How is this done? The milk is forced (at high pressure) through small orifices. Why is this done and what implication does this have you may ask. As with pasteurisation, homogenisation extends the shelf-life of milk and also makes it look “nicer” – don’t ask – apparently the fat accumulating at the top of unhomogenised milk is somewhat unalluring. Didn’t realise people bought milk cos it looked so pretty!

Say goodbye to your arteries, homogenisation allows the enzyme xanthine oxidase (XO) to pass intact into the blood stream. In the blood stream it starts to attack the tissue of the artery walls, which causes lesions that the body tries to heal by laying down a protective layer of cholesterol. End result: scar tissue and plaque with a build up of cholesterol and other fatty deposits.

Okay, now lets talk about what the cows are fed, I promise I’ll stop in a bit so you can drink your milk ;)

Most cows are fed grains as opposed to green pastures. This leads to a great imbalance in the fat makeup of the cows and the fatty acid ratios. Grass-fed cows contain a larger amount of omega-3 fatty acids as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – shown in numerous studies to be beneficial in many aspects of health.

Alternative?

Well you could always have soya milk, though this type of milk is shrouded in yet another set of less favourable studies and evidence, though there are some good arguments for and against soya milk, your choice. Other varieties include rice milk, oat milk, and camel’s milk (if you live in the middle-east).

What else can you do? Well you could seek out a raw milk producer that conforms to many of the aforementioned issues, though this shall be extremely difficult due to the current jurisdiction in most countries. You could always use water with your cereals instead, i’m serious :)

If you’re adamant about having milk, then I advise organic unhomogenised milk. If you can’t get this type, then the next alternative would be organic skimmed milk. Both of which would require most people to take a lactase supplement.

 

 

 

References available upon request.


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28 Responses to Milk: Good or Bad?
  1. Muhsin
    September 2, 2007 | 8:50 am

    Wow! Thanks Healthblogger

    I will never look at my cornflakes the same way again.

    So if we didn’t pasteurize our milk, what would be the implementations? Wouldn’t we get sick more often?

    Thanks again for your great research,

    Muhsin

  2. kulsum (iwanabehealthy)
    September 2, 2007 | 2:15 pm

    excellent article & very informative too .. great for the simple minded (like myself). Any chance of more info on Soya milk? This is my current alternative and I don’t want any dodgy BGH business feeding into my stomach ;) thanks

  3. admin
    September 3, 2007 | 1:00 am

    Muhsin,

    You are right, if we didn’t pasteurise our HEAVILY PROCESSED milk we would most definitely get sick (to say the least).

    However, if the cows and the milk is treated properly, then there should be no reason to pasteurise.

    We have to remember, we are living in a consumer driven age where a higher yield = more money!!! Did someone say capitalism?

  4. admin
    September 3, 2007 | 1:01 am

    hey ‘iwanabehealthy’,

    I shall write an article on soya milk in the near future, so keep watching this space.

  5. Mahmud
    September 3, 2007 | 1:04 am

    Well, some of my employees at work have Coke with their cereal! But I guess there is a whole story behind coke and fizzies as well! Can you please provide some insight to your readers about the benefits/dangers of Coke-type drinks?

    Thank you very much for the well written and researched piece of work. I am looking forward to the next one.

    Mahmud

  6. admin
    September 3, 2007 | 1:15 am

    Mahmud,

    Some of your employees may need to re-think their dietary habits very soon. There are no benefits of “Coke-type drinks”, except in the case of glycogen depletion (after a strenuous and exhaustive exercise session, depending on what you consume during your exercise session, the carbohydrate stores in your muscles are usually used for energy), whereby the use of coke (moderately) or any high glycaemic carbohydrate beverage (e.g. glucose + water) would be beneficial in speeding up recovery and the replenishment of muscle glycogen.

    Again, I shall write an article on the dangers of consuming sugar-laden drinks in the near future.

  7. sumaiya
    September 12, 2007 | 1:42 am

    nice article but where did you get your facts from? i mean if you go like that then we just cant eat anything. The vegetables and fruits produced nowadays im sure are on a lot of chemicals ++ on other products. So wht do v eat in the end???

  8. admin
    September 12, 2007 | 2:21 am

    Sumaiya,

    Thank you for your response.

    I have been studying nutrition for the last 5 years and over the years I have read numerous books, articles and journals on the subject of nutrition and health. Therefore my “facts” are an amalgamation of the knowledge I have acquired, though when I write my blogs I always double check my facts for validity.

    I’m only talking about milk, I haven’t mentioned any other food categories in this article, so unless your diet is comprised solely of dairy products, you should have a large variety to choose from.

    I haven’t ruled dairy products out of one’s diet, I have merely informed you, as the reader, the unnatural process by which milk is produced these days. If the milk conforms to the standards I have mentioned in the article, then it should be fine to consume.

    Fruits and vegetables do have pesticides on them, though washing them rids of most of these chemicals. However, if you’re still not convinced, you could always opt for organic produce. Your choice.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Zulaikha
    September 15, 2007 | 4:33 am

    Some terrific info you have there, thank you for your time. I practice alot of what you say especially when it comes to dairy. Soya is a no go zone though.

    I don’t think washing though is enough to get rid of the chemicals used for fruits and veg though – it seeps into the layers of the skin. Sometimes fruits and vegetables are frozen for months on end!

  10. Richard-FOG
    September 16, 2007 | 2:53 am

    OMG! I didn’t know how something perceived to be as good through the ages would become something like this? Gimme some goat I can milk!

    Very profound bro. Thanks.

  11. admin
    September 16, 2007 | 3:22 am

    Zulaikha,

    In regards to soya, you are right to an extent, though there are soya products that are fine to have (i.e. the least processed, e.g. Miso etc.)

    I have read reports that state approx. 90% or more of pesticides and other environmental pollutants are removed through washing, though this can and would vary considerably.

    Yes they can seep into the skin, though if you eat fruits without the skin (e.g. orange) then you should be ok, again this is an area that has many disparate views, I guess we’ll have to wait for some concrete evidence.

    Thanks.

    Organic frozen vegetable are probably the best to get in terms of nutrient retention and quality.

  12. admin
    September 16, 2007 | 3:23 am

    Richard, I was thinking the same thing when I first found out! Thanks for the comment.

  13. [...] For all of you Starbucks lovers out there: Starbucks has finally started to implement plans to serve ONLY milk produced by cows free of the artificial hormone known as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) – see my article on Milk here. [...]

  14. James Sterling
    July 28, 2008 | 3:49 am

    Milk is an excellent food. Unfortunate that in the US we have polluted it by improperly nourishing cows and processing the milk.

    In India there is a tradition of consuming only milk to purify the body.

    Rather than suggesting that there is something WRONG with milk, why not make up a website campaigning for the ethical treatment of our food supply, and and animals, and advocate the decriminilization of raw milk. (which is a perfect food).

  15. the health blogger
    July 28, 2008 | 2:12 pm

    Jamie,

    I wish it was that simple.

    There are tons of websites and movements that advocate what you have suggested (e.g. Weston Price Foundation for Raw Milk), unfortunately we are living in a time where money talks!

    Get my point?

    Thanks for the comment.

  16. [...] eating these enriched cookies, researchers found these healthy fatty acids to be present in breast milk at a higher level (46% ~ higher) than those who only consumed normal [...]

  17. Blast from the Past! | The Health Blogger
    November 29, 2008 | 12:17 pm

    [...] Milk: Good or Bad? [...]

  18. Tawhid
    April 10, 2009 | 9:39 pm

    I have unconfirmed osteoporosis imperfecta and doctors have advised me to consume alot of calcium and the only source i saw that in is MILK! This has really put me off.
    Can you suggest other normal foods that has high levels of calcium that can be absorbed by our bodies?

  19. Cassie
    May 17, 2009 | 1:16 am

    Does this mean that I can’t depend on goat milk products for a good portion of my daily calcium? Does pasteurisation affect calcium in all milks the same way? And how exactly does it manipulate the calcium into an inabsorbable compound, what are the mechanisms involved?

    I’m worried now as I’m barely reaching 1000mg a day, including supplements. Goats milk is the only kind of dairy I eat. I can’t find any raw goat products where I live either. If you know anything about my questions, that would be great!

    Very well written article, I’m glad I’ll find it. Now I can just send this to all my friends instead of called a vegie freak when I try to explain that I live perfectly well without all the calcium and protein I’m “missing” from milk, which, incidentally, they’re missing too =]

    • the health blogger
      August 29, 2009 | 4:12 pm

      Cassie, there are many other good sources of calcium. Check out nutritiondata.com, you can search by highest minerals, vitamins etc in foods.

  20. [...] Milk Good or Bad The Health Blogger Posted by root 5 hours ago (http://thehealthblogger.com) Thanks for the comment by james sterling on jul 28 2008 reply it gives a god list of foods high in calcium or alternatively the health blogger is proudly powered by wordpress entries rss and comments rss Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Milk Good or Bad The Health Blogger [...]

  21. milkdrinker
    August 1, 2009 | 8:31 pm

    i love milk and will never stop drinking it no matter what any one says about the cows.

    cows are just useless animals that are good for nothing except for hamburgers, steak, and MILK! shut up people you dont know anything.

    My mom has always told me that milk is good for my bones and i have never broken a bone in my whole life.

    What do you have to say about that one huh???

  22. milk drinker
    January 4, 2010 | 7:22 pm

    The values of antibotics present in your milk are miniscule. I have milked cows for four years at two different farms and have a degreen in agricultural education from Penn State. Everytime a cow is treated with antibiotics the cow’s milk is dumped down the drain and not into the tank for everyone to enjoy. This is the same way with cows that have mastitis.

    BST rBGH whatever you want to call it does not do anything to you. It has been scientifically proven that no difference in milk could be detected from cows treated with BST and not treated with BST. The benefit is to the farmer. It increases feed efficiency and milk production which means more money for the farmer. Which in this economy means that the small farmers have a small shot at staying in business. I bet you didn’t know that milk is sold by the hundred weight. The current price is $13/100lbs. When you add up the price of the mortgage, feed costs, vet bills, cleaning supplies, labor, equipment, etc. You’re lucky that farmers can even stay in business to provide milk to you!! So next time you go to the store and see that the price of a gallon of milk has gone up, don’t complain. You’re supporting a farmer so that they can continue to feed you.

  23. Kiant
    May 14, 2010 | 10:25 pm

    Very informative!

    Would you please email me your references or some works cited information…

    • the health blogger
      May 20, 2010 | 10:48 am

      Please check your mail Kiant.

      • GWC
        October 19, 2010 | 6:54 am

        Thanks for the information as well as the courteous replies, Health Blogger. I truly appreciate it.

  24. felipe
    August 10, 2011 | 11:17 pm

    Hello.
    Nice article. But, I`m too skeptical to believe without any reference.
    It was written at the end of the article “Reference upon request”. Could you give/send/show me some?
    Thanks a lot.

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