Busting the Dairy Myth ? The Truth About our Health and Dairy

Millions of people around the UK consume dairy products on a daily basis. Our huge consumption of dairy is due not only to the convenience it brings to cooking and the habit of cooking with and eating dairy for the majority of our lives but more alarmingly because of the mantra that we are fed by government and the dairy industry that it is beneficial to our health that somehow you need dairy to ensure you consume enough calcium to maintain strong and healthy bones.

The stories we are told about why we should consume dairy are based almost entirely upon half-truths and are driven, not for the benefit of the nation's health, but to ensure the continued profits of the dairy industry.

The Myths Surrounding Why We Should Drink Milk

We Need the Calcium Provided by Dairy for Strong Bones

Dairy UK advocates the promotion of three portions of dairy products per day. They claim that research results show that dairy is 'even more favourable (in terms of blood pressure, cholesterol, weight control, certain cancers, bones and teeth) than fruit and vegetables'.

This has been the golden ticket of the dairy industry for many, many years ? regardless of the fact that it simply is not true. Literally hundreds of highly respected research studies conducted over many years and with a huge cross section of participants have shown that increased dairy intake does not correlate with improved bone strength (Cumming and Klineberg, 1994; Huang and Himes, 1996; Cummings, Nevitt and Browner et al, 1995; Nordin, 1997). In several studies, dairy calcium has been shown to actually increase the risk of osteoporosis and decrease the strength of bones!

How the dairy industry is still allowed to promote their products on the basis of the benefits of dairy calcium is beyond comprehension. Research has proven beyond doubt that bone strength is not related to calcium intake.

Bone strength is increased through exercise (Lloyd, Petit et al, 2004), increased intake of vegetables and fruit (Tucker, Hannan et al, 1999) and a reduction of animal protein and sodium (Finn, 1998).

3 Servings of Dairy Helps Weight Loss

'Dairy Management Inc. (responsible for the 3-a-day campaign) is the non-profit domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing demand for U.S.-produced dairy products on behalf of America's dairy farmers.' ? So clearly our welfare is more important than sales and profits then?.

The UK and US dairy industries are allocating more and more of their marketing spend to the message that three servings of dairy can actually help people to lose weight.

This campaign has clear commercial, rather than health goals as the dairy industry looks to ensure that dieters are given a reason to continue consuming dairy. In the US, the $180-million milk-moustache ad campaign during early 2005 was spearheaded by celebrities such as Dr. Phil, giving consumers very little information, but sending the message that it is ok to consume dairy on a regular basis. This campaign has been met with mixed reviews in health circles, but the bottom line is that it has boosted sales of milk in the US through the publicising of just one research study, funded by the dairy industry and with very questionable data. Is this legal?

The basis of their argument is that dairy contains calcium (stronger bones argument again), plus potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins D, A and B12, riboflavin and niacin. However, nowhere on throughout the 3-a-day literature are quantities of these nutrients or daily requirements discussed ? nor the fact that you can get each of these nutrients in abundance from fruit and vegetables without having to consume the cholesterol, calories, saturated fats and sugars contained in dairy produce.

There is simply no way that dairy can help support weight loss. Even skimmed milk is over 50% sugar (as a percentage of calories) and of the thousands of research studies conducted on dairy and its role in health, only one researcher claims that milk aids in weight loss. And his research is funded by the dairy industry.

The Facts about Dairy

The increase in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma that has occurred in the Western world over the past century directly correlates with the increase in dairy consumption.

In fact, a Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, Colin Campbell, has undertaken the largest study of diet and disease in medical history. His findings are incredible - high animal calcium and animal protein intake is the primary cause of degenerative disease.

Granted, dairy may contain certain useful nutrients in varying proportions. However, similarly to how we often hear that coffee, red wine and dark chocolate are 'good for us', it doesn't mean we should ignore the negatives or start on a diet of red wine and chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As with all life choices, we have to weigh up the pro's and the cons ? and with dairy, the cons far outweigh the pros .

Twelve pounds of milk are required to manufacture one pint of Ben's very rich ice cream.

Reasons to Kick the Dairy Habit:

1. Trans Fats, Sugar, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Chemicals, Calories

Dairy products are riddled with dangerously high levels of bad, saturated fats, cholesterol and sugars which all contribute significantly to degenerative disease. For example, butter is 100% fat, Cheddar cheese 74% fat, whole milk 49% fat and even '2% milk' is 35% fat .

High fat diets are, without doubt, strongly linked to the alarming obesity levels in the US and UK, with research showing that 59% of American men and 49% of American women now being overweight. In relation to dairy, this may have something to do with the fact that the average American consumes approximately 600 pounds of dairy products every year ? that is five times more dairy than fruit!

2. Cancer

Dairy products are directly related to an increased risk of prostate cancer , ovarian cancer , prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and testicular cancer

The American Cancer Society states that "about one-third of the 500,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year is due to dietary factors?Although the committee recognizes that no diet can guarantee full protection against any disease, we believe that our recommendations offer the best nutrition information currently available to help Americans reduce their risk of cancer."

Furthermore, their two highest recommendations are: "1. Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources"; and "2. Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources."

3. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

CVD is the number one cause of death in the UK and the US with research suggesting that over 3,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every day ? and over the past 40 years, research from highly respected journals such as, the International Journal of Cardiology , European Journal of Epidemiology and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have all found a direct correlation between regular dairy consumption and a massive increase in CVD.

This increased risk of CVD is not just a result of the cholesterol and fat contained in dairy produce , but also the animal protein, milk carbohydrates and milk sugar lactose which play havoc with our bodies health.

4. Osteoporosis

For many years milk has been marketed for its supposed ability to prevent osteoporosis ? however, research has shown this to be untrue . According to the 12-year Harvard Nurses' Health Study, milk intake had absolutely benefit with regards to bone fracture risk and that increased dairy calcium could actually have the reverse effect and lead to a decrease in bone strength!

Studies into the factors that effect bone strength in young adults have highlighted that exercise is actually the predominant determinant of bone strength. Another research exploration which examined over 58 studies into nutrition and bone health found very little evidence to suggest that increasing milk or other dairy intake improved the bone strength of young adults .

5. Diabetes

Medical science has proven, beyond doubt that there is a direct relationship between frequent dairy consumption and an increased risk of diabetes. For instance, a cross-cultural study conducted with children from 40 different countries identified that the higher the consumption of dairy and other animal products, the more likely the child was of developing diabetes. The study also found that those children who had a largely vegetarian diet has a highly decreased risk .

Diabetes UK claim that 'over 80 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight at diagnosis. The more overweight you are, the greater your risk of diabetes.' They also add that those with cardiovascular illness and those with high blood pressure are also highly at risk of diabetes. As it is clear that a diet high in dairy dramatically increases the likelihood of being overweight and of suffering from cardiovascular problems, the chances of suffering from diabetes are also increased.

Life After Dairy

Transitioning to a dairy-free diet or reducing the amount of dairy you consume is not as difficult as you would think ? and the benefits are well worth the sacrifices. However, many people retain dairy in their diet due to the belief that you need dairy to ensure you give your body certain nutrients. This is certainly not true as a diet that is rich in leafy, green vegetables and fruits offers you far more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants:

  • Sources of Calcium: Green vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, and almonds are far better than milk as calcium sources.
  • Iron: Milk is actually very low in iron and also causes blood loss from the intestinal tract, which even depletes the iron stores from the body. Dried beans and dark leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of iron, and are even reported to be a more efficient source of iron on a per calorie basis than meat or any other animal produce.
  • Protein: It is a common misconception that vegetarians or those who do not consume dairy regularly are somehow going to be deficient in protein. This could not be further from the truth. Although animal products often contain more protein than certain vegetables, the important fact to note is actually how much protein the body needs on a daily basis. The RDA of protein is only 47g for women and 54g for men. This is easily consumed on a varied dairy-free diet ? in fact, over consumption of protein can have a very negative impact upon the body inlcuding reduced kidney function and potentially the onset of osteoperosis.

    Non dairy sources of protein include cereals and grains; leafy green vegetables; Legumes - beans, lentils, peas, peanuts; Nuts; Spirulina; Seeds; Soy products; Sprouts; Wheatgrass and other grasses/ green powders;

    Wheatgrass juice is actually a complete protein and contains, amongst others, the following amino acids: arginine, serine, absenisic, lysine, aspartic acid, glycine, alanine, methionine, leucine, tryptophane, phenylalanine, valine and valine.

There is actually no health related reason why one should consume dairy on a regular basis. For the nutrients that it does contain, the sacrifices and damage it causes to the body far outweighs any potential benefit.

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