Nowadays, Americans consume an immense amount of dairy. The intake of the average American is measured to be over 600 pounds of dairy products per year.
Dairy products, which include cow’s milk, have not been a part of the diet of adults for the vast majority of human evolution.
We have only been consuming such foods for about 7,500 years, compared to the roughly 200,000 years that humans have been around. Without our basic biochemical functionality evolving it is still a few million years before that.
Intensive, as well as successful marketing by the dairy industry, including slogans such as “Milk – It, Does a Body Good” and “Got Milk”), have strengthened a broadly fixed belief that dairy is good for our health.
But, is it?
Dairy has come under fire and investigation from nutritional experts, as well as scientists, and physicians. This is because its connection with some serious health problems.
1. Even organic milk often contains hormones.
Dairy is an important source of female hormone exposure. Commercial milk of cows contains large amounts of estrogen and progesterone, which is a serious concern too.
This is further increased by modern dairy cows being genetically altered to continuously produce milk, even throughout their repeated pregnancies.
Even the milk products which are labeled “organic” or “no hormones added” usually contain high levels of such problematic hormones, which are naturally produced by cows.
– In both, adults and children, the consumption of milk has resulted in considerably increased levels of estradiol, as well as progesterone in the blood and the urine. Furthermore, dairy consumption, in general, has been connected with increased levels of circulating estradiol.
– The data also showed that men who drink milk are going to absorb the estrogens in the milk. The estrogens were found to result in importantly decreased testosterone production/levels.
– Pediatricians have also expressed concern regarding childhood exposure to the exogenous estrogens in commercial milk. Given studies show that early sexual maturation is prepubescent children can also be caused by the “ordinary intake of cow milk.”
– A broad array of multi-centered, as well as peer-reviews studies, have shown that dairy consumption is one of the most worrying, and consistent risk factors for hormone-dependent malignant diseases. Those diseases include ovarian, uterine, breast, testicular and prostate cancers.
There is a culturally popular idea that soy foods can cause feminizing effects. On the other hand, several other studies have discovered that isoflavones do not exert feminizing effects on men, even at some high consumption levels.
Some other studies have also found that the consumption of soy foods is even protective against breast cancer.
We think that we should be far more concerned about the high levels of real female sex hormones that are found in dairy. The consumption of its products results in measurably higher circulating levels of these problematic hormones.
2. Casein from dairy – increased risk of cancer development.
Casein is the main protein in dairy, and some studies have shown that it facilitates the growth, as well as the development of cancer. In fact, some studies have even found that cancer development could also be controlled more by casein levels in the diet than by exposure to the underlying carcinogen.
One of the mechanisms which are responsible for this connection is Insulin-like growth factor-1 (or IGF-1).
3. There is a higher risk of type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Our immunity normally protects us from microbes, as well as some other harmful substances.
But, if it loses its capacity of recognizing and distinguishing harmful substances from normal tissues and cells, it can instead mount attacks against our bodies.
These “auto-attacks” can be triggered when there is exposure to foreign peptides, which include animal protein fragments that are found in dairy. Those peptides have similarities to components in the human body.
This can also result in our immunity becoming “confused” and misidentifying the tissues which are in our body as “unknown” and thus in need of being attacked and defeated.
Dairy is also connected with increased risk of several immune-related disorders, many of them being life-changing and difficult to treat.
The connection with type 1 diabetes, as well as multiple sclerosis, is particularly concerning:
– Type 1 Diabetes:
In this type of diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, the immunity attacks the pancreas. At this point, the body no longer can produce insulin to regulate glucose. Multiple large-scale studies have also identified an association between consumption of cow’s milk and increased prevalence of type 1 diabetes. One such study has even found that cow’s milk can contain a triggering factor for the development of IDDM. Another study has found that early cow’s milk exposure may also be a significant determinant of the subsequent type of diabetes. This may increase the risk approximately 1.5 times.
– Multiple sclerosis:
In this condition, the immunity attacks the nervous system’s insulating sheath. This results in a variety of difficult-to-treat and unpredictable neurologic problems. As with the type 1 diabetes, a lot of studies have reported that the consumption of the milk of a cow may be an important risk factor for developing MS.
4. Even pasteurized milk contains microorganisms.
Milk and some other dairy products are important vehicles for foodborne pathogens due to a variety of microorganism they harbor.
Even with modern sanitation requirements, which include pasteurization and curing, outbreaks still happen. They result in severe and sometimes even fatal outcomes.
Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli are some of the most common foodborne outbreaks which are connected with dairy.
For instance, last year, three people tragically died from Listeria infections linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream.
Not even our food regulatory agencies expect milk is going to be sterile after pasteurization. The heating process is done merely to reduce the number of microorganisms.
5. Dairy products accumulate pesticides in high concentrations.
Exposure to organochlorine pesticides (OCP) is another issue which is connected with dairy.
Pesticide contamination affects water and agricultural lands generally. Dairy products also have a greater ability to accumulate these pesticides in higher concentrations, due in part to their high-fat content.
Even pesticides which have long been banned still show up when dairy products are tested.
Some OCPs, such as DDT, which was widely used in the past and now is banned as a human carcinogen, persists in the environment. It can be more easily accumulated in animal food products, including dairy too.
For example, in India, milk, as well as some other dairy products such as cheese and butter, have been found to be the major sources of dietary DDT and hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH). Routine monitoring detected that milk from dairy farms in Italy’s Sacco River Valley had levels of ß-HCH. It was twenty times higher than the legal limit.
6. Increased exposure to the antibiotic residue.
The largest use of antibiotics all around the world is for livestock. Some part of that use is for non-therapeutic purposes, like infection prevention and to promote feed efficiency and animal growth.
There are dire warnings from the scientists that agriculture overuse is leading to antibiotic resistance. However, another problem is that antibiotic residues persist in milk and other dairy products despite protocols aimed to minimize this.
It is very difficult to prevent and control these antibiotic residues. Milk from different cows and farms is usually combined. The administration, that handles and keeps a record of animal drug use can vary significantly from one dairy operation to another one.
The resulting low-dose antibiotic exposure can lead to different problems. For example, from developing antibiotic resistance to allergic reactions to experiencing side-effects of the medication to which the person is exposed.
7. Dairy can also lead to bone problems.
This maybe sounds weird to a lot of people, but dairy does not appear to be good for our bone health, either.
The body of scientific evidence been found inadequate to support the idea that dairy consumption promotes bone health. In addition, there are numerous large-scale studies which have found that consuming dairy may be detrimental to bone health.
In fact, there is substantial data which links higher milk intake with significantly increased risk of bone fractures.
There are also some mechanisms thought to be responsible for the pathophysiology. One of them is the high calcium content of the dairy. It can cause vitamin D dysregulation and therefore disrupt bone homeostasis.
Another one is that the high animal protein content of dairy can induce acidosis from its high proportion of sulfur-containing amino acids. It leads to the body recompensing by draining calcium from the bones. It will help to neutralize the increased activity.
Over the time, everything of this can have a detrimental effect on our bone health.
There are several other factors like physical activity, which can affect bone health. It is essential to note that the U.S. has one of the biggest rates of hip fractures all around the world, despite the high intake of milk.
In contrast, in some countries such as Japan and Peru, the average calcium intake on a daily basis is as low as 300 milligrams per day. So, the incidence of bone fractures is quite low instead.
Luckily, calcium is abundant in plant foods which include leafy green vegetables, legumes, and seeds. It is usually with higher absorption rates than the calcium in dairy, and of course without all of the associated health problems of dairy.