Got milk? Maybe you should skip it. That was the conclusion of a huge study out of Sweden of more than 100,000 people over 20 years who ingested the most milk and had more bone fractures and a higher risk of heart disease.
This is not the news the dairy association wants the public to hear. And many nutritionists are also decrying this study. Is it possible that we have been promoting a product in the USA that… wait for it… isn’t really healthy for us? And could it be we promoted milk based mostly on… now don’t be shocked…greed?
OK, on to the real evidence. As many of the study opponents are declaring, there are flaws with this study (no, not possible, aren’t all studies exact science? Especially the ones funded by corporations?) This study’s main flaw is it is based on people self-reporting their intake of milk and other dietary staples. Also, this study just took the raw data of how much dairy people consumed and correlated it with the outcomes of more fractures and more heart disease. There are other variables that could be playing a role too, not just the milk itself. But the university that conducted the study and the journal that published it felt the evidence was powerful enough to put it out there.
As a nutritionist who has read quite a bit of the literature on milk, I believe that the milk we currently ingest-pasteurized, hormone and chemically-ladened milk- is not healthy for us, and in fact is probably harmful in the long run.
Pasteurizing milk basically “cooks” much of the goodness out of it like healthy bacteria (think probiotics) that keep our immune system strong, and certain vitamins that are destroyed at certain temperatures. And much of the milk produced in our country is from cows who have been injected with artificial hormones that get into our bodies, and who have eaten a diet not meant for a cow. Cows are supposed to eat mostly grass. Today, most cows eat a diet of corn and soybeans, which aside from not being indigenous to cows, are usually genetically-modified to boot. This diet produces milk that is much lower in healthy fats such as CLA and omegas.
So what’s a body to drink? Well if you really want to add some nice cold milk to your cereal, I recommend at the very least using organic milk. Even better yet would be some “raw” milk from a local farm that you trust that is teeming with healthy bacteria and nutrients. Unfortunately many states have outlawed raw milk due to an old problem that happened in the early 1900′s that started this country on the path of completely pasteurizing milk for “safety” (code for saving money) reasons.
Also there are many other alternate milk sources today such as almond milk, soy milk (in low levels), and coconut milk. Of course there’s always good old water (not as healthy as it used to be), and fresh-squeezed fruit juices (in moderation). Unfortunately the choices for healthy drinks today is getting pretty slim.
There is a little good news from this study. It appears that fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt actually had a positive affect on bones and our hearts. Once again, fermented foods are higher in healthy bacteria, which may be part of the reason they are better for us.
Bottom line is we really don’t need to drink milk at all. From an evolutionary perspective, most of us never drank cow’s milk until pretty recently. In fact the data shows that in places that don’t consume cow’s milk they have perfectly healthy bones and less heart disease. We can get our calcium from many other healthier places like fish, greens, nuts and bone broths (look them up for great recipes).