Examining the Myths of Milk
Examining the Myths of Milk
Does milk actually do a body good? The answer might surprise you…
No matter how big of a deal you are, you’re not a serious pop star or athlete until you get the chance to rock the white mustache for a “Got Milk?” campaign. Milk is a basic necessity: whether it’s with cookies or in your cereal and coffee, everyone knows a splash of skim with a dose of calcium does your body good… right?
Not so fast.
I mean, if Ms. Spears led us to believe she was keeping her v-card til marriage, why should we trust her about milk?
Let’s consider a few statistics: ~ 66% (2/3) of all adults – we’re talking world population here – are unable to digest milk, aka lactose intolerant. In many ethnic backgrounds that number is as high as 95-100%. Science-geeks read, everyone else skip: Lactose is the sugar in milk and in order to digest it, you need an enzyme called lactase. It’s actually a genetic mutation that some of us, mostly of European descent, have this lactase enzyme and can digest milk. So yeah, if you are one of the 33% able to chug milk without a massive stomachache, that makes you a genetic freak.
That aside, let’s look at some common milk misconceptions before you leave the milk out for Santa.
Myth 1: Milk Helps Build Strong Bones
Milk contains calcium, a mineral that’s super important for bone health. Which should mean that in countries like the US where our dairy intake, and therefore calcium intake, is the highest in the world, we have much lower incidences of osteoporosis and fractures than countries like Japan where 95% of the population is lactose intolerant, right?
What’s interesting is that in the US, osteoporosis and fracture rates are higher. Many long-term studies have found that high calcium intake doesn’t actually appear to lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis. Beyond milk’s questionable benefits for bone health, research also shows milk intake is linked with chronic illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes type 1, Parkinson’s disease, gut disorders and allergies.
I hope you are saying #wtf too.
Myth 2: All Milk Is Created Equal
In talking about milk it’s important to discuss the infuriating and often-ignored levels of hormones and antibiotics given to cows whose milk ends up in your cereal bowl. Cows are injected with growth hormones – read: steroids – that make them produce unnatural amounts of milk, which then causes infections (infected udders = pus in milk… I kid you not), and the use of serious antibiotics.
This is a big deal. You know how girls are reaching puberty younger than ever? Many scientists (and myself) think our insane dairy/red meat consumption is directly related. Even worse, these hormones have been linked to breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.
This is where buying organic is so, so essential. Cows raised organically aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. Beyond that, organic milk has higher levels of vitamins, antioxidants and omega 3’s.
Myth 3: Skim Milk Is Better Than Whole Milk or 2%
This is probably the most interesting of the misconception about milk. We know that fat doesn’t make you fat, but it seems skim actually might. A 2005 study at Harvard School of Public Health studied almost 13,000 children, and found, "Contrary to our hypothesis, skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not."
Other studies have found that teenage boys drinking skim milk had a higher incidence of acne, and low fat dairy consumption has also been linked to decreased fertility in women.
OK, so what’s a milk lover like you to do? Well, for starters, you don’t have to quit milk cold turkey. But if you’re one of the 33% that can stomach milk, you should consider going strictly organic. Additionally when it comes to fat, (and I know it goes against everything you’ve ever learned) I’m down with you having a little of the real, higher fat (whole or 2%) thing.
Just remember that not all dairy is equal and that you can get your calcium from other sources like broccoli and leafy greens. High protein options like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are still good, and protein powders like whey that have been stripped of all lactose and don’t have tons of added ingredients are still much better options than milk. So do yourself a favor and pick up an organic protein powder like Tera’s Whey, from the 1R store.
The key takeaway is that milk isn’t quite as udderly essential (get it?!) as you may have thought. So maybe we go easy on the milk for Santa this year and give the jolly guy some carrot sticks or a protein shake! After all, the man is completely obese, and as we’ve discussed today, milk probably isn’t helping his cause.ShareThis
About the Author
Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.
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