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Should we stop drinking milk?

Wow! What a response when famous baby authority Dr. Spock, under pressure from vegetarian lobbyists and animal rights activists, did an about-face on the value of drinking milk! Every radio, tv and newspaper seemed to explode with reports on his latest pontification. Even Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show" included Spock's assertions in his monologue. Yet when I write about or discuss fitting today's milk into today's market needs (as I have done repeatedly), I generate little or no excitement and few news writers and broadcasters rush to report it.

Dr. Spock surely can't think we are stupid enough to believe that only a few years ago, when he recommended milk for everyone, he didn't know what he claims to know now.

Allergy? Try goat milk

It is long-established knowledge, published in medical, pediatric and scientific literature, that some people, and especially babies, have allergies to cow milk. Dr. Spock should have learned that as a student in medical school. My own sister was born with such an allergy. This does not mean that she tolerated only mother's milk. Mother's milk was tried, but my mother was not a sufficiently high producer to satisfy my sister's appetite, nor could she tolerate soy-formula. The pediatrician suggested feeding her goat milk. That we did, and my sister grew fine without further dermatological afflictions from her allergy. I have heard of many similar experiences. Today we recognize differences in amino acid sequences in milk proteins between animal species, making milk and its proteins allergenically different between species.

One of Dr. Spock's cohorts, Dr. F.A. Oski, proposes the extreme action of doing away with cow milk altogether. The medically acceptable answer is to switch from cow milk to the milk of another mammalian species like goats. But isn't the volume of press given to this issue pure sensationalism when you consider how few babies and adults suffer from this allergy? Statistics on the numbers vary because the topic has not been researched as thoroughly as cancer, heart diseases, AIDS, etc. Maybe this is Dr. Spock's intent -- to stimulate more research in this area. From what I have found, about one American in 1,000 is allergic to cow milk.

As for the other complaints about cow milk, the assertions were based on one new study about juvenile diabetes, which is primarily an inherited condition and not as subject to food influence as asserted. The assertion that there are antibiotics and drug residues in milk is irresponsible sensationalism. A recent report from the Government Accounting Office, which in 1991 checked up on the FDA and the dairy industry through testing of thousands of milk samples, found only a tiny 0.08 percent of all samples had positive reactions for drug residues. They also found that 99 percent of all milk shippers voluntarily tested their own milk before each shipping to the processor.

The complaint that cow milk causes digestive disorders is a thinly veiled ignorance of the so-called lactose-intolerance condition. Some adults suffer this condition because their intestines have a decreased lactase enzyme capability, acquired after childhood when they drank milk readily without digestive concerns. I always have a few students in my classes with this condition. They simply carry lactase enzyme tablets to use when they drink milk or take part in my classes on milk judging and cheese making.

It is certainly ignorance if not intentional mischief on Dr. Oski's part not to admit or point out that every grocery store selling milk today has cartons of milk labeled Lactaid. This product is tailor-made for people with lactose intolerance, who now can enjoy drinking milk without digestive disorders. It is also common knowledge that milk converted to yogurt now has developed some lactase enzyme, thanks to the yogurt fermentation process. On the other hand, it is downright stupid to write about "lactase in milk being destroyed by pasteurization...", a statement which appeared not long ago in a local paper.

First, there is no evidence that there is lactase in milk before it is fermented into yogurt. Second, lactase cannot be destroyed by pasteurization if it is not there before. Third, attacking pasteurization is dangerous and irresponsible. Without it, the microbiological requirements for sanitation and processing performance would be more stringent, which few producers could meet. Pasteurization is our assurance to the consumer that they are drinking a microbiologically safe product.

I was recently invited to speak at an international dairy congress in India. Before leaving this country, I was repeatedly warned for my own safety not to drink any milk in India or eat dairy products. I listened, but there at meals, even in rural areas, I was offered milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner with the words "it is boiled." This assured me. I drank and enjoyed milk every day and had no problems. Also with every meal came a small dish of plain yogurt. I not only enjoyed this, I can't help but think this dietary habit would make a lot of sense here too. Maybe fewer people would have lactose-intolerance concerns.

Tailor-making of milk to fit today's market or human needs can take many forms: adding lactase to milk by processing; adding yogurt to the menu by cooking management; and manipulating milk processing or the original producers, the cows or goats, to supply a product that fits today's needs regarding allergic concerns and nutritional contents. Years ago, when most of us worked harder physically, we needed a milk with much energy, thus whole milk made sense and was popular. Today, when so many of us sit in an office most of the day, our energy needs are less. It makes sense that more and more of us drink partly-fat-removed, two percent or one percent milk, instead of whole milk, which is 3.25 or 3.5 percent fat.

We can even manipulate the feeding of cows and goats or sheep in a way so that their milk contains less fat or less saturated fat, or more protein, or less salt, or less cholesterol. We have learned through research to tailor-make milk to fit consumer and market needs. Speaking against the value of milk in the diet is dangerous for people's health and well-being, at least for those who have chosen to live as 100 percent vegetarians. To say that broccoli or kale can substitute for the most important gift of milk to us -- calcium -- is totally ignorant of people's eating abilities and preferences. Find me a person who can eat enough broccoli or kale or even fish with bones in it to satisfy his/her daily calcium needs!

As for calcium supplements, these generally have a very low absorption rate. Contrary to Dr. Oski's complaints about low calcium absorption milk, the literature states that only milk has a high absorption rate of calcium because of the synergistic presence of lactose and vitamin D also in milk. He should know this.

What these controversial advisors claim could cause many people to have poor teeth; develop bone, muscle and nervous problems; and, later in life, end up with crippling osteoporosis. To listen to these anti-milk extremists or repeat their advice is risky, at the very least, and certainly contrary to preventive nutrition and medicine. According to the National Research Council recommendations, people should drink milk and eat dairy products in amounts that provide at least 800 mg absorbed calcium per person per day (even more for growing children and nursing mothers).

I am not saying all this because I am a dairy scientist and therefore prejudiced. I believe this as a consumer, and I practice it too. And if we become ever more involved in manipulating the feeding rations of our cows and the processing of our dairy products, we can better fit the needs of today's market. Without this determination, we will forfeit our incomes and our futures to those wild apostles of extremism.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; Dr. Benjamin Spock's recommendation against milk in children's diets
Author:Haenlein, George F.W.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1314
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