Advertisements have long been used to promote the virtues of drinking milk, like its benefits to growing bodies and the ability to create strong bones. But are these commercials simply sharing truth or spreading misinformation about the benefits of drinking cow’s milk? Despite what we have been told time and time again by Government and Industry alike, the benefits of milk have been overstated and the risks of its consumption neglected entirely.
As of 2018, the Canada Food Guide still includes Milk as a food category, but recently they have acknowledged that milk alternatives like soy are a viable option. Generations of Canadians have grown up being told that milk offers essential nutrients and is part of a healthy diet. While it is true that milk contains essential nutrients that our bodies need, it is not essential to consume this beverage in order to obtain these nutrients. While we may receive calcium and protein from drinking milk, we also receive a host of unwanted aspects like cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones that occur naturally in the lactation of a pregnant mammal. We are taught that milk is synonymous with strong bones and that we need dairy in order to grow properly. If this were true, then why do countries with the highest consumption of dairy also have to highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture? Milk has not been found to protect against hip fracture even if consumed during teen and adult years in high amounts. Despite repeated indoctrination from the dairy industry that milk is a good source of calcium and necessary for building strong bones, these claims are refuted by studies showing the contrary.
Not only is dairy not proven to protect our bones, but it has also been found in some studies to increase our chances of mortality. A study following 100,000 men and women for 20 years found that consuming milk increased chances of heart disease and significantly increased cancer risk in women. Consuming the recommended three glasses of milk a day was associated with two times the mortality risk. Given these startling findings, why do we continue consuming dairy products? Likely, this is because consumers are simply not educated on the true impacts of milk consumption.
But even if people are aware of the truth about dairy’s impact on health, many may find it incredibly difficult to stop consuming these products. This is because dairy has been designed by nature to be highly addictive. All milk contains a protein called casein and when it is absorbed by our bodies it is converted into casomorphin, which attaches to the same receptors in our brain as other opiates like heroin. This addictive chemical is nature’s way of incentivizing a newborn baby to continue nursing from its mother since opiate receptors are known to regulate euphoria, appetite and eating behavior. While human milk protein is comprised of only 40% casein, cow’s’ milk is 80% casein. The addictive nature of cow’s milk is further magnified in the production of cheese. Cheese has seven times the protein content of milk and is the most concentrated form of casein of any food. So even if we wanted to stop consuming dairy products, our bodies physically addiction to these products is difficult to break (but not impossible).
Given the addictive nature of dairy and its negative effects on our health, why do so many people continue consuming these products? It is likely that many people do not think their diet is complete without dairy products. We perceive cows’ milk products to be necessary yet neglect other nutritious kinds of milk produced by mammals like moose, which contains higher protein, calcium, and iron compared to cow’s milk. In all truth, the only milk humans require is from our own mothers when we’re infants. Our mothers’ milk is made specifically for us and is nature’s perfect food for a newborn baby. Conversely, cow’s milk is made specifically for her calf, not humans as we have been taught. The purpose of cows milk is to grow a 60-pound newborn calf into a 1,000-pound cow as rapidly as possible. To think that this beverage has any necessity for human health is simply unfounded.
This logic is reflected by our body’s biological reaction to milk of a foreign species. While some of us can consume milk without issue, it is estimated that 65% of the human population experiences symptoms of lactose intolerance when consuming dairy products, namely: Asian, African and Indigenous peoples. This is because when we grow out of infancy, we lose the enzyme needed to digest milk. This is nature’s way of weaning babies off of their mother’s milk and onto solid food. Yet instead of listening to our bodies natural repulsion to dairy, we have found ways to remove lactose so we can continue eating food that was never made for us in the first place.
The Dairy Industry has been successful in convincing people that dairy consumption is not only necessary but also natural. If consuming cow’s milk is as natural as the industry claims it is, then why does all dairy production start with artificial insemination? The truth about this industry has been intentionally hidden from consumers because the aspects inherent to its production are stomach churning and may result in loss of sales. The Dairy Industry is predicated on severing the sacred bond between mother and child. Many are simply unaware that cows, like all other mammals, must be pregnant in order to give milk. While most people could not partake in this heart-wrenching process, many fund this practice by purchasing dairy products at our local supermarket. If you are against cruelty to animals, you must align your actions with your beliefs and remove dairy from your diet. Not only will your conscience be clear, but your health will improve in the long run.
Some may see removing dairy from their diet to be restrictive, but this assumption could not be further from the truth. Rather than obtaining milk from one species of animal, you can get milk from dozens of plants including cashew, soy, oat, rice, hemp, almond, and hazelnut. Many of these milk have similar calcium and protein profiles to cows milk, without negative nutrients like cholesterol, saturated fat, and casein. The alternatives are becoming more abundant at supermarkets with innovative products like non-dairy cheese, yogurts, kefirs, and ice-cream. With these plant products at price parity with dairy products, there is no longer any need to consume bovine breast-milk.