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Stabroek News

Udder danger - 10 things wrong with cow's milk
published: Monday | March 27, 2006

A HEATED debate is now under way about whether consuming cow's milk is healthy or not. Many people, including health-conscious individuals, still consume large amounts of dairy products. In fact, dairy products are often promoted as essential for good health. Advertisement even suggests that if you don't drink milk you may become deficient in calcium.

On the contrary, substantial evidence suggests that high consumption of dairy products may damage your health. While cow's milk is excellent for calves, it is not necessarily good for humans.

A big part of the problem lies in the fact that the milk we drink today is very different from the 'raw' milk of bygone days. The way dairy cows are now reared and the processing of modern milk with pasteurisation and homogenisation results in food that poses significant health threats.

Here are 10 reasons why it is a good idea to minimise dairy products in one's diet.

1. Dairy products contribute a lot of cholesterol and fat to one's diet. High-cholesterol-and-fat diets have been associated with heart disease, along with many other health problems. Skimmed dairy products are considerably lower in fat. However, they have the problems noted below.

2. Iron deficiency is more likely on a dairy-rich diet as foods from cow's milk are low in iron. Consuming lots of dairy makes iron deficiency more likely. In addition, medical research has shown that infants who consume cow's milk have small but significant bleeding from their digestive tracts, which contributes to the iron deficiency, anaemia.

3. Insulin-dependent diabetes (Type I) has been linked to the use of dairy products. Epidemiological studies in various countries show a strong correlation between the use of dairy products and the incidence of insulin-dependent diabetes. This is only an association, but some researchers have long suspected that an autoimmune reaction sparked off by the consumption of dairy protein may be one of the causes of this disease.

4. Ovarian cancer is linked to the use of dairy products. The sugar in milk, lactose, is broken down in the body into another sugar called galactose. Enzymes then break down to galactose.

When dairy product consump-tion exceeds the enzymes' capacity to break down galactose, there is a build-up of galactose in the blood. This may affect a woman's ovaries. Some women have particularly low levels of these enzymes, and when they consume dairy products on a regular basis, their risk of ovarian cancer triples that of other women.

5. Cataracts are also linked to dairy products. The galactose that is a by-product of milk sugar appears to damage the lens of the eyes, leading to the formation of cataracts. Excess ultra-violet light also contributes to the formation of cataracts.

6. As many as 70 per cent of the population, particularly people of African and Asian decent, are unable to digest the sugar in milk and are lactose-intolerant. Genetically, they are deficient in the enzyme lactase that is necessary for the metabolism of lactose. When these people drink milk, diarrhoea and 'gas' usually result. Most Caucasians can tolerate lactose, but their bodies are still vulnerable to the galactose that circulates in their blood. This can possibly contribute to the ovarian cancers and cataracts mentioned above.

7. Milk is one food that many people are allergic to. Dairy products can provoke respiratory problems, recurring ear infections, canker sores, skin conditions, and other allergies. Dairy also stimulates mucus production, thus worsening the above problems.

Sadly, many people do not know that they are sensitive to dairy products. They think that their problems are normal. If they give themselves a break from dairy products, they might be pleasantly surprised. Asthmatics, in particular, should give themselves a long 'dairy holiday' to see if their condition improves.

8. Like other products from animals, breast secretions contain many contaminants, including hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other drugs and chemicals. About one-third of all milk products are contaminated with antibiotics. Pus cells, red and white blood cells and lots of bacteria are regular components of milk.

9. Dairy products, despite common myths, do not stop osteoporosis. Evidence shows that the rate of bone loss is not reduced by the consumption of dairy products. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the countries with the highest consumption of dairy products also have the highest incidences of osteoporosis.

10. One out of every five babies suffers from colic. Paediatricians learned long ago that the consumption of cow's milk was often the problem. We now know that breastfeeding mothers can also have colicky babies if the mothers consume cow's milk.

Try replacing dairy with soy products. Highly nutritious soy-based shake drinks are now available. These are healthier alternatives to dairy, are complete balanced liquid meals and a convenient source of protein and calcium.

Email Dr. Tony Vendryes at, visit the website, or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on Power 106 FM on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.

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