In light of the steady drip, drip, drip of research linking the consumption of dairy products to a variety of life-threatening ailments and diseases it might be prudent to revisit a classic study showing that cow’s milk contains compounds almost identical to the narcotic morphine. Scientists believe that mammals lace their milk with the opiate-like substance to compel newborns back to the breast. In addition, casein, a milk protein concentrated in cheese, also contains a source of opiate-like compounds called exorphins.
Does this explain cheese’s seductive power over so many of us? Is it time to add cheese to the short list of dangerous addictive substances?
In Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health, nutritionist Joseph Keon, Ph.D., details dozens of reputable studies showing the hazards of milk allergies, lactose intolerance, as well as adverse reactions to many of the 60 or so different hormones and growth factors found in cow’s milk. In the words of many researchers cited by Keon – and major studies published in the leading medical and nutritional journals — milk is not only unnecessary in the human diet, it increases risk of an alphabet of diseases including arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, and more. Yet, articles in the New York Times and other media sources, and numerous books including The China Study, have done little to slow our consumption of dairy: Thirty ounces a day, according to the USDA, in the form of six-cheese pizzas, caramel lattes, alfredo sauces, and Chunky Monkey ice cream.
Why we don’t change our dairy habits is likely the result of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by various dairy marketing organizations on promotional campaigns like “Got Milk?” as well as the dairy industry’s efforts to control the public institutions charged with devising nutrition policy. For example, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, of the 11 advisory board members used by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services to create dietary guidelines, five members had close ties to dairy industry organizations. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least three of them had also received direct funding from the National Dairy Council.
Calcium is the industry’s red herring. In their words, calcium is vitally important to build strong bones and avoid osteoporosis. But if calcium is so important to humans, why does human milk contain only a fraction of the calcium in cow’s milk? The same is true of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Human milk has dramatically less of many nutrients than cow’s milk – and the added nutrients of cow’s milk does not make humans healthier. Quite the contrary: According to Frank Oski, past president of the US Society for Pediatric Research, “Perhaps when the public is educated as to the hazards of milk, only calves will be left to drink the real thing.”
Consider this: Americans consume large amounts of dairy products and also have one of the world’s highest incidence of bone fracture. Conversely, those countries with low-dairy, low-calcium diets do not have a problem with bone fracture, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A Harvard University study involving 78,000 women found that the participants who drank the most milk had the highest risk of bone fracture.
One of the primary conclusions of T. Colin Campbell’s influential book, The China Study, was that long-term consumption of large amounts of animal protein (including milk) lead to numerous health problems, including two conditions called metabolic acidosis and acid-induced bone dissolution. In other words, the excessive protein induces the body into an acidic state and, in its effort to restore balance, leaches alkalinizing calcium and other minerals from the skeletal system. Keon writes, “Numerous studies dating back as far as seventy years document how, as dietary animal protein intake increases, more calcium is excreted in the urine.” In other words, rather than building bones, dairy may contribute to gradually pissing them away.