It’s September, and all across the country children and teachers are filling classrooms, playgrounds, and school cafeterias. Some are in new buildings, some old. Some have new textbooks, some old. Some are studying subjects I never heard of in elementary school, like computers, and some are studying materials pretty much like what I studied back in the ’60s and ’70s. One subject that could be changing, and in my opinion, should be changing, much more rapidly is the subject of nutrition. I say this because of my horror in seeing that one of the greatest myths ever foisted on the American public is still being disseminated in our classrooms despite mountains of scientific evidence to the contrary. This is the myth that milk builds strong bones.
I grew up with the four food groups: meat, fruits and vegetables, grains, and milk. I accepted these food groups as nearly gospel and ate accordingly. Then in the ’90s I read an article in a magazine called Science News that rocked my world. This article not only stated that milk consumption is associated with an increased risk of hip fracture in elderly people, but it showed a chart of countries all over the world, correlating milk consumption with hip fracture rates. To my amazement, without exception the countries with the highest milk consumption had the highest rates of hip fractures, and the countries with the lowest rates of milk consumption had the lowest rates of hip fractures. More recently, Amy Lanou PhD, nutritional director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. stated, “The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets.”
Studies by scientists all over the world support these statements. The famous Harvard Nurses’ Health Study followed 77,761 women aged 34 through 59 for 12 years. This study found that the women who drank three glasses of milk daily had double the number of fractures compared to women who rarely drank milk. The authors of the study, Feskanich, Willet, Stampfer, and Colditz wrote, “These data do not support the hypothesis that higher consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium by adult women protect against hip or forearm fractures.” Back in 1994 the American Journal of Epidemiology published a report by Cumming and Klineberg containing this summation: “Consumption of dairy products, particularly at age 20 years, was associated with an increased rate of hip fracture in old age.”
While it is true that high milk consumption initially results in increased bone mineral density, that is a short-term gain offset by long-term increases in osteoporosis risk. Author Russell Eaton states, “Dairy milk does increase bone density, but this comes at a terrible price. The latest research is showing that far from protecting bones, milk actually increases the risk of osteoporosis by eroding bone-making cells.” The scientific explanation is too lengthy to go into here, but it involves acidification of the blood and the effect of excess calcium from milk on the activity of osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Even aside from scientific evidence, simple logic speaks clearly. Is there any other animal on Earth that drinks milk after infancy? No. Yet we still tell out school children every day that unless human beings drink cow’s milk every day of their lives, their bones will fall apart. It makes me shudder with frustration.
It is clearly time to replace propaganda from the food industry with solid science in our classrooms. Our most recent food pyramid, the one saying we should all be consuming 6 to 11 servings of grain per day, as well as showing cow’s milk as a healthy part of the human diet, was based on intensive lobbying by the food industry rather than on solid science. Most of us are aware that anyone eating 11 pieces of bread a day, plus all of the other foods shown on the food pyramid, is going to be obese, but the food industry has plenty of political clout and clearly uses this influence to its advantage.
Now, before the Dairy Farmers of Washington get all upset with me, I will add one bit of good news for dairy lovers. There are studies showing that fermented milk products, such as sour cream, yogurt, and kefir, do not cause the blood acidification that is associated with the leaching of calcium from our bones. TCBY, here I come.
Nutritional science is complicated. I’m not a scientist, I’m just a health fanatic who reads a lot. But I’m hoping that many reading this will be spurred to do their own research and educate their families on the truth when it comes to dairy milk. Maybe eventually, as was the case with the lung cancer/cigarette connection, this knowledge will become main stream. Our children’s health depends on it.
Beverly Hoback lives in Arlington and teaches music, health, and science in the Lakewood School District.
Regarding your September 21 opinion letter on milk, there is more to be said. Although cow’s milk contains calcium, it is lacking in iron, magnesium, potassium, and essential fatty acids. Why then is cow’s milk good for calves? Because calves also eat grass, which is rich in these nutrients. Drinking cow’s milk uses up our caloric allotment without delivering the nutrition we need. Most vegetables are rich in calcium and other minerals.
Milk is very high in protein, and most people consume far too much protein, which acidifies the blood and weakens bones. Cow’s milk, even if it is organic, contains IGF-1, a growth hormone identical to human growth hormone. Too much growth hormone encorages growth of cancer cells.
People love the taste of milk and cheese because it contains casomorphin, an addictive analog of morphine. It is in cow’s milk and mother’s milk to induce calves and babies to crave milk.
Finally, commercial milk is a very cruel food because calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth to spent a hundred hellish days in veal crates. In order to keep their flesh pale in color, they are denied water and hay and are fed an iron free diet of surplus milk and butter, which makes them wretchedly ill.
At least 5 children with HUS – Acute Kidney Failure
The Missouri State Department of Health and Senior Services said Wednesday it now has 14 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7. The two new E. coli cases are from Boone and Marion counties. The 14 cases have similar lab results, geographic proximity and/or case history – drank raw milk or are family memembers of those who drank raw milk. A 2-year-old Boone County child sickened with E. coli remained hospitalized Wednesday with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infection that causes kidney failure. Five cases have been reported in Boone County, three in Cooper, three in Howard, and one each in Jackson, Marion and Callaway counties. The illnesses have been linked to a farm owned by Sam Stroupe of Armstrong, Missouri.
In Oregon a total of twenty-one people have been linked to tainted raw milk. According to the Oregon State Department of Health, the Oregon farm whose raw milk is the suspected source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened 19 has now been associated with two more foodborne illness victims. Health officials reported Monday that two adults who had consumed raw milk from Foundation Farm had contracted infections from two different pathogens – Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium. Four children ages 1, 3, 14 and 14 were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). According to the most recent information, all four are still in the hospital.
Marketers have been trying desperately for over a decade to increase the public’s consumption of milk, but they keep failing. Here’s why.
March 12, 2012 |
Photo Credit: Eskemar via Shutterstock
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Selling milk looks easy and even fun when you see the celebrity milk-mustache ads. “Got Milk?” ads may be the most recognizable and spoofed of all ad campaigns, yet they are probably also one of the least successful: Milk sales have actually fallen every year since the ads began. The National Dairy Promotion and Research Program and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program admit “consumption has been declining for decades in the United States at about 1.0 percent per year,” in their yearly reports to Congress but plead that their marketing has “helped mitigate at least some of this decline.” Key words “help,” “at least” and “some.”
Why the milk-drinking slide? First, many U.S. groups simply do not drink much, or any, milk — including ethnic minorities, those who are lactose intolerant or allergic, dieters, the health conscious, and vegans. Kids themselves often dislike milk — probably why they invented chocolate and flavored milk — and it is often the last choice among teens and tweens, on whom much milk marketing is focused. Healthcare professionals, unless subsidized by the dairy industry, seldom recommend milk because of its cholesterol, fat, calories, allergens and impurities and its possible links to rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) since milk made with the cow milk enhancer has never been labeled. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby boom-era pediatrician, recommended no milk for children after age two to reduce their risks of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and diet-related cancers.
Milk marketers admit that the public’s “preference” for milk may be changing, but also blame calcium-fortiﬁed juices and vitamin-enhanced beverages that “undermine” milk’s healthy image. They also point the finger at “limited availability” of milk in eating establishments and even milk’s price. You can’t find milk anywhere — and when you do, you can’t afford it, they claim. The agencies note that national milk sales are falling because the proportion of children under six has not grown much and as the “proportion of African Americans in the population increases” — a group not known to be big milk drinkers due to higher rates of lactose intolerance.
Milk marketers have tried everything to reverse falling sales. During the 1980s when the slogan was “Milk: It Does a Body Good,” they began marketing milk for strong bones and to prevent osteoporosis. “One in ﬁve victims of osteoporosis is male,” said milk ads featuring model Tyra Banks, as the mustache campaign debuted. “Don’t worry. Calcium can help prevent it.” Another early mustache ad with musician Marc Anthony read, “Shake it, don’t break it. Want strong bones? Drinking enough lowfat milk now can help prevent osteoporosis later.”
But the campaign had both marketing and scientific problems. Teens and tweens don’t worry much about old-people diseases like osteoporosis because who’s gonna get old? And African Americans, Latinos and men, groups targeted in the strong bone campaign, are the least at risk for osteoporosis say doctors. Oops.
Health professionals also disputed the bone claims. A 2001 USDA expert panel report said that calcium intake by itself, as milk offers, does not prevent osteoporosis because exercise and nutrients other than calcium are part of the bone health picture. Panelists also said whole milk could increase the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease and ads should include such warnings.
And other experts like T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and heart expert Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, agreed that osteoporosis and fractures are not caused by what marketers were presenting as “milk deficiencies.” In fact, the Western diet, which often has too much protein and acid, is blamed by some researchers and nutritionists for osteoporosis and fractures. The popular proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec, which people take for acid reflux, are also blamed for fractures.
Undaunted, in 2002, milk marketers told Congress they were marketing the scientific benefits of milk for osteoporosis, breast cancer and hypertension and especially focusing on African Americans. “The Fluid Milk Board continues to spotlight the high incidence of high blood pressure among African Americans and to promote milk and milk products as a dietary solution as part of the DASH [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension] diet,” says the report to Congress. “The program also addresses misconceptions about lactose intolerance and shows why it should not be a barrier to including milk in the diet. The Board launched a new lactose intolerance initiative that focuses on educating African Americans on the importance of incorporating milk into their diet. The programs provided educational material on osteoporosis and lactose intolerance.”
Milk marketers may also have taken a cue from the cartoon character Joe Camel, used by R.J. Reynolds to market Camel cigarettes. Milk containers were redesigned into new hand-friendly decanters, called the Chug and a spoof-y musical group was rolled out on YouTube and social-networking sites called White Gold and the Calcium Twins.
The “Got Milk?” site also ran an animated cartoon of a farm depicting happy cows, chickens, ducks, and pigs (and a horse working out on a treadmill), while milk cartons moved by on a conveyor belt. A helium balloon pops up continually, saying, “Tell Your Friends.”
“Do you think drinking calcium fortified beverages like soy drinks and orange juice will meet your bones’ ‘requirements?'” asks the site, which was live until 2008. “Not really, says research that concluded 75 percent of calcium added to popular beverages gets left at the bottom of the carton.” But then, a disclaimer pops up and confesses that milk’s actual benefits for “bones, PMS, sleep, teeth, hair, muscles [and] nails” have been “purposefully exaggerated so as not to bore you.” What?
And that’s the least of the student marketing. Posters of milk mustache-wearing actors, sports figures, musicians, and models are sent to 60,000 U.S. elementary schools and 45,000 middle and high schools. Ads also appear in Sports Illustrated for Kids, Spin, Electronic Gaming, CosmoGirl, Blender, Seventeen and elsewhere. Students have been told if they visit milk Web sites they can win an iPod, a Fender guitar, clothes from Adidas and Baby Phat and their schools could qualify for sports gear, classroom supplies and musical instruments. There was also peer-to-peer, in-class selling at three California schools where students got a chance to create their own “Got Milk?” campaigns and qualify for an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco to present their ideas to milk officials for future milk marketing campaigns. The cost of an ad campaign guaranteed to sell milk to teens because it was created by teens? Priceless.
In 2005, milk marketers tried to widen the demographic by positioning milk as a cure for premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS. TV ads showed bumbling boyfriends and husbands rushing to the store for milk to detoxify their stricken women. But the study on which the campaign was based, credited calcium, not milk, with relieving PMS — a substance found in many sources besides milk (including the “calcium-fortified juices” that milk marketers battle against). And when milk marketers tried to revive the PMS campaign in 2011, the second time around it elicited a tsunami of sexism charges and had to be scrapped.
Then, milk marketers sought an even wider demographic by rolling out the idea of milk as a diet food. “Studies suggest that the nutrients in milk can play an important role in weight loss. So if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, try drinking 24 ounces of low-fat or fat-free milk every 24 hours as part of your reduced-calorie diet,” said the ads. The diet campaign was especially targeted to the Hispanic community, which is known both for its high obesity rates and its low milk consumption. There was even a related school program called “Healthiest Student Bodies,” which recognized 25 schools around the country for providing “an environment that encourages healthy choices for students.”
The milk-as-a-diet-food campaign had many catchy slogans — “Milk Your Diet,” “Body by Milk,” “Think About Your Drink,” “Why Milk?” “24oz/24hours, 3-a-Day” (and, of course, “Got Milk?”) — and had the help of hotties Elizabeth Hurley and Sheryl Crow modeling mustaches. But soon after it debuted, a study of 20,000 men who increased their intake of low-fat dairy foods found they did not lose weight. “The hypothesis that has been floating around is that increasing dairy can promote weight loss, and in this study, I did not find that,” said researcher Swapnil Rajpathak, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Worse, the research behind the weight-loss claims was largely conducted by Michael Zemel, director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, who had “patented” the claim that calcium or dairy products could help against obesity. The patent was owned by the university and licensed to Dairy Management Inc., reported USA Today.
The milk-as-a-diet-food suggestions also did not sound like they would produce weight loss. They included, “Make soups and chowders with milk,” “Add milk to risotto and rice dishes for a creamier texture,” and “Order a milk-based soup like corn chowder, potato leek or cream of broccoli as a first course at dinner.”
What is the next course — a stick of butter?
Soon the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection directed milk marketers to stop the weight-loss campaign “until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss.” Milk marketing materials stopped claiming that milk makes drinkers lose weight, instead saying it doesn’t necessarily add weight — which is pretty different. They also retooled their claims to say that milk may have “certain nutrients that can help consumers meet dietary requirements” — pretty much the definition of “food.”
In February, milk marketers went for an even wider demographic — the set of all people who eat little or no breakfast, or at least a breakfast without milk. Using the bilingual actress Salma Hayek as pitchwoman, the new campaign, called the Breakfast Project, also targets Spanish-speaking communities with ads in People en Español and Ser Padres magazines and on the Univision morning show “Despierta América” as well as on English-speaking media. “It’s Not Breakfast Without Milk,” say the new slogans, “Because Every Good Day Starts With Milk,” and “Hello, Sunshine.”
Like other milk marketing campaigns, the Breakfast Project is upbeat, interactive, inclusive and fun, offering recipes, tips, a “morning survival guide” and even a chance to win free milk. And like the other campaigns, it has little chance of selling a product people don’t particular like which is not particularly good for them. We won’t even talk about the filth and cruelty of industrial dairy farms and what happens to veal calves (which are byproducts of the dairy industry’s need to keep cows lactating).
Still, milk marketers seem to have learned one lesson from the disproved osteoporosis, PMS and weight loss claims of past campaigns: the Breakfast Project makes no appeal to science or medicine to support the marketed milk benefits. Instead of “studies have shown,” or “research has revealed” the new campaign simply says, “We believe milk is part of getting a successful day started.” Of course they believe it — they’re the dairy industry. But will consumers finally be swayed by their marketing magic, or will the milk-drinking slump continue?
Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets.
Raw milk is certainly better than commercial processed milk, which is unhealthy for umpteen reasons.
I support the right of people to buy, sell, and consume raw milk.
In the case of raw milk, if the cows are healthy, maybe the milk is not harmful. On the other hand, can you be confident in our polluted world that any pasture is clean or any cow is free from infection?
The people of India drank buffalo milk. However, they boiled it first. The issue of boiling raw milk before using it as food should be part of this debate.
Also I question the general enthusiasm for drinking milk of any kind – other than mother’s milk. Animal milks are species specific. Why would we presume that cow’s milk, goat’s milk, mare’s milk, camel’s milk is appropriate for humans?
Cow’s milk is high in protein – we eat too much protein anyway.
Cow’s milk is high in phosphorus, which we do not need more of.
It is high in calcium phosphate, a calcium type that is only partially absorbed.
It is low in essential fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and iron? Why? Because calves eat grass, and grass is rich in essential fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Even raw milk contains a growth factor that just by coincidence is exactly the same as human growth factor. We do not need more growth hormone; it promotes cancer. Does this growth factor get completely digested in the stomach?
Milk tastes great. But it does not provide us with anything we need nutritionally other than lots of protein and calories.
Also I would like to know more about how these organic raw milk cows are treated? Are they kept constantly pregnant? Are their calves taken away a few days after birth? Are the calves sent to the veal crates like their commercial cousins?
This is Dr. Mercola’s summary. See my comments below:
A few years ago, a number of U.S. states tried to ban “rbGH-free” claims on dairy. Monsanto, which owned rbGH at the time, helped found a group called AFACT, which supported the bans. AFACT was unsuccessful in most states, but it looked like they might win in Ohio, where the fight went to the courts.
Recently, however, the Ohio court came to its decision. First, they ruled that milk in Ohio can still bear an “rbGH-free” label as long as it also bears the disclaimer stating that, “[t]he FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows.”
But there’s more important news out of Ohio — the court also challenged the FDA’s finding that there is “no measurable compositional difference” between milk from rbGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows. This FDA finding has been the major roadblock to rbGH regulation, and the court struck it down.
From James: This is really big news. The Ohio Supreme Court has called the FDA out and has said that it should correct one of its rules.
I agree with almost everything Dr. Mercola has to say. However, I disagree with him when he says that raw, organic, non-pasteurized milk is okay to drink.
Milk is better if it is raw, organic, non-pasteurized – but only if it is boiled.
Milk from health cows can still harbor paratuberculosis, which is a probable cause of Johne’s Disease in cows and Crohn’s Disease in humans. Pasteurization does not kill paratuberculosis. Milk must be boiled to be safe to drink. The Indians – big milk drinkers for millenia – always boiled their milk. (It was still not good for them because it contains no essential fatty acids. Indian milk vegetarians have short life spans.)
Even if milk is boiled and not harmful, it is a nutritional waste of your caloric allotment. It is high in fat. If it is low-fat milk, it is still too high in protein. It contains too much sodium, phosphorus, and cholesterol, and non-essential fatty acids. It contains too little essential fatty acids, magnesium, and potassium.
Milk is good for calves because calves also eat grass. Cows milk is not properly balanced for humans.
The only good thing that you can say about cows milk is that it is – like mother’s milk – very low in fluoride.
Department of Biochemistry, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland. email@example.com
Insulin autoantibodies (IAAs) often appear as the first sign of islet cell autoimmunity in prediabetic children. Because cow’s milk contains bovine insulin, we followed the development of insulin-binding antibodies in children fed with cow’s milk formula. Bovine insulin- and human insulin-binding antibodies by enzyme immunoassay and IAA by radioimmunoassay were analyzed in 200 infants carrying HLA-DQB1*0302 but no protective alleles who participated in a Finnish population-based birth-cohort study. Based on the prospectively registered information, the first 100 infants enrolled in the study who were exposed to cow’s milk formula before age 12 weeks and the first 100 infants enrolled in the study who were exclusively breast-fed for longer than their first 12 weeks of life were selected for the present study. Also, 11 children from the birth cohort who developed at least two diabetes-associated autoantibodies, 98 children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes, and 92 healthy children were studied. We found that the amount of IgG-antibodies binding to bovine insulin was higher at age 3 months in infants who were exposed to cow’s milk formula than in infants who were exclusively breast-fed at that age (median 0.521 vs. 0.190; P < 0.0001). The antibodies binding to bovine insulin cross-reacted with human insulin. None of these infants tested positive for IAA. The levels of bovine insulin-binding antibodies declined in both groups at ages 12 and 18 months, whereas in the 11 children with at least two diabetes-associated autoantibodies the levels increased during the follow-up period (P < 0.0001). IgG antibodies correlated with IgG2 antibodies binding to bovine insulin (r = 0.43, P = 0.004) and IAA (r = 0.27, P = 0.02) in diabetic children, but not in healthy children. Cow’s milk feeding is an environmental trigger of immunity to insulin in infancy that may explain the epidemiological link between the risk of type 1 diabetes and early exposure to cow’s milk formulas. This immune response to insulin may later be diverted into autoaggressive immunity against beta-cells in some individuals, as indicated by our findings in children with diabetes-associated autoantibodies.