Milk, which was considered the perfect food, has now fallen from its pedestal.
In India, the land of Krishna, the cowherd-God, milk is sacred. Milk is used for worship in temples and as offering at prayer time in homes. Milk is equally venerated in other countries – notably the US and Holland, where the per capita consumption is the highest in the world.
We have been coaxed from an early age to drink milk to become healthy and strong and we have been taught that milk is the “perfect food”, providing us so many essential nutrients. So when I first came across an e-mail forward which listed all the ways in which milk was terrible, I went into denial. Just another crank message like so many others in cyber space, I thought.
But gradually we found milk falling from its pedestal. Milk and milk products were blamed for being a contributing factor in several human health problems by many prominent medical professionals and scientists - experts not employed by the Dairy Industry, I must say- whose credentials are difficult to dispute. Here are the names of two of them who’s websites can be looked up for a fund of information on milk:
Dr. Frank Oski, M.D., author of ‘Don’t Drink Your Milk!’, is the Director of the Department of Pediatrics of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the author of several medical textbooks. In the first chapter of his book, Dr. Oski states that the drinking of cow milk is very strongly linked to the origins of atherosclerosis and heart attacks; also to iron-deficiency anemia and colic in infants, arthritis, headaches, muscle cramps and multiple forms of allergy.
Dr. William Ellis, a retired osteopathic physician and surgeon in Arlington, Texas, who has researched the effects of dairy products for 42 years. Dr. Ellis says dairy products are “simply no good for humans... There is overwhelming evidence that milk and milk products are a major factor in obesity”. He also says that he has conducted 25,000 blood tests on his patients during his long practice, and the tests showed conclusively that adults who used milk products did not absorb nutrients as well as those who did not consume milk. The poor absorbption in turn meant chronic fatigue.
What about Calcium?
For most of us, milk is calcium. How will your child’s bones grow? How can you avoid osteoporosis without milk? But like the belief that tobacco was good, this seems to be another myth which is being shattered. It is true that milk has calcium – but not in a form that is easily absorbed by the body.
One of the most serious problems caused by a calcium deficiency is osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of 50 to 75 percent of the person’s original bone material. In the U.S., 25 percent of 65-year-old women suffer from osteoporosis. If milk provides calcium, it is strange that the US which has the highest per capita dairy products’ consumption also has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis.
It has also been found that those prone to muscle spasms and cramps (explained by low levels of blood calcium) were milk drinkers.
How to increase calcium levels?
If we do not drink milk, where do we get our calcium from is a question many anxious mothers would ask. To which the counter question is “Where do cows get their calcium from?”
Cows get calcium from green plants and grains and so can we. All green leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts contain calcium. Raw sesame seeds are said to contain more calcium than any other food on earth and leafy greens, dates, figs and prunes are almost as good. So, if we eat fruits and vegetables daily and raw nuts, seeds and dry fruits often, we cannot possibly have calcium deficiency. Why don’t our doctors tell us that?
Also, many leading medical researchers agree that the best way for most people to increase their calcium level and strengthen their bones is to reduce their protein intake- not increase calcium intake- and specifically to reduce consumption of animal products. The reason is that animal products and other sources of high protein are very acidic, and the blood stream must balance this acidic condition by absorbing alkaline minerals such as calcium from the bone structure.
Why is milk difficult to digest?
Lactase and Renin are two enzymes required to digest lactose and protein in milk. But according to Dr. Oski, between the age of one and a half and four years, most individuals lose these enzymes. Milk also contains Casein along with its protein – and there is 300 times more casein in cow milk than in human milk. Casein is meant to help in the development of big bones of the calf. Casein coagulates in the stomach and forms a dense difficult-to-digest mass which adheres to the walls of the intestines and makes it difficult for nutrients to be absorbed. The result is lethargy and fatigue.
Our bodies stop producing the enzymes to digest milk in what appears to be a normal process that accompanies maturation. It reflects the fact that nature never intended milk to be consumed after the normal weaning period. This accounts for the majority of the world’s adult population being “lactose intolerant,” meaning they cannot digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Humans, like all mammals, nourish their infants during infancy with milk from the mother. Part of the very definition of a mammal is that the female of the species has milk-producing glands in her breasts. But, normally, all species get weaned - humans are the only species that never get weaned!
The milk of each species appears to have been specifically designed to suit and protect the young of that species. Cross-feeding does not work. Heating, sterilization, or modification of the milk in any way destroys its value further.
So, how much of a difference is there between a human baby drinking the milk of its mother versus drinking the milk of a cow?
Protein Content of milk
There is much more protein in cow’s milk than human milk. The high protein is required for the calf to double its weight at birth in 45 days whereas a human baby doubles its weight in 6 months!
More protein in milk leads to more calcium loss. Eskimos, who suffer most from osteoporosis eat the most protein- 250 to 400 grams a day, while vegetarians suffer less from osteoporosis.
The consumption of cow milk with its excessive protein and its protein complement, casein, from an early age may have life-long consequences of childhood obesity and early maturation of girls at 8 and 9 years of age, which poses other secondary problems for them.
Tuning in to Nature, Understanding Tradition:
Science has been teaching us piecemeal ‘truths’, like milk has the most calcium, or that it gives us protein, etc. These statements have become more powerful than, say, the wisdom of Ayurveda, which says that if at all you must have milk, have it in the form of buttermilk, which is easier to digest.
Nature designed mammals to not need milk after being weaned. In fact, nutritionists say that we should not drink any liquid with our meals because this dilutes our digestive fluids. Fruits and vegetables and their juices would be the best sources of water for us, since they contain about 70% water, just as our bodies contain about 70% water.
Interestingly we never hear of Krishna drinking milk, except in a playful story, where he drinks milk directly from the cow. Krishna loved butter – and butter is less harmful than milk. Being a fat, it is neutral, not acidic. Also, most foods in limited quantities could not be harmful. But we are making children guzzle milk and butter and panneer and yoghurt - and we have lost our way somewhere. Before getting more obese and diabetic, as a nation, we can try to find our way back to sensible and nature-sensitive eating.
Source: Websites of Dr. Frank Oski and Dr. William Ellis and ‘Fit for Life’, by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond