Myth #2: The "Milk Myth"

milk glass
milk glass

Milk may be one of the most historically important foods in human history.  It is also one of the most misunderstood.  In the second installment of my Myths series I plan to separate the Milk Myth from the truth.  You may be missing out on a nutritious longevity food that is capable of boosting your immune system and keeping you lean, or you may be one of the many who have been misguided into putting their health at risk by the media and clever commercial campaigns.

Got Myth?

1.    Milk drinking is a relatively new practice limited to Europeans…False!

It would makes sense that the reason so many people don’t handle dairy well is because it is a relatively new food for humans and limited to Caucasians.  This is a common misconception and one that scares a lot of people away from milk. The reality is that our cultural dependence on milk originated in Africa and then rapidly spread to Europe and Asia through those that practiced animal husbandry because it gave them such an advantage (I’m referring to raw milk, which we will get to in a bit).   In fact the ancient Maasai tribe of Africa, whose culture has been almost completely untouched and affected by the modern world, still drinks raw milk as one of the cornerstones of their diet.

2.    Milk must be pasteurized to be safe to consume...False!

For thousands of years people raised cows and thrived drinking raw milk from their animals.  In those times cows were an important commodity and given good, humane care.  In many of these cultures the cow was apart of the family.  The need for pasteurization became a reality after the advent of the overpopulated urban dairies housing diseased cows living to their knees in excrement and whose hindquarters remained caked with manure (lunch anyone?).  Under these conditions disease passes easily through the medium of warm, protein-rich milk making pasteurization necessary.

3.    Raw milk is unsafe…Very False!

According to epidemiological research by the Weston A. Price Foundation and author/molecular biologist Dr. Catherine Shanahan, no epidemics have ever been traced to raw milk consumption when the cows were healthy and the humans milking them were disease free.  I can also tell you from personal experience that my girlfriend, my business partner and I all drink raw milk daily without any problems.  My girlfriend has been drinking raw milk throughout the entire 40 weeks of her pregnancy.  Not only has she not had any issues, she has not had any morning sickness, colds, stomach distress and her weight gain has been minimal.  Draw your own conclusions.

In her best-selling book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon writes about the health benefits of raw milk, “Raw milk from pasture raised, grass-fed cows will contain the Price Factor and cancer-fighting CLA as well as a rich supply of vitamins and minerals.”  Unfortunately, it is very hard to find this kind of milk in America.  California, New Mexico, and Connecticut have milk available at health food stores and at farmer’s markets.  Be sure you ask the seller if the cows are pasture-raised.

4.    Pasteurized milk is nutritious…More False!

The pasteurization process denatures milk, robbing it of its natural nutrient content.  You can expect the following from pasteurized milk:

  • Heating from the pasteurization process alters the amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the proteins less bioavailable.
  • Promotion of rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Vitamin C lost during pasteurization usually exceeds 50%.
  • Vitamin B12 is totally destroyed.
  • Loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%.
  • Reduction in the availability of milk’s mineral components including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur and many trace minerals.
  • Destruction of milk’s digestive enzymes.  These enzymes help the body assimilate nutrients like calcium.  The absence of these enzymes puts unnecessary strain on the pancreas.  Sally Fallon, director of the Weston A. Price Foundation, says this strain on the pancreas may explain the connection between milk consumption and diabetes.

5.    But what about milk fortified with vitamin D?  Oh boy…

It is a common practice for synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 to be added to pasteurized milk.  The former is toxic and the latter is difficult to absorb.

6.    But wait!  I thought chocolate milk was the ideal post-workout recovery beverage…Most False!

There has been a lot of noise lately about chocolate milk being the “ideal” post workout beverage.  The line of thinking is that low-fat chocolate milk has a good mix of protein to rebuild tissue and carbs to quickly replenish muscle glycogen levels after a tough bout of exercise.  This got some traction when some studies came out saying that subjects who drank chocolate milk recovered from an intense training session and were able to do more work capacity for longer in a subsequent workout session than those who drank only Gatorade or water.

Of course chocolate milk is a better recovery option than Gatorade or water alone.  But what does that really say other than in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king?

Yes, The protein content of chocolate milk makes it a better choice than Gatorade, which is entirely sugar and probably the worst choice.

That does not make chocolate milk the “ideal” post workout beverage.  It is still a very poor choice for all the reasons I have outlined in this article.  All the arguments for chocolate milk totally collapse on themselves.  All chocolate milk is pasteurized.  We know the pasteurization process kills most of the nutrient contents, making chocolate milk nothing more than a sugary beverage with a host of dead/denatured nutrients and hard to assimilate protein and lactose that causes digestive and organ distress possibly leading to insulin insensitivity and diabetes*.  In fact digestive distress (upset stomach and “the runs”) is one of the most common complaints among endurance athletes that choose to use chocolate milk for recovery.

*That was a mouthful, but it felt so good to say.

7.    People with lactose intolerance must avoid ALL dairy…False again!

Lactose is the name for milk sugar.  People with poor tolerance for milk lack intestinal lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose. According to some estimates only 30-40% of the world’s population produces lactase.  Lactose intolerance has different levels of severity, allowing some non-lactase producing people to consume small amounts of dairy.  Additionally, some people are allergic to the milk protein, casein, which is a very hard protein for the body the digest.

The good news for these people is that the process of fermenting or souring milk partially breaks down lactose and predigests casein.  The end products of fermenting are yogurt, kefir and clabber, which are often well tolerated by those with intolerances.  Butter and cream contain little lactose and casein and may also be a viable option.  Fermented and/or soured butter and cream is even more easily digested.  Lastly, cheese made from raw milk contain a full compliment of digestive enzymes making it far more easily digestible that cheese made from pasteurized milk.