Don't Got Milk: Why Milk is Unhealthy

Think twice before consuming dairy products - your body will thank you.Cows: rulers of the American food world. Americans depend on cows for some of the most frequently consumed foods in the United States, especially in the form of dairy. Americans are very attached to dairy for social, emotional, and physical reasons. Yet the assumption that milk is nutrient-rich and life-extending is not based on logic… milk is actually an illogical and unhealthy part of the American diet.

Milk (as cow’s milk will be referred to in this essay) has been around for centuries. Europeans kept cows for milk and to make from milk butter, cream, and cheese. Milk was a practical food source. Milk was readily available and also enduring, lasting the length of a cow’s life. Meat, on the other hand, could only be eaten once and then was finished, and vegetables were only available once fully grown. Milk and dairy foods were delicious as well. So when the Europeans moved to America, they brought along with them this tradition of making food from cow’s milk. This is the reason dairy has been a staple food choice for Americans since the country’s beginning.

In the 1993, long after Europeans first settled the United States, California dairy processors came together to create the Got Milk? campaign. With this campaign, the dairy industry suddenly turned milk into an American “icon.” Milk became cool and fun. The “Got milk?” slogans, to this day, appear everywhere from bulletin boards and magazines to TV and t-shirts. Usually the ads display celebrities, making the ads more appealing to young people. Americans should ask themselves: what was the dairy industry’s motivation behind hyping up and promoting their own product? Was it because they were highly concerned with Americans suffering from osteoporosis? Or was it because the dairy industry was failing, and needed to make some major money? The truth about the dairy industry’s motivation in creating the “Got milk?” campaign might reveal whether or not their claims of milk being healthy were ever based on honest findings or on fabricated, exaggerated, statements. The United States Department of Agriculture, as well, has taken many steps to help promote milk and dairy products. By giving dairy its own category in the food pyramid and by recommending people drink two to three cups of milk a day, the USDA has officially claimed dairy as the most reliable, if not only, source of calcium to get big, strong bones. Upon close, objective examination, though, milk seems not to be such a valuable source of nutrients for the human body or a logical food choice at all.

First of all, humans are the only animals that continue consuming milk after being weaned. In the wild, every young mammal is weaned from milk at a genetically appropriate age and never drinks milk again. Calves are no exception. The enzymes needed to digest milk, rennin and lactase, are gone after a certain period of time for all babies. For humans these enzymes are gone by the age of three. The purpose is so that animals can eventually rely on substantial food for their nutrients. For example, when a calf becomes fully grown, it discontinues getting nutrients from its mother milk but instead relies fully on simple, green grass. In fact, the strongest and largest animals in the world (except for whales) do not drink milk during adulthood, or even eat meat – elephants, rhinoceroses, and gorillas are vegetarians, just like cows. Therefore, isn’t it possible that most, if not all, nutrients the human body requires to be healthy and strong can be obtained through the consumption of vegetables and fruits, rather than from milk and other food products? By nature, milk is designed for one purpose only: to feed the young of the species. Humans are currently the only animal in the world, other than tamed animals, who are never weaned.

Another illogical reason to drink milk is because the anatomy of cows differs greatly from the anatomy of humans. For one, cows have four stomachs. Calves need four stomachs to digest the strong milk of its mother. In cow’s milk, casein, the ingredient that helps develop big bones, is three hundred times more than in human milk. The simple reason for this because cows are much bigger than humans, especially in terms of bone mass, and need much more calcium.

Another interrelated and common American belief that has no scientific or logical support is the belief that having big bones and that being a “big” person is healthier than being a small or short person. “Drink milk to get big, strong bones!” encourages the USDA. It begs the question: why do people need big bones? Perhaps this type of encouragement stems from a desire to veer away from the opposite bone type: weak, skinny, and fragile. This bone type is often typified by anorexia and other sicknesses, as well as very old age.

However, the healthiest people in the world as measured by longevity are Asians. Japanese people are the longest-living people in the world, with 85.3 years being the average for women and 78.3 years for men. Not only are Japanese and most Asians generally long-living, they are also typically short. Perhaps it’s possible that being small is healthier than being big. The bigger the body, the harder the body has to work, which shortens its length of life. This is evidenced in the dog world. Though some might find the physiologies of humans and dogs unrelated, it in interesting to note that Great Danes have an average life span of seven to ten years, whereas the average life span for Chihuahuas is fifteen to eighteen years.

Yet even with logical, substantial examples of the abnormality of human milk consumption, many Americans still do not want to believe milk is unhealthy. After being presented with the idea that milk is unhealthy, many Americans become defensive and emotional. Their most common questions are, “If milk is unhealthy, why would the USDA, and many scientists, promote it? Why wouldn’t scientists know milk is unhealthy?” and “If people stop drinking milk, how will they get calcium?”

As far as why the USDA and milk industry promotes milk, there is a possibility is that they promote milk not because milk is healthy but because through promoting milk they receive large compensations from the milk industry. An article posted by U.S. News & World Report called 10 Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know reveals, “The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products,” and that “of hundreds of studies that looked at the health effects of milk, juice, and soda, the likelihood of conclusions favorable to the industry was several times higher among industry-sponsored research than studies that received no industry funding.” Because the milk industry sponsors many milk-related studies, they can help support claims of milk’s positive health effects, even if some scientific studies conclude that there are health concerns associated with milk.

In the end, even scientists find it difficult to agree on the benefits or dangers of certain foods. If scientists found it easy to agree, there wouldn’t be so many different diets to promote ideal health. There are scientists who advocate vegetarianism, scientists who advocate the macrobiotic diet, scientists who advocate the raw diet, scientists who advocate eating certain diets depending on blood type. Though milk’s health benefits are loudly proclaimed by many scientists with the help of the dairy industry, there are also many scientists who feel milk is very unsuitable for humans. The reason the science of food is often controversial is because what happens once food enters the human body and what foods cause certain reactions (immediately as well as over long periods of time) is complex. It is irrational to accept the claims of scientists who promote milk without looking at every angle of the issue of milk. Claims are merely the collective opinions of a group of scientists - not proven scientific facts that all food scientists agree on, the way all astronomical scientists agree that earth revolves around the sun.

Another reason people question the sensibility of ceasing milk consumption is because milk is advocated as the only way to get calcium. In reality, calcium is in all leafy green vegetables, in many fruits, as well as in raw nuts. In fact, raw sesame seeds contain nine times more calcium than milk, and more calcium than any other food in the world. While milk has 118 milligrams of calcium per 100 gram, sesame seeds have 1,160 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams. Obviously, there are many sources to get calcium from beyond cow’s milk.

People who love the taste of dairy products are especially defensive about the topic of dairy’s nutritional, or lack of nutritional, value. These people don’t want to give up dairy. This is understandable - dairy is a large part of most Americans’ diets because it is an ingredient in many delicious, common foods. Dairy is in ice cream, pizza, pancakes, milk shakes, cheese cakes, yogurt, chocolate, and in many, many other foods. People are also attached to dairy emotionally because of the associations they had for milk as a child. Milk and cookies is a classic example of comfort food. Milk and cookies often bring back warm memories of Santa, coming home from school, going to bed happy. By defending their belief that dairy is healthy and refusing to admit dairy as unfit for humans, dairy-lovers seek to avoid guilty feelings that would arise whenever they ate something with dairy in it.
What Americans forget is that changing their views about milk does not need to impair, ruin, or change the lifestyles they want to lead. New truths can’t transform lifelong-developed habits overnight. Though milk should eventually be eliminated from the human diet, for now, awareness is a good first step. Do people not eat potato chips, candy, and donuts, or not drink soda, because they know these items are unhealthy? Not necessarily. Even with awareness of unpleasant consequences, people still make unhealthy choices. People who eat junk food often freely admit they know they are eating junk, and that they should eat healthier. They also admit they’d rather eat their favorite junk foods than give those foods up for healthy options. Therefore, it’s no different to admit milk is unhealthy but continue to live in a preferred lifestyle. The key is that emotional and physical attachments should not cloud people’s logic and prevent them from seeing milk in a different light.

Studying milk in an objective, logical way yields some persuasive notions that perhaps cow’s milk is unfit for humans after all. When Americans look at the issue of milk through their stomachs, emotions, and society all that is visible is a foggy, unsubstantiated reality of milk. Americans need to refocus their eyes to see through their common sense. Then, the reality of milk will become clear: the reality that milk is inappropriate for humans.

Source : HubPages

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