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Truth or Dairy?

January 23, 2008

Truth or Dairy?
by Greg Lawson

The dairy industry has convinced most of us that we need cow’s milk and that we put our health at risk if we don’t consume at least three glasses a day. Years ago, dairy promoters used the pitch lines “Everyone Needs Milk,” and “Milk, It Does a Body Good.” When challenged for the proof behind those ads, they couldn’t dispute the fact that approximately 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. So they don’t use those slogans anymore.

In major studies, dairy consumption has been linked to asthma, colic and ear infections in children and in studies of adults to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several forms of hormonal cancers including prostate, breast and ovarian cancers. Does it sound like milk does a body good?

Most people believe the industry promoted myth “Milk Builds Strong Bones.” Since it isn’t true, the dairy dealers can’t put it quite so simply anymore. Their current ads read “Calcium Builds Strong Bones, Milk Has Calcium,” implying the conclusion that “milk builds strong bones.” The logic of that argument is similar to saying “Humans Need Selenium, Dirt Has Selenium,” and thus the conclusion “humans need to be eating dirt.”

The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, found that the women who consumed the most milk had the most bone fractures. Similarly, Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s China Study, one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken on diet and disease, found that the countries with the most dairy consumption had the highest rates of osteoporosis.

Animal protein, such as is in milk, makes the human body more acidic and calcium is leeched from the bones to neutralize the pH. Plant sources of calcium, such as leafy greens, broccoli and sesame seeds are actually better sources of calcium than cow’s milk and more easily absorbed. Studies have found that exercise and vitamin D are more important considerations for bone health than calcium intake.

The latest multi-million dollar campaign from the dairy industry featured the claim that milk helps a person lose weight. The “Milk Your Diet. Lose Weight” and “3-A-Day. Burn More Fat, Lose Weight” promotions have been running for the last several years. People have been eager to believe that a substance designed to help a baby calf gain a thousand pounds in a few months will somehow be the magic diet aid they are looking for.

“Recent studies have shown…” is the way these ads begin. Those recent studies were three small studies on groups of thirty people which lasted only a few weeks. The dairy industry paid over 2 million dollars to Michael Zemel, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee, to find those results. Independent research has found that the consumption of dairy products either has little or no effect on weight loss or actually increases body weight.

In May of 2007 the Federal Trade Commission ruled that the dairy industry was using false and misleading advertising in its campaign which suggests milk causes weight loss. The National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board agreed to discontinue all advertising and other marketing activities involving weight-loss claims pending further research into the issue.

The dairy industry has “complied” with the FTC ruling by making slight changes to their “Milk Your Diet” campaign. Instead of saying “3 glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day can help you lose weight,” they now say in their televised ads and on their promotional webpages “Studies suggest the nutrients in 3 glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day can help maintain a healthy weight.”

Got Truth?

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