Busting the Milk Myth: Should Dairy Be Part of a Healthy Diet?!!

Maybe it was the Got Milk? mustache campaign with our favorite celebrities or growing up with a carton of milk on every school lunch tray, but milk is as American as apple pie.

Nutrition myths and habits die slowly and the notion that it’s unhealthy to drink milk of another species, whether manipulated with hormones, treated with antibiotics, and laced with pesticides, or not is hard for people to believe.

I’m not alone in thinking that milk should be a thing of the past. When the U.S. government featured dairy as the main liquid in its 2011 foods-to-consume plate, the Harvard School of Public Health quickly responded with a correction. That venerated institution issued it’s own pyramid and replaced the suggested dairy with water, tea, or coffee.

Recently, the British Medical Journal published a study that tracked the health of over 100,000 men and women over time (20 years for women and 11 for men). For every glass of milk consumed per day, death rates increased for both sexes. (It was most extreme for women. Those who drank three or more glasses of milk a day were twice as likely to have died as were those drinking less than a glass a day.) Study participants didn’t even get strong bones out of the deal. No matter how many glasses of milk a day a man or woman consumed, their fracture rate did not drop. Strong bones require weight bearing exercise and combination of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K2 along with other nutrients. Calcium is a mineral found in the soil and therefore it is available in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

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Why might milk be related to early death? The scientists theorize that a chemical called D-galactose might be to blame. It has been connected to premature aging and inflammation and in the above study, the oxidative stress and inflammation D-galactose it induced in its volunteers increased in proportion to the amount of milk consumed a day.

If you are going to drink cow’s milk, be sure to purchase only organic brands that are free of estrogenic hormones and other chemicals deleterious to health. The chemicals permitted in U.S. dairy production are banned in other parts of the world.

If you choose to go dairy free, then there are at least a dozen non-dairy versions of milk you can try (soy, rice, almond, coconut, oat, flax, quinoa, hemp, sunflower, multigrain, cashew, and hazelnut). I suggest you consider trying at least the following three:

Soy milk:  Be sure you are buying non-GMO organic brands, but this milk has the highest protein content of all the plant milks. Despite negative press, the weak phytoestrogens in soy are associated with lower cancer rates and may lower cholesterol to fight off heart disease.

Hemp milk:  I love the flavor of this milk and appreciate that hemp is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce inflammation in the body.

Oat milk:  When I make my oatmeal with oat milk, it makes the creamiest and most delicious breakfast. I like that this milk is nut-free and good for persons with food allergies.

By Dr. Joel Kahn

Cardiologist

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