Here in the UK as well as many other Western countries, a glass of milk is considered healthy, wholesome, and necessary for bone health.
Adverts have portrayed gorgeous models sporting a white milk moustache.
Petit Filous depict beautiful French children winning at ‘marbles’ as fromage frais gives them ‘strong bones’.
Even Cadbury’s Dairy Milk touted chocolate as nutritious with the slogan ‘a glass and a half of full cream dairy milk in every bar’.
Like me, when you become a mum you develop a strong emotional attachment to the idea that milk is natural and healthy.
Being the first food a baby consumes, it’s easy to associate milk with comfort and nurturing as well as being essential for growth and development, which for a baby it certainly is.
Yet 75% of people are unable to digest it!
Lactose intolerance, the inability to breakdown the milk sugar lactose, is due to a deficiency or absence in the digestive enzyme lactase and is different from casein (milk protein) allergy which I shall discuss in another post.
The frequency of lactose intolerance varies around the world.
It is at its highest in the Chinese (95%), but even 70% of African Americans, 90% of Asian Americans, 53% of Mexican Americans, are lactose intolerant.
It is also very common in people of Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent; yes unbelievably, even a pizza and ice cream eating nation!
It may surprise you to find out that…….
…the 25% of people that CAN digest milk into adulthood, possess a mutant gene.
How is this so?
Whilst nearly all infants across the world are able to digest milk, this ability declines by 90% by the age of 4.
As we reach adulthood, genes that govern lactase production are inactivated, which is why 30 million American adults have some degree of lactose intolerance by the age of 20.
In Caucasians, lactose intolerance is less frequent but often develops in children older than age 5.
In African Americans, the problem can start as early as age 2.
Symptoms usually occur within a few hours of consuming dairy.
So, if your 4 year old is still having a beaker of milk before bed and then waking up a few hours later complaining of a rumbling sore tummy, or having milk on their morning cereal and feeling sick before school, you may suspect more than your child simply ‘acting up’.
The USDA (US department of Agriculture) diet pyramid places dairy as an essential food group and recommends an adult have 3 servings a day in for optimum calcium intake to prevent bone degeneration.
So, what does this mean for those unable to digest cow’s milk or the many that have gone vegan?
Surely their bones must be a crumbling mess?
In fact, research reveals that Scandinavia and the US have the highest number of hip fractures worldwide despite culturally consuming the most amount of dairy.
Whilst in Japan….
the incidence of hip fracture seems to be much less than in the US even though the Japanese get most of their calcium intake from soybean products, small fish with bones, and vegetables.
Furthermore, various health organisations are unable to agree on the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for calcium. In the US it is 1000mg whilst in Japan it is 600mg and in the UK only 500mg!
But we need calcium for our children to have strong bones?
Yes, this is true!
But calcium alone will not give your little one’s strong bones.
You also need magnesium, phosphorus as well as Vitamins A, D and K; none of which are found adequately in cow’s milk.
Ironically, eating too much dairy actually lowers magnesium levels.
Yet without magnesium, calcium may not be fully utilized.
= Weak Bones!
Undoubtedly milk is essential for the first 2 years of life, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to breastfeed then this is the obvious choice.
If not, then there’s a range of formulas out there to suit all needs.
However, the emphasis placed on dairy for calcium requirements in later childhood and adulthood is completely unnecessary.
As only 32% of calcium in dairy is actually absorbed.
Compare this to green leafy vegetables which have a 40-70% absorption rate.
Apply some simple maths and we see that around 96 mg of calcium is absorbed from one cup of milk compared with 132mg from 1 cup of pak choy.
Both my children were breastfed for the first 2 years of their life.
They were never given a glass of cow’s milk and they now actually dislike the taste.
They do however love an occasional bit of goat and sheep yoghurt and are rather partial to a bowl of ice cream now and then (we are human after all).
Am I worried? Not in the slightest.
I believe that childhood is a time for getting children into good habits for life.
Schools sadly lack education on nutrition, so lessons begin at home.
My kids get the right balance of nutrients for strong bones from regularly eating fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds as well as a couple of portions of yoghurt a week.
Thick full fat live probiotic yoghurt, by the way, is more easily digested due to its healthy culturing process. 5 Easy Ways to Better Gut Health
Your child may be one of the lucky 25% of the world’s population that possess the mutant gene that allows them to continue to digest milk into adulthood…
……but that’s not the point.
The foods children eat during childhood are often those they turn to for comfort in adulthood.
The dairy industry invests billions in milk advertising and promotions, and Scientists would argue that they present a biased viewpoint; one that is motivated by financial interest and not backed up by fact.
Furthermore, there’s an increasing amount of evidence that shows that pasteurised cow’s milk is not the wonder food we thought it to be.
In fact, it contains many harmful substances including…
growth factors (that contribute to our obesity epidemic)
…..as well as up to 400 million pus cells that governments legally allow in every litre.
Scientific analysis also shows that cow’s milk contains large amounts of protein and minerals which burden a baby’s immature kidneys.
Plus it has inadequate levels of iron and vitamin C, which if given regularly in place of other more healthy foods may cause iron-deficiency anaemia.
Cow’s milk also doesn’t contain enough healthy fats for brain development.
Even more worryingly, cow’s milk protein (Alpha s1 Casein) is very difficult to digest, causes inflammation which damages the gut lining, and in severe cases lead to blood in stools.
Just many of the reasons why the NHS advises against giving cow’s milk until a baby is at least age one.
Research on dairy and disease….
Research is increasingly discovering links between pasteurised dairy consumption and breast, bowel, ovarian and prostate cancers, type 1 diabetes, asthma, eczema, colic, constipation, glue ear, IBS as well as numerous other debilitating and fatal health conditions.
In summary, dairy consumption causes:
- Chronic Inflammation
- Digestive problems
- Skin Diseases (I can personally vouch for this)
- Premature aging
- Increased cancer risk; prostate, breast, gastric and colon
When searching for answers it’s important to look at the facts, not what the media tries to sell us.
Here are THE FACTS:
1) Cow’s milk is for calves. Like all milk for babies, it helps them increase weight and grow fast (Probably why giving it up helped me lose and keep two stone off 25 years ago).
2) We are the only mammals that drink the milk of another species.
3) 90% of our lactase enzymes are gone by the age of 4, making dairy difficult to digest.
4) 75% of the World’s adults cannot digest milk (hence the explosion of lactose free and plant-based milks).
4) Billions of people around the world consume no dairy whatsoever and have healthy bones.
5) Your body is only absorbs about 32% of available calcium from milk products.
6) Calcium is more easily absorbed from vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collard greens and pak choi.
7) Science has proven the link between over dairy consumption and osteoporosis plus many other chronic and debilitating health conditions.
At the end of the day health is all about balance.
This balance is determined by genetic, diet and lifestyle factors; including smoking, caffeine, sugar, salt and meat consumption as well as physical inactivity and mental/emotional health; not solely dependent on dairy intake.
We need to rethink our attitude towards dairy and put it into perspective.
I believe we place too much emphasis milk for kids’ health.
It is necessary to teach our children to eat a balanced and varied diet with the majority of nutrients coming from fresh fruit and vegetables in order to stay healthy.
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food. An Eaters Manifesto.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave comments below?