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Questions about Milk

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Founder of The Paleo Diet
March 29, 2012
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Hi Cordell,

Here are my answers:

1. Do you consider milk healthy or unhealthy for the human body?

Human mother's milk is extremely healthy for the suckling new born infant and baby until weaning, which typically occurred in hunter gatherers at about 2-3 yrs of age. Drinking of cow's milk or other species' milk by children and adults is an unhealthy practice that increases the risk of many chronic diseases and adds no micronutrients to the diet that cannot be obtained from fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, seafoods and nuts. Human's have no nutritional requirement for cow's milk.

2. What are some of the adverse effects milk has on the human body?

1. Of all foods, cow's milk consumed by humans is number one when it comes to causing food allergies.
2. Early consumption (less than 1-2 yrs of age) of cow milk by infants increases the risk for type 1 diabetes
3. Cow milk drinking is implicated with a variety of autoimmune diseases including but not limited to multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis
4. In large epidemiological studies published by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, cow milk drinking has been shown to be strongly associated with acne.
5. Cow milk drinking by either infants, young children or even their nursing mother's has been shown to cause colic in babies.
6. Cow milk drinking has been shown to promote heart disease from a variety of mechanisms other than the saturated fat content of whole milk
7. Milk contains an astonishing number (more than 75 - see list below) of hormones, and bioactive peptides of which many likely breech the gut barrier and interact with the immune system and normal physiological function. One of the most problematic is cow insulin, which is involved in increasing the risk for type 1 diabetes in young children. Also alarming are the estrogens found in cow milk. One of these estrogens, estrone sulfate, has high bioavailability -- meaning that it escapes human digestive enzymes and has been shown to readily enter the human bloodstream following milk ingestion. Lifelong elevation of estrogens in women increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancers and in men prostate and testicular cancers.

Growth Hormones
Insulin, Insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), Insulin like growth factor 2 (IGF-2)
Insulin like growth factor binding proteins, 1 to 6 (IGFBP-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6),
Betacellulin (BTC), Growth hormone (GH), Growth hormone releasing factor (GHRF), Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF ?), Transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-?1), (TGF-?2), Platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)
Steroid Hormones
Estrogens (Estrone, Estradiol-17?, Estriol and Estrone sulfate), Progesterone, 20 alpha-dihydropregnenolone, 5? androstanedione, 5 ? pregnanedione, 20?- and 20?-dihydroprogesterone, 5?-pregnan-3?-ol-20-one, 5?-androstene-3?17?-diol, 5?-androstan-3?-ol-17-one, androstenedione, testosterone, and DHEA acyl ester
Bioactive Proteins and Peptides
Relaxin, Thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH), Luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), Somatostatin (SIH), Gastrin releasing peptide (GRP), Calcitonin, Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), Prolactin, Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), Lysozyme, Lactoperoxidase, Lactoferrin, Transferrin, Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgM, IgG), Proteose-peptone, Glycomacropeptide, Plasmin, ? Casein, ? Casein, ? Casein, ? Lactoglobulin, ? Lactoglobulin, Bovine serum albumen (BSA), Gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), Antitrypsin, Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, ?(2) antiplasmin , Butyrophilin, Xanthine oxidase, Mucin-1, Mucin-15, Adipohilin, Fatty acid binding protein, CD36, Periodic acid Schiff 6/7
Bioactive Peptides formed in gut from Milk Proteins
Casomorphins, ? Lactorphin, ? Lactorphin, Lactoferroxins, Casoxins, Casokinins, Casoplatelins, Immunopeptides, Phosphopeptides.

8. Cow milk drinking by children has been shown to cause insulin resistance, a condition which underlies obesity and the metabolic syndrome. When 24 8 year old boys were put on a high milk diet for only 1 week they all became insulin resistant. When the milk was replaced with meat, insulin metabolism normalized.
9. Large population studies called "Meta Analyses" show that cow milk drinking elevates a hormone called IGF-1 in both adults and children. Lifetime elevations in IGF-1 increase the risk for many cancers including breast, colon and prostate.
10. Milk contains a sugar called lactose. About 65 % of the world's people lack the gut enzyme (lactase) necessary to breakdown lactose and develop gas, and gastrointestinal distress when they drink milk
12. Milk is called a disachharide -- meaning that it is composed of two sugars (glucose and galactose). In rodent experiments, both lactose and galactose promote formation of cataracts in the eye.
13, Because of its high calcium content, consumption of either milk or other dairy products in a mixed meal impairs absorption of zinc and iron -- two of the micronutrients most lacking in the U.S. diet.
14. Meta analyses worldwide show that milk drinking increases the risk for Parkinson's disease
15. Recent studies have now elucidated a gut mediated mechanism by which milk drinking may promote asthma and mucus production in the lung.

3. It seems like most people believe milk is healthy because it supplies a lot of calcium. Is there any truth to this believe?

Cow milk and dairy products are one of the richest sources of calcium of all foods consumed in the human diet. In fact, they contain supra-normal concentrations of calcium that would be impossible to achieve in the previous 2.5 million year history of our species prior to the domestication of cows, goats and sheep 10,000 years ago. Supra normal intakes of calcium are not without consequence. Meta analyses show that high calcium intake via supplementation increases the risk for heart disease, yet do not protect against bone fracture. Further, excessive calcium compromises magnesium, iron and zinc metabolism.

4. Have you found a correlation between milk and osteoporosis?

The most recent Meta analyses show that milk drinking does not protect against either osteoporosis or bone fracture

5. Does organic vs non-organic or raw vs pasteurized milk make any difference?

Organically produced milk and dairy may contain lower concentrations of pesticides and other environmental pollutants. Raw milk contains higher concentrations of hormones and bioactive peptides as well as bacteria which promote a variety of infectious diseases. The pasteurization and homogenation processes by which commercial milk undergoes creates a number of by products which may increase the risk for heart disease.

6. Can hormones given to the dairy cows be transferred through their milk to humans and if so, what can this cause?

To increase milk production dairy cows are frequently administered Growth Hormone, which has been shown to elevate IGF-1 in milk. Cow milk drinking in humans elevates IGF-1 in the human bloodstream. As I mentioned earlier increases of IGF-1 in human blood increases the risk for a variety of cancers (breast, colon, prostate)

7. Are there any other diseases or problems you have found in relation to drinking milk?

See my book, The Paleo Answer. I have written an entire chapter on health problems associated with milk drinking and have provided more than 100 scientific references to document these effects.

8. Why do you think people think milk is so good for us? Is the media is to blame?

Yes, the dairy industry has conducted an ad campaign for more than 20 years promoting milk's supposedly beneficial effects. Yet, the scientific data when weighed without bias demonstrates multiple issues with cow milk and dairy that are problematic.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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