“People are the only animals that drink the milk of the mother of another species. All other animals stop drinking milk altogether after weaning. It is unnatural for a dog to nurse from a mother giraffe; it is just as unnatural for a human being to drink the milk of a cow”― Dr. Michael Klaper
There’s no denying the power of advertising.
For the first 20 years of my life, I believed that the best source of calcium was the milk in my latte and the cheese in my sandwich. Before I watched Forks over Knives I was addicted to cheese. I loved cheddar’s and Parmesan, it was not uncommon for me and my sisters to get home from school and slice cheese off the block as afternoon tea. After watching Forks over Knives, I felt I had been held hostage by this new health literature. I felt that for the sake of my health, I had no choice but to go vegan. I was okay thinking about how to phase out meat but the prospect of saying goodbye to cheese was almost too much for me! And then fast-forward six years of practicing veganism, I am frequently told “I’m interested in going vegan but I’d miss cheese!” There’s a very good reason why we feel so emotionally bonded to cheese but let’s first consider the claim that dairy is a good source of calcium.
There’s no denying that cow’s milk is high in protein and calcium. However, as I learned watching Forks over Knives these nutrients were meant for another species and so it is very difficult for the human body to absorb this source of calcium. Animal protein within dairy products creates an acid-like condition in the body called metabolic acidosis. To combat this, the body draws calcium out of the biggest storage of calcium in our bodies – our bones. This weakens bones and over a lifetime, diseases such as osteoporosis may develop (see link below to watch a one-minute clip on metabolic acidosis). Moreover, the refinement of low-fat dairy products, makes the concentration of animal protein higher and hence greater amounts of calcium needs to be extracted from the bones to compensate the metabolic acidosis.
Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the dairy industry has told us for so long. And I had difficulty believing it, as you may well be. But consider that the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ most comprehensive health survey found that 85% of people surveyed consumed milk products on the day prior to interview (providing an average 11% of the population’s energy intake). Yet 73% of females and 51% of all males did not meet their calcium requirements based on their self-reported food intake. It appears our dairy consumption is through the roof, yet most of us are lacking nutritional calcium in our diet. Though the Australian Health Survey did not outline a relationship between these statistics the China Study and several other reputable studies have. Sadder still, we’re being manipulated into thinking that dietary supplements can fill the void of our deficient fruit and vegetable consumption.
Like iron, magnesium, and copper, calcium is a mineral. It is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. Animals get their calcium by consuming these calcium-rich plants. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium richness is the earth. No wonder that a whole-food, plant-based diet has plenty of calcium – Rosane Oliveira, PhD
When cows are milked, mucus (a slippery secretion from the lining of the mucous membranes such as in the digestive tract) and pus (dead white blood cells), even blood can get into the milk. The dairy industry calls pus cells and the like somatic cells and refers to their presence as the somatic cell count (SCC). Now, human breast milk has somatic cells—mostly non-inflammatory white blood cells—so does milk from healthy cows. The problem is that many of our cows are not healthy, the milk-making machine like functions imposed upon dairy cows mean that many suffer greatly with mastitis, which of course increases the somatic cell count of their milk. Though it is industry practice to filter these various types of cells, there is no way of filtering it all out. According to industry standard, any milk with a somatic cell count of higher than 200 million per litre should not be permitted for human consumption. What about pasteurisation? Doesn’t that resolve the issue of all these somatic cells in the milk? Not really, it mostly just means the pus gets cooked.
Appetising. But what are the health implications?
As a teenager I had problematic skin, with big oily pores and acne. Like many new vegans around the world, my problematic skin cleared significantly once I gave up eating dairy products. The relationship between dairy consumption and problematic skin is well documented. Cow’s milk acerbates problematic skin in four ways; pus or high SCC, growth hormone, casein protein and the high saturated fat content.
Firstly, the pus in a milk is not dissimilar on a cellular level to the pus is that big ol’ pimple you wake up with after a big night on the dairy milk chocolate – nuff said.
Secondly, even organic milk and brands that say “no added hormones” all contain mammalian hormones because milk comes from pregnant or lactating cows, who happen to be mammals – just like us. Some studies suggest there are around 60 different hormones in one glass of cows milk and cheese (which coagulated milk) is even more concentrated (that is, cheese has even more SCC, growth hormones, casein proteins and saturated fat than milk).
Thirdly, although all animal proteins have inflammatory qualities that have been linked to disease, dairy proteins have been strongly associated with to skin and many other health problems. This association is thought to be related to whey and casein proteins in diary, often referred to as Casomorphin. Casomorphin are the proteins that make up 80-90% of the protein content of cow’s milk. This protein is formed during the digestion of casein. It is this same protein that can cause damage to the lower intestinal lining and a mal-absorption syndrome similar to that seen in celiac disease or gluten and lactose intolerance's.
“You’re not lactose intolerant, you’re just not a baby cow”
Though this research is still in its infancy – pardon the pun – there is some suggestion that the Casomorphin in mammalian milk has an addictive quality because mammals need to be nursed for the first few years of their life in order to thrive. Both human and non-human mammals depend on their mothers to provide all their nutritional needs from this liquid gold, so it makes sense that nature would ensure that infants were motivated to do just that. It’s just that being the clever species that we are, we’ve discovered a way that we can continue to suck the tit for the duration of our natural lives. We get the satisfied feeling of the baby that’s just been nursed and we’re motivated to go back for more milk, fancy ice-cream and cheesy pizza.
But, finally, because that milk has the growth hormones and saturated fat content that was intended to get a baby calf to the size of a heifer, we get fatter and sicker the more we eat of it, plus a few more zits.
In my own life, I decided to leave meat off my plate in medical school, but was a bit slow to realise that dairy products and eggs are not health foods either – Neal Barnard, MD
Dr Neal Barnard is one of the medical doctors that is interviewed on Forks over Knives. He also made global waves in media when he likened cheese to heroin. Despite his good research practices, best-selling books and training in medicine and psychiatry, he attracts many who want to defend their God-given right to eat cheese. The reason Dr Barnard likened cheese to heroin is because of Casomorphin, which he describes as having 1/10th of the receptor binding power of pure medical-grade morphine. The anaesthetist ain’t about to use it but it’s still sedating and addictive no matter what way you slice it. Dr Barnard argues that the combination of salt, fat and Casomorphin is what gets people hooked on cheese, which then generates such high rates of disease. His research suggests that people that eat dairy have a much greater risk of asthma, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis and dementia, just to name a few.
The good news is that just as this dis-ease can be created by animal-based eating, there is great evidence that plant-based eating can restore health. Like me, you won’t believe this until you experience the difference for yourself, so get informed and make the change to vegan cheeses.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
Four minute clip summarising scientific research on relationship between dairy and disease here
Watch What The Health documentary online here
Read How Not to Die by Michael Gregor
Listen to the 15 minute Nutrition Facts Wary of Dairy podcast episode here
You can read more about the pus in cows milk read here
Not convinced? Read a dairy company explain somatic cell count here
Everything you need to know about how scary diary is, in 5 minutes here
Getting Clarity About Calcium here
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.008~2011-12~Main%20Features~Key%20findings~100