Few foods elicit such strong opinions as milk and dairy products. The dairy folks want you to believe that dairy is essential and that your bones will crumble if you don’t drink milk. The anti milk people talk about all the hormones and antibiotic residue in milk and consider it the most disease-promoting of all foods. There are exaggerations and distortions of the available research on both sides.
We can’t look at all the pros and cons of dairy here, but there are some obvious conclusions. The typical American diet that is filled with processed foods and animal products is noticeably deficient in calcium and Vitamin D unless dairy is consumed or supplemented. However, dairy is not the only source of calcium, and, once you are eating a significant amount of calcium-rich plant matter, dairy products lose their status as the main source of calcium.
As you know from the evidence in my books, all animal products, including dairy, should be curtailed significantly, and those calories should be replaced with high-micronutrient, unprocessed plant foods.
When more vegetables are consumed, you get extra calcium and a cornucopia of phytochemicals that are not found in dairy. A secondary issue is that high saturated fat intake promotes heart disease and cancer. Dairy products, such as whole-milk, butter, and cheese are the foods that contribute the most saturated fat to the American diet. Any person seeking excellent health should restrict these foods in his or her diet. Skim-milk and other non-fat dairy products can be used as part of the small amount of allowable animal products consumed weekly. They are not foods that should be consumed liberally, and they should not be seen as health foods because they are not high in micronutrients and phytochemicals.
In addition to the other problems, there is evidence that the daily use of dairy can increase the risk of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is now the single most common cancer among men in the United States. With the spread of our meat- and dairy-centered diet, it is on the rise in almost every country in the world. A meta-analysis of the best independent studies indicated that milk drinking men seem to have a 70 percent greater chance of developing cancer of the prostate.1 This evidence exists in spite of the multiple studies that show that Vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of prostate cancer. Since milk is fortified with Vitamin D, using it must have a significant negative effect that overwhelms the benefits from the added vitamin.
Overall, milk is not health food. If you enjoy some skim-milk or non-fat yogurt, I recommend you limit it, just as you would limit other animal products. If your diet is healthful, consuming little or no dairy won’t be a problem, as long as you make sure you get adequate Vitamin D from other sources.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.
1. Qin LQ, Xu JY, Wang PY, et al. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer: meta-analysis of case-control studies. Nutr Cancer. 2004;48(1):22-27.
Image credit: Jim Frazier