Counseling Sheet

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Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

It is widely held that milk is essential for all, adults and children. The human being is the only animal that takes milk into adult life. All other animals can get sufficient nutrients from solid food. What is the condition of man? Must he have milk?

While cow's milk may be the perfect food for a baby cow, it is far from perfect for the baby human and may be even worse for the adult. The balance of the major nutrients is improper for a baby, and the content of amino acids in the proteins is improper for the neurologic development of the child; causing the brain and nerve development to be less than ideal. A baby calf does not need a very highly developed brain, but the baby human has tremendous development of brain tissue during the first year of life, when his mother's milk would stimulate just such growth, because of very different cystine/methionine ratios in human milk as compared to cow's milk. Certain amino acids are much too high in cow's milk, and may be actually toxic to human infants. The chemistry of milk is as species-specific as is the fingertip. When the baby human is weaned from the breast, he should be weaned to the table, not to a formula. There are several diseases that either do not occur in the breastfed infant, or occur with much less frequency than in bottle-fed infants, including infantile eczema, obesity, colic, allergies, and sudden infant death syndrome (crib deaths). If even the mother drinks milk, her breast milk may cause the baby to have allergies or colic.

There are also problems for the adult who drinks milk, starting with sensitivity. A milk sensitivity is the commonest food sensitivity in America today. It often masquerades as an apparently unrelated disorder, making recognition of the true source of the problem difficult. Minerals in milk are imbalanced for the adult: 1) Calcium is too abundant in milk, and tends to cause adults to form stones and to deposit calcium plaques in their blood vessels. Nutritionists agree that the minimum daily requirement of calcium has been set far too high for adults. There is good evidence that many Americans get too much calcium. 2) Milk is high in sodium, as mammary glands are simply modified sweat glands, and produce milk with too much sodium for humans. 3) Milk is low in iron; yet, adult women need a generous quantity of iron from their diet. Milk displaces other food from the diet that could yield good quantities of iron. The minerals in milk were not designed for adults.

Chocolate milk is often made of inferior milk; milk with improper flavor as when the cows have eaten certain plants such as bitterwood, honeysuckle, or wild onions. The chocolate masks the inferiority. Chocolate milk adds to the usual drawbacks of milk the problems of excessive sugar, caffeine, and the allergic properties of chocolate. Milk increases cholesterol and other blood fats. Milk is probably more likely than any other food to raise the blood cholesterol. There is an increased likelihood of getting infectious diseases of several kinds if one uses milk. Milk-borne infections include many fevers that make one think that he has influenza or a cold, but it is actually a milk-borne virus or salmonella. One large outbreak of Salmonella dysentery was from non-fat dry skim milk.

There are many other diseases that are transmitted by milk. One of the most troublesome microorganisms in milk is that of cancer virus particles. Cancer viruses are excreted into the milk from the bloodstream of the affected animal.

Lactose is milk sugar; casein is milk protein. In infancy, there are two special enzymes produced in the infant stomach to digest these two nutrients. Without these special enzymes, lactase for the digestion of lactose and rennin for the digestion of casein, milk is not easy to digest. At about 18 to 24 months, rennin forever ceases being produced; and lactase diminishes markedly or disappears entirely in large racial groups comprising up to 70% of the world's population. This seems to be nature's way of saying that this is the terminal point for the need of milk. Since milk has no fiber, and tends to form hard, difficult to move feces, constipation is more likely to occur in those who drink milk.

In summary, we can say that cow's milk is far from the perfect food, even for babies. Nobody needs milk. Babies do need the special milk that was designed for their own species, but when one has been weaned, he has outgrown his need of milk.

1. Medical Tribune, Dec. 6, 1978 p. 3.

Further Reading:

Byless, F. M. et al: Lactose and Milk Intolerance: Clinical Implications. The New England Journal of Medicine. 292:1156, 1975.

Blumenthal, S. Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease in Children of Affected Families. J. of Pediatrics. 87:1187, 1975.

Jelliffe, Derrick B., M.D. and Jelliffe, E. F. Patrice, MPH. Nutrition and Human Milk. Postgraduate Medicine 60:153-156, July 1976.

MacKenzie, E. Psychologic Factors in Milk Anemia. American Family Physician 7:80, 1973.

Oski, Frank A. Don't Drink Your Milk. New York: Wyden Books, 1977.

There's a Fly in the Milk Bottle. Medical World News, May 17, 1974 p. 30.

Walker, ARP. The Human Requirements of Calcium. Am. J. Clinical Nutrition 25:518, May 1972.

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