Milk, it does a body…BAD?

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote last year on Posterous about milk and breaking my addiction to it. I’m reposting it because I’m writing a piece in response to the recent controversy over a PMS milk campaign.

A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. An addiction is an excessive habit or behavior. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m a milk addict.

Ever since college, I’ve been a huge milk consumer – a milk junkie really. One night my freshman year, I drank eight single serving milk cartons in one sitting – which didn’t bode too well for me since I discovered I’m lactose intolerant. Then I switched to lactose-free and soy milk and it only fueled my love affair with milk further. I love it in my morning coffee and I love the sugar-free caramel iced soy lattes the baristas at Starbucks create for me. I love it on the rocks. I love it from a box. On average I go through a 32oz carton (4 cups) a day which prompted @robotchampion to challenge me to examine my milk consumption habits as well as milk and the dairy industry. Upon doing so, I discovered some interesting facts.

First, the now famous “Got Milk?” campaign launched in 1993 was done so to compete with beverage titans like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola who were taking away market-share with the emergence of new juices, fruit drinks, iced teas, coffee drinks, bottled waters, and soft drinks. The advertising firm responsible for this campaign concluded that the best way to increase milk consumption was to not focus on the 30% of Americans who didn’t consume milk but instead convince the 70% of milk-drinkers to use milk more frequently or to drink it in larger amounts. And it worked. Between 1994 and 1995 alone, milk consumption increased almost 40%.

Second, in 2005, the USDA and HHS recommended an increase in non-fat or low-fat  milk and milk products as one its nine adjustments to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, to meet the dairy guidelines, consumption of milk and milk products would have to increase by 66 percent, even though approximately 70% of our population cannot tolerate lactose as adults – we lack of the required enzyme in our digestive system to metabolize the key ingredient in milk.

Third, non-drinking eastern cultures actually have lower incidents of maladies such as osteoporosis. In fact, hip fractures, associated with bone density loss, are more frequent in populations where dairy products are commonly consumed and calcium intakes are relatively high. Why? Many scientists and researchers believe that animal-based diets are the culpritA 20-year study of the health and dietary habits of rural Chinese found that:

[They] consume less than half the calcium we`re told is necessary, virtually all of it from plant sources, in particular leafy green vegetables. They have one-fifth the incidence of hip fracture of Americans. Although they consume more calories per day than we do, only about 10 percent of their diet is from animal sources. On average, American diets are 70 percent animal-based.

Furthermore it reveals:

Early in life, American girls consume higher amounts of animal-based foods than Asian girls, which leads to relatively dense bones, high levels of estrogen, and early sexual maturation. The age of menarche has been dropping for decades in this country and now often occurs as early as age 10. In rural China, girls don`t usually begin menstruation until age 15. Chinese women have only about two-thirds of the amount of circulating estrogen that American women do, which helps account for their far lower rate of breast cancer.

Finally, it’s been found that caffeine found in coffee and soda acts as a diuretic in the body and increases the amount of calcium we excrete in our urine for several hours after we drink it. Translation: the more soda and coffee we drink, the more calcium we need.

In giving up milk, I’m forgoing soy milk. I’m a little skeptical of something that’s so engineered. And it’s tough for me to support industries like dairy and soy that do so much harm to the environment. Thank god for Milkaholics Anonymous.

 *NOTE: As an update, I still drink Starbucks iced soy lattes but I no longer buy milk and consume it at home.

Join the Conversation


  1. Milk itself isn’t inherently a “bad” thing for some. What’s bad is what we do to the cow it comes from and also what we do to it before it gets to the carton.  Good job. 

    1. @twitter-63827110:disqus  I agree, but I would also say that Milk in the supermarkets is only partially Milk. They load it up with so much “nutrients”, sugars, and chemical/hormones that it taste so different from the original/real thing.

  2. Well, now that your in CA (at least for a little while), you might want to try some raw milk. The pasturization/homogoniztion process to make our milk “safe” has left it with a fraction of the nutrients in whole milk.  People who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk without problems. 
    It’s not surprising that the “Got Milk?” people would come up with the new campaign.  Dubious claims, at best IMHO.
    You’re lucky that you can purchase raw milk that is _produced_ in CA (cuz’ it it isn’t, that’s who they’re busting).  Give it a try while you’re there.  There’s no need to Give Up Milk if you have raw milk available.

    1. @twitter-15534451:disqus I love Raw milk, tho, surprisingly, California has a limited amount of dairy products. It’s very strange because I know they had/have massive cheese, milk, and beef campaigns. Maybe it’s all part of the industrial supermarket business and very little gets to the natural food stores and markets.

      It is so much easier to find that stuff in DC. 

  3. I don’t drink too much milk, but this summer have developed a serious smoothie habit, blending fruit with about a half cup of (kefir)yogurt. Should I be wary of these health issues?

  4. The China Study is a pretty crappy study to base any scientific evidence on (mainly due to poor reporting methods, inaccurate categorization, etc.). For more info, see here:

    What they also don’t report is that Asians tend to have quite high rates of stomach and esophageal cancer, much higher than those in Western countries. Prevailing thought is this is due to the higher incidence of salt in Asian diets but I imagine it’s probably due to several factors in combination. Purely based on my own observational evidence, I’d say that a good percentage of the elderly in Japan who were raised on and still eat a traditional diet suffer from some form of bone deformation/osteoporosis – it was quite rare to see a woman or man in his 70s who was able to stand up straight in the countryside where I lived.

    I don’t think milk is really the problem – I think vilifying fat is (or any one particular item – ie, cholesterol, salt, etc., as opposed to analyzing diet/lifestyle in a holistic sense). A small glass of whole raw milk for a growing kid is infinitely healthier than a larger glass of low-fat/non-fat milk. If you’re concerned about the crap they sell in the supermarket, don’t buy it. Find a farmer’s market or a delivery service (a la South Mountain Creamery). Arrogant as it may sound, my general thinking on supermarket food is that it is all suspect. Low-fat/non-fat milk hasn’t been proven to be any “healthier” than whole milk but it is a way to maximize profits from a manufacturing chain that also needs to make cream and butter from the same raw materials.

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