It’s on every supermarket shelf and is sold as the next best thing to fresh sliced bread and mother’s love. Many of the world’s nations are milk drinkers and people, young and old, consume large quantities of it. Thousands of products are made from the stuff but criticise it and your sanity is questioned. So what’s the story with milk?
Milk is the first food that passes our lips – our mother’s if we’re lucky. For babies their mother’s milk is wholesome, comforting and nurturing, providing all the nourishment they need, until like all mammals, the time comes for them to be weaned. Humans however seemed to have disregarded this basic rule of nature and continue drinking milk into adulthood, not just that, we are drinking the milk of another species – cows.
If you allow your mind to think about this it does seem rather odd. No other mammal on this planet consumes milk after weaning. Mother’s milk naturally dries up and will only be produced again once a further pregnancy takes place and another baby is born, of which the resulting milk will be unique to that particular baby’s needs. If your dog had puppies or your cat had kittens, the last thing you would do is rush over to the new mother for a glass of milk. Surely if we are to be drinking milk in adulthood we should at least be drinking our own species’ elixir. Your sister has a baby, you drink her milk. Right?
Mother nature knows best
Cows are like us in that they have to give birth in order to produce milk. And like us, their milk has been designed to be drunk by their young – a baby cow. A cow’s milk is very different from human milk, as human and cow babies have very different needs. For example, in human babies the brain develops rapidly, tripling in size within a year of birth thanks to the high levels of brain-building polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in mother’s milk. Cow’s milk doesn’t need to have so many PUFAs as the little calf doesn’t need the early brain growth but relies on mother’s milk for its high saturated fat content for rapid growth in body size. Saturated fats in humans on the other hand cause increased cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease.
As cows, like us, have to have a baby to produce milk, dairy cows are artificially inseminated every year, their pregnancy lasts nine months, then just two days post birth, the new baby calf is taken away from its mother so that her milk can be used for humans instead. So, within two months of giving birth, she is made pregnant again and is continued to be milked throughout the pregnancy (except for the last two months). This means she is lactating and nourishing a developing calf inside her for seven months. This pattern will continue until she is literally worn out, usually three pregnancies down the line. Then she is killed.
Pump up the volume
Artificially impregnating cows and keeping their milk flow “productive” involves using hormones and growth promotors as well as antibiotics and other drugs to stave off disease. The fact that most dairy cows are pregnant when milked should be of concern to humans who drink it because of the high levels of oestrogen it contains. Many doctors are now recommending that breast cancer patients avoid meat and milk to minimize their oestrogen load.
A substance called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is naturally present in milk for the growth of the baby, and it’s naturally present in blood, of which even a small increase can lead to abnormal cell growth and division. Increased IGF-1 levels have been linked to breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.
These are not opinions or judgements and this is not an anti-milk protest. Simply facts. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. Of all the foods we consume there is much to be said about milk beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that we could literally be talking about it until the cows come home.
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.