Dairy – Why Animal Products Harm

Dairy cow picture

Introduction

Milk is no miracle food and the consumption of dairy products has been linked to a number of health issues and diseases. We’re not meant to consume milk after weaning and are best off without it.

This page includes excerpts from our report, White Lies. Download the full report for more information.

Drinking milk is the most innate thing in the world – if you’re a baby and you’re suckling from your mum, that is. Like all 5,000 or so species of mammals on this planet, we have evolved to drink the milk of our mothers until weaned. But we are the only mammal to drink milk after weaning and certainly the only one to drink the milk of another species! If this sounds strange, think how you’d feel if your friend told you that they suckle from their pet dog or cat. Or even directly from a cow.

Cow’s milk: ideal for calves not humans

The composition of milk varies widely from animal to animal, providing the perfect first food for the young of that species. Cow’s milk is very different from human milk – which is why we mustn’t give ordinary cow’s milk to a baby – it has to be changed into a formula that attempts to replicate human milk.

Cow’s milk is meant to get a calf to triple his or her weight within a year to a whopping 300-400kg – that’s why it contains a lot of fat, hormones and proteins that are perfect for a calf but can be very unhealthy and even harmful for a human!

Worldwide prevalence of lactose intolerance in recent populations

Lactose Intolerance

Did you know that over 70 per cent of the world’s population are lactose intolerant? For example, most people in China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan – as they lose the enzyme needed to break down the sugar (lactose) in milk after weaning. If they drink milk, the main symptoms include diarrhoea, a bloated and painful stomach and, on some occasions, nausea and vomiting. Even in the UK, lactose intolerance is the most common adverse reaction to cow’s milk among adolescents and adults.

There’s nothing wrong with being lactose intolerant – adult mammals (including humans) have no need for digesting lactose as they are not supposed to suckle so it’s actually unusual that some people can digest it. It’s only possible for some populations due to a couple of genetic mutations that occurred several thousands of years ago.

Every hour is cocktail hour!

In a typical glass of milk or bite of cheese, there are 35 hormones, including IGF-1, oestrogen and progesterone, adrenal, pituitary, hypothalamic and other hormones. And as two-thirds of milk is taken from pregnant cows, with the rest coming from animals who have recently given birth, levels are sky-high.

IGF wot not?

IGF-1 stands for insulin-like growth factor 1. It is a growth hormone that controls growth and development in both cattle and people but each species has very different rates of growth. It is thought that compounds in cow’s milk also make us produce more of our own IGF-1. Even small increases in our levels of IGF-1 increase the risk of several common cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Higher intakes of milk and dairy products are linked to raised levels of IGF-1, whereas high vegetable consumption is linked to lower levels. Science looking at adult milk drinkers shows that increased dairy consumption is a major dietary risk factor for the development of prostate and breast cancers.

Pus in milk

Another undesirable component of milk is pus! Milk containing up to 400 million pus (somatic) cells per litre is legally allowed to be sold for human consumption – even higher levels in goats’ milk. Why so much? Because modern, intensive dairy farming ensures that 30 per cent of British dairy cows have mastitis – a painful infection of the udders – at any given time. Pus is a product of the cow’s almost constant fight against bacterial invasion (made up of white blood cells, bacteria and dead udder tissue cells) and some of it finds its way into her milk.

Dairy damns ‘dem bones!

Worried about your bones? Don’t be, most peoples of the world don’t drink milk and their bones are strong but those who drink the most (in Northern Europe and the US) have the highest levels of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease). The World Health Organisation say that: “The paradox clearly calls for an explanation. To date, the accumulated data indicate that the adverse effect of protein, in particular animal (but not vegetable) protein, might outweigh the positive effect of calcium intake on calcium balance.

Cow’s milk is not the best source of calcium; our bones benefit more from plant calcium sources. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running and dancing), is the most important factor for maintaining healthy bones, followed by improving diet (plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, seeds and nuts) and lifestyle. To protect your bones – use ‘em or lose ‘em!

Mending a broken heart

Every two minutes, someone has a heart attack or stroke in the UK. Heart disease occurs when arteries carrying blood to the heart become blocked. Gradually, they become furred with ‘plaques’ – a thick sludge formed from cholesterol and other substances.

Animal protein and animal fats found mainly in dairy (hard cheese, cream, ice cream, milk chocolate and butter), red and white meats and eggs, as well as hydrogenated fats in junk foods, raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

Not cool for kids

Acne, asthma, colic, eczema, ear infections and obesity are all linked to dairy. So is childhood anaemia, caused by milk allergy-induced intestinal bleeding. Childhood diabetes (type 1) is increasing dramatically in younger children; early exposure to cow’s milk and infant formula is a recognised trigger. Type 2 diabetes is now a disease of our children. Lack of exercise and poor diets with high-fat dairy products are to blame. Four-cheese pizzas do us no favours!

Milk — The Wrong Stuff

Drinking milk is unnatural for us. Many humans find milk hard to digest, suffering from discomfort and pain. Despite relentless claims by the dairy industry, milk is neither the only nor the best source of calcium and can even increase your risk of bone fracture. Beans, lentils, broccoli, kale, watercress, nuts, seeds, soya and other plant foods are better and healthier sources.

Ditching dairy products has never been easier as supermarkets and health food shops now stock a wide selection of delicious and nutritious dairy-free alternatives to milk, yogurt, ice cream, margarine and cheese!

Who drinks milk?

Since 1960, global milk production has nearly doubled (Speedy, 2003). The most substantial growth has occurred in developing countries; the consumption of milk per person in China has increased tenfold since 1980 (FAO, 2009). These changes in diet have had an impact on the global demand for agricultural products and will continue to do so.

Around three-quarters of the world’s population do not drink milk, but among those who do, the pattern of consumption varies widely between countries. Data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) provides figures for the consumption of milk (excluding butter) in kilograms per capita per year for over 170 countries (FAOSTAT, 2013).

White lies report

As shown in Figure 1.0 the level of milk and dairy product consumption varies widely between countries. The highest levels of consumption are seen in Europe. In Finland for example, a massive 375.4kg was consumed per person in 2009, with Sweden close behind at 357.4kg, then the Netherlands (357.3.7kg), Albania (282kg), Germany (264kg) and Norway (262.6kg). Between 2002 and 2009, US consumption dropped from 264.6kg to 255.6kg and UK consumption increased from 233.3kg to 248.5kg so the gap between the two has largely been closed. The average amount of milk and dairy products consumed per person per year on a global scale is just 87.3kg (up from 79.8kg in 2002). It should be noted that while overall dairy consumption in the UK may have increased, the consumption of milk in 2009 was reduced according to the 2008/2009 National Diet and Nutrition Survey. For example, consumption for girls aged 11-18 years was 136 grams per day on average in 1997 and 107 grams per day in 2009; consumption for boys of the same age was 208 grams per day in 1997 and 172 grams per day in 2009. For adults, even larger decreases were seen, for women from 195 grams per day in 2000/2001 to 120 grams per day in 2009 and for men, from 225 grams per day to 165 grams per day (Bates et al., 2010).

The lowest levels of consumption are seen in Africa and Asia. In Liberia a mere 2.5kg was consumed per person in 2009. Other countries consuming small amounts include the Congo (3.7kg), Mozambique (4.1kg), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (4.5kg), Viet Nam (11.5kg) and Thailand (21.8kg). With levels this low, it is reasonable to assume that many people in these countries and others do not consume any milk or milk products at all.

While some European countries are consuming less (Sweden, France, Norway, Ireland, Portugal and Spain), consumption in developing countries is increasing (Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, India and China). In 2002 the amount consumed per person in China was 13.2kg, by 2009 this figured has risen to 29.8kg. Although the amount consumed per person in China is still relatively low compared to that in the West, it should be remembered that China has a population of 1.35 billion so this increase amounts to a significantly higher demand.

It could be argued that the lower level of consumption seen in some developing countries just reflects the fact that people cannot afford to buy milk products. However, in Japan for example (not a developing country), consumption is very low at only 73.9kg. Most people in the world do not drink milk; their reasons may be cultural, economic, historical or biological. For example, most of the world’s population are lactose intolerant (see Lactose intolerance). But many of us think of milk as a fundamental component of a healthy diet. Why is this? Is milk the only source of some obscure essential nutrient? Or is milk unique in that it contains all the nutrients that we require?

What’s in Dairy & Do We Need It?

Dairy milk

Adverts for dairy products are very inventive but rarely tell you actual facts. We all know milk contains calcium but what else is in it? And how does it affect your health? Here are the facts on what’s in milk.

Water

The main component of milk is water- around 87 per cent and it’s even more in skim milk, over 90 per cent. Water is necessary for the newborn calf and also serves as a carrier for all the other ingredients in milk. When dairy proponents criticise plant milks for containing a lot of water, they’re conveniently forgetting that dairy milk shares that characteristic too!

Sugar

Milk naturally contains sugar – lactose – about 5g per 100ml. Lactose is a sugar that serves as the main source of energy for the newborn calf.

However, for lactose to be digested the enzyme lactase is necessary. All human babies have this enzyme but only some retain it after weaning. In fact, most of the world’s population (about two thirds!) are unable to digest lactose after infancy. That’s why so many people are labelled as lactose intolerant.

The reason for the absence of lactase in many children and adults is evolutionary. No other mammal species needs this enzyme after weaning and therefore, given that it would be redundant, the body simply stops producing it as it’s genetically programmed to do so. Drinking milk after infancy is just not what nature intended.

Protein

The proteins in milk can be divided into two categories – caseins and whey proteins.

Caseins can be very difficult to digest, often cause cow’s milk allergy and have been linked to type 1 diabetes. Caseins are so tough they are even used as a basis of some glues!

The amount of protein in cow’s whole milk is around 3.3 g/100g (3.4g in semi-skimmed milk) while it is only 1.3g/100g in human milk. Moreover, the ratio of caseins to whey proteins is 40:60 in human milk but it is 80:20 in cow’s milk. Calves need extra protein because they need to grow fast. Human babies, on the other hand, need less protein and more fat. Not only is the higher amount and wrong ratio of proteins in cow’s milk difficult to digest, it also contributes to acidic (unwanted) reactions in the body that may weaken bones.

How and why is dairy linked to disease

Fat

The majority of fat in milk and dairy products is saturated. Even though low-fat milk products contain less fat overall, the fat in them is almost all saturated. This ‘bad’ fat is completely unnecessary for humans and increases the risk of many diseases including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and has been linked to several types of cancer. Some dairy products, such as cheese, are the biggest saturated fat contributors in Western diets and have been blamed for the current obesity epidemic.

Milk contains only tiny amounts of polyunsaturated fats that are not only essential for the human body but also have a whole range of beneficial properties (eg are anti-inflammatory). These are abundant in plant foods and some plant milks are also a good source.

Vitamins and minerals

Small amounts of these vitamins and minerals are found in cow’s milk:

  • Minerals: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, iodine and trace amounts of copper and manganese
  • Vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, pantothenic acid, biotin and trace amounts of vitamin D

Sounds good? Think again – the amounts are small, aside from calcium, and you can get all of these from better, healthier and more ethical sources. The truth is, the dairy industry are great at exaggerating but there’s nothing essential about milk.

Hormones

Cow’s milk naturally contains a cocktail of 35 hormones and growth factors, including IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), oestrogen and progesterone, adrenal, pituitary, hypothalamic and other hormones. All these are meant for a calf and perfectly suit his or her growth and development needs (a calf grows into an adult size cow/bull in just one year).

However, these hormones can accelerate cancer growth in a grown-up human body. Certain types of cancer cells are sensitive to hormones and respond with faster and more aggressive growth.

Two of the biggest concerns are oestrogen and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) as both are linked to breast and prostate cancers in humans. Even small increases of IGF-1 raise the risks of several other common cancers including breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers. IGF-1 is not destroyed during pasteurisation. For more information on this subject see the White Lies report.

Infectious particles and somatic cells (pus)

Dairy cows are prone to disease and due to large numbers of cows on dairy farms and the intensity of production, diseases spread fast. In the UK, cows can suffer from a range of infectious diseases including brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, mastitis, viral pneumonia and Johne’s disease. As a result, various contaminants can occur in milk.

Mastitis (inflammation of the udder) is very common. It is caused by bacteria and leads to the whole udder or a part of it being inflamed, swollen and very painful. The cow’s body responds to the infection by producing white blood cells (neutrophils) that combat the infection in the udder. These cells, together with dead cells (all these cells are called ‘somatic cells’) and waste products of the inflammation are components ofpus and are inevitably excreted into the milk.Milk containing up to 400 million somatic cells per litre can be legally sold in the UK.

In the USA, the upper limit for somatic (pus) cells is 750 million and there’s a lot of pressure on the UK and EU to raise the limit – with Brexit, this may happen in near future.

Cow’s milk vs human milk

The composition of milk varies widely from animal to animal, providing the perfect first food for the young of that species. A seal’s milk is extraordinarily fatty (50 per cent fat) so that seal pups can grow very quickly, depositing a thick layer of blubber that will protect them from the cold and sustain them as they learn to hunt for themselves. Just as we are different from seals, we are not exactly the same as cows either! It won’t surprise you, then, that cows’ milk is very different from human milk – which is why we mustn’t give ordinary cows’ milk, condensed milk, dried or evaporated milk to a child under the age of one. If a human baby is given cows’ milk, it has to be changed into a formula that attempts to replicate human milk.

Do you think that milk is ideal for humans? Cows’ milk is meant to help a calf grow very rapidly indeed, reaching 47-63 stone (300-400kg) within a year. We, on the other hand, take about 18 years to reach adult weight (a woman of 5’4” has an average weight of about 10 stone 3lbs (65 kg); a 6’ man has an average weight of 13 stone (83 kg)). So, we have very different rates of growth and while cow’s milk and human milk contain a similar percentage of water, the relative amounts of fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals vary widely. So let’s look at four of these main nutrients. You’ll soon discover why cows’ milk is ideal for baby cows, but not for humans.

Cow’s Milk vs Plant Milks

Ever wondered how do dairy products and their plant-based counterparts match-up? We’ve done all the hard work for you!

Firstly, let’s have a proper look at what any milk actually is – a very watery liquid, around 90 per cent is always water. Therefore, any amount of nutrients it contains is more or less diluted and any health effects depend on how much of it you drink.

 

Sugar with your milk?

As you can see in the comparison table, dairy milk has more sugar than most plant milks. Why is there sugar in plain dairy milk you ask? Milk sugar – lactose – is a natural component of milk. It’s a simple sugar, which means it breaks down fast and is quickly absorbed by your body in the same way as table sugar.

On the other hand, unsweetened plant milks have almost no sugar and even the sweetened varieties are often sweetened with apple juice, which is better for you than sugar.

The lowest in sugar: soya, almond and hemp milks

Nutrient/100gDairy milk (semi-skimmed)Soya milkAlmond milkOat milkHemp milkRice milkCoconut milk
Total fat2g1.7g1.1g0.5-1.5g2.8g1g0.9-2g
Saturated fat1-1.3g0.3g0.1g0.1-0.2g0.3g0.1g0.9-1.9g
Polyunsaturated (essential) fats0-0.1g1g0.3g0.7g2g0.6g0g
Protein3-4g3g0.4g1g0.6g0.1g0.1-0.2g
Sugar (unsweetened)
Sugar (sweetened)
5g0.1g
2.4g
0.1g
3g
4.1g0.1g
1.8g
3.3-7g1.6-1.9g
Fibre 0g0.5g0.4g0.8g0.5g0.3g0.1g
Calcium120mg120mg120mg120mg118mg120mg120mg

Floating fats

Dairy milk always contains saturated ‘bad’ fats which are a risk factor for heart disease. In that respect, coconut milk is similar as it’s the only type of plant milk that naturally comes with a higher saturated fat content. All the other plant milks have a healthy fat profile. Hemp milk also comes with an extra dose of essential omega-3 fats, closely followed by soya with its healthy unsaturated fats. Rice, oat and almond milk have the absolutely lowest fat content.

Lowest in fat: soya, almond, oat, hemp and rice milk

 

Packing protein

Protein levels vary and although dairy milk has about the same protein content as soya milk, cow’s milk proteins, such as whey and casein, are difficult for the human body to digest. In fact, they used to make furniture glue out of casein! Soya not only contains a good amount of protein but it’s better protein at that! Soya protein lowers cholesterol and may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Best for protein: soya milk

 

Liquid calcium

The amount of calcium you get from most fortified plant milks is the same as from cow’s milk. Not all varieties are fortified, so check the carton! The calcium in dairy milk is why we’ve been told to drink the white stuff but don’t forget that cow’s milk also packs a good dose of hormones and pus by default. No one needs that!

Best for calcium: all fortified plant milks

 

Roughage in your drink

All plant milks contain some fibre, which is essential to good health, whilst dairy milk never contains any. Fibre helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and can slow down sugar digestion. Soya, almond, hemp and oat milk are best for fibre but oat milk beats the others.

Best for fibre: oat milk

 

Environmental impact

It takes 1,020 litres of water to produce one litre of cow’s milk. To produce the same amount of soya milk, you need 297 litres of water – and even less for other crops such as oats! Almonds drink a bit more but they’re certainly not the culprit behind California’s water crises, as some tabloids claimed – unlike livestock farms!

And the winner is?

It’s impossible to pick which plant milk is the best. Ultimately, it comes down to taste because you’re most likely to stick with something you actually enjoy drinking!

The truth is, all plant milks are not just more ethical and sustainable than cow’s milk, they’re also healthier.

 

Dairy yogurt vs soya yogurt

When it comes to yogurt, soya ones are by far the best – providing good amounts of protein, calcium, healthy fat and fibre:

Nutrient/100gPlain low-fat dairy yogurtAlpro plain soya/ soya-almond yogurt
Total fat1.5g2.8/2.3g
Saturated fat1.0g0.4g
Polyunsaturated (essential) fats0.044g1.4g
Protein5.2g3.9/4.0g
Sugar7.0g2.2/2.1g
Fibre0.0g1.1g
Calcium183mg120mg

The only thing to watch when it comes to non-dairy yogurts are some coconut ones which have a very high fat content.

How & Why Is Dairy Linked to Disease?

Dairy food grocery

Dairy consumption has been linked to many health issues ranging from acne and asthma to certain cancers and diabetes.

Here we explain why dairy is the culprit in many of these diseases. Click on each health condition below to read how and why it’s linked to milk and dairy products or for detailed and referenced information, scroll down to the White Lies report.

Acne

Acne is much less common in non-Western societies and increases with junk food diets. It is caused by obstruction and inflammation of hair follicles and the oil (sebum) glands in the skin. If hair follicles become infected with bacteria (usually Propionibacterium acnes) the situation gets worse.

Several large studies discovered that the more dairy products teenagers consumed, the more they suffered from acne. The most likely cause, say the authors, is the many hormones and other bioactive molecules that dairy products naturally contain.

One of the main culprits is a growth hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which is what calves need to grow fast. Dairy products contain it but they also increase production of your body’s own IGF-1. On top of that, there are steroid hormones in dairy which directly affect your skin cells. They encourage more and faster production of oil (sebum) and skin cells and the result is oily skin and clogged pores where bacteria can breed.

Body builders who use steroid hormones are more prone to acne and so are athletes who use whey-based shakes, supplements and the like. Dairy affects hormone levels and therefore the skin. Case studies show that young athletes lost their acne when taken off whey supplements but it returned when they went back to using whey.

Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints causing considerable pain and discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the immune system that makes the body to attack its own tissues.

It has been suggested that dairy may trigger an autoimmune response in some people who may then go on to develop rheumatoid arthritis via a mechanism called molecular mimicry. This may occur when the immune system reacts to a protein in cow’s milk called bovine serum albumin and produces antibodies to attack it but because one of the joint cartilage proteins – collagen – has a similar structure, the antibodies attack it too.

Another link between dairy and rheumatoid arthritis is through a strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, shortened to MAP) which may trigger the development of rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk. You can get infected by the bacteria by consuming milk or beef that contains it.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease characterised by recurrent breathing problems. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and the airways become narrower causing the characteristic symptoms of asthma: coughing, wheezing, difficulty in breathing and tightness across the chest.

Food allergy is often associated with asthma and milk is one of the most common food allergens. However, even people who are not allergic to milk often find that dairy is either the trigger or makes their asthma worse – diets higher in fat, particularly saturated fat from dairy products and meat, have been directly linked to asthma. On the other hand, a diet based on plant foods and rich in fruit and vegetables can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

Cancer

The links between dairy and cancer are much debated. However, for hormone sensitive cancers in particular – prostate, breast and ovarian – the scientific evidence keeps mounting. Regular dairy consumption ensures that you’re ingesting hormones (naturally present in dairy) including oestrogens, progesterone and growth hormones, and saturated fat. These milk components have been suggested to play a role in the development or growth of hormone sensitive cancers. For ovarian cancer, milk sugar (lactose) has also been repeatedly associated with an increased risk of the disease.

Two-thirds of milk in the UK is taken from pregnant cows with the remainder coming from cows that have recently given birth. This means the hormone content in milk is much higher than it used to be decades ago and before the start of industrial farming. Dairy consumption also increases the production of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) in the human body and increased levels of this hormone have been linked to higher risks of cancer.

Colic

Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. It is a poorly understood yet common condition that affects around one in five babies. Typically, a baby with colic will scream and draw up their legs, and may refuse to be comforted.

Several factors are thought to contribute including poor digestion, lactose intolerance and/or a reaction to cow’s milk proteins. Certain components of cow’s milk may lead to colic – in a clinical trial to investigate the effects of cow’s milk whey proteins, 24 out of 27 infants with colic showed no symptoms of colic after whey protein was removed from their diet. In order to alleviate the negative effects of cow’s milk whey proteins (and other milk proteins thought to cause colic) some infant formulas are hydrolysed, this means the proteins are broken up. These hydrolysed formulas are called hypoallergenic and have been shown to be effective in the treatment of colic in some infants.

Many reports now also link the maternal intake of cow’s milk to the occurrence of colic in exclusively breastfed infants. The breast milk of mothers who consume cow’s milk and milk products has been shown to contain intact proteins from these foods. In trials where mothers eliminated all dairy products from their diet, the colic disappeared in over a half of the infants.

Constipation

In children, chronic constipation may be a symptom of milk allergy or intolerance. In studies where dairy products were removed from children’s diets, most of them experienced relief.

In adults, dairy can also cause constipation – it’s been suggested that one type of protein found in milk, A1 beta-casein, slows down the speed at which food moves through the digestive tract which can contribute to constipation.

Dairy products contain no fibre – a natural component of plant foods essential to a healthy digestive tract and bowel movements – so a diet based on dairy and other animal products can be severely lacking in fibre and thus causing constipation.

Crohn’s Disease and IBDs

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. The symptoms are similar to other bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis and can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue (extreme tiredness), unintended weight loss and blood and mucus in the faeces.

Crohn’s is linked to dairy foods through a bacterium cattle often carry. The MAP bacterium that causes Johne’s disease in cattle is also found in retail pasteurised cow’s milk and in rivers contaminated with infected cow manure. A substantial body of evidence now supports the causal link between MAP and Crohn’s disease in people. Professor John Hermon-Taylor at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London has found MAP in patients with Crohn’s disease from the UK, Ireland, US, Germany and United Arab Emirates.

Diabetes

Over the last 60 years, the worldwide incidence of type 1 diabetes has risen by over three per cent a year, doubling every 20 years, with a rapid rise in the number of children affected. If this trend continues in 2035 the NHS could be spending 17 per cent of its entire budget on treating diabetes.

Early exposure to cow’s milk proteins has been linked to type 1 diabetes, where little or no insulin is produced. Candidate proteins include: casein, bovine serum albumin and bovine insulin. Unfortunately, these proteins ‘look like’ our own pancreatic cells and may trigger an inappropriate immune response in genetically susceptible people whereby our own immune cells set about destroying these foreign dairy proteins and our pancreatic cells. This autoimmune reaction leads to diabetes. Even a short duration of exposure to cow’s milk infant formula may constitute a risk factor for type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes (normally affects adults over 40) is occurring in young adults at the level of a global epidemic driven by the increasing burden of obesity. The risk factors for type 2 diabetes (obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise) are well-documented and one obvious preventative measure is to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet. This means cutting out meat and dairy and increasing the intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. Indeed, low-fat vegan diets have been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes.

Gallstones

Gallstones are solid pieces of stone-like material, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gall bladder, which is a small organ on the right side of the body, below the liver. It stores a green liquid called bile, which is produced by the liver to help the body digest fats. As we eat, bile is released from the gall bladder into the intestines through a thin tube called the bile duct. Gallstones are formed when some of the compounds stored in the gall bladder harden into a solid mass – they are made up of cholesterol and other fats, bile salts and the pigment bilirubin. They may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Some people may have one large stone while others may have many small ones. Gallstones are the most common cause of emergency hospital admission for people with abdominal pain – the passage of a gallstone along the bile duct to the small intestine can be extremely painful.

The main dietary risk factors appear to be low fibre (plant foods) intake, high saturated fat and cholesterol intake (animal fats) and obesity. High-fat dairy products (butter, cheese, cream, ice cream) are among the main sources of saturated fat and cholesterol in Western diets.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Diseases of the heart and circulatory system are collectively called cardiovascular disease (CVD) and are a leading cause of death in the UK. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of the two main forms of CVD along with stroke. CHD occurs when there is a build-up of fatty deposits (plaques) along the walls of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. These plaques build up and clog the arteries making them narrower and restricting the blood flow. Blood clots can form at the site of a plaque in the coronary artery and cut off the blood supply to the heart. This can result in heart attack and sudden death. The scenario for stroke is similar but occurs in the brain – if the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, a stroke may occur and brain cells could begin to die, which can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

The plaques that block the arteries are made up of a fatty substance that contains cholesterol and diets high in saturated fats increase the risk of these plaques forming. Foods high in saturated fat include a number of dairy products: butter, ghee, lard, cream, hard cheese, dairy ice cream, whole milk and cakes. Replacing unhealthy saturated fat with healthier polyunsaturated fats from plant foods may actually be more effective in lowering the risk of heart disease than reducing the total amount of fat in the diet. Soya (protein), nuts, plant sterols and soluble fibres (found in oats and some fruit, vegetables and pulses) all help lower cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Hormonal issues

Milk naturally contains hormones – they are there to help direct the growth of the calf and include growth hormones (eg IGF-1), oestrogens, progesterone, adrenal and pituitary hormones. There are 35 different hormones present in cow’s milk – all cow’s milk, without exception. However, as milk is taken from pregnant cows and cows that have recently given birth, it contains even higher levels of certain hormones and these have been linked to some hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.

In addition to that, cow’s milk stimulates your own body to produce the growth hormone IGF-1 in the liver. IGF-1 stimulates the growth of human cancer cells in the laboratory and increased IGF-1 levels are linked to cancers of the bowel, breast and prostate. Professor T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, says that IGF-1 may turn out to be a predictor of certain cancers in the same way that cholesterol is a predictor of heart disease. Furthermore, IGF-1 may transform pre-existing or benign tumours into a more aggressive form of cancer.

Lactose intolerance

In 1836, after returning from the Beagle, Charles Darwin wrote “I have had a bad spell. Vomiting every day for eleven days, and some days after every meal.” Darwin suffered for over 40 years from long bouts of vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches, severe tiredness, skin problems and depression. A number of researchers now suggest that he suffered from lactose intolerance. His case is a good example of how easily lactose intolerance can be missed.

We are only meant to consume breastmilk in infancy and then stop which is why the human body produces the enzyme to digest lactose (the sugar in both breastmilk and cow’s milk) in the early years of life and, in most people, gradually stops producing in during childhood. The ability to digest lactose in adulthood evolved as a result of a genetic mutation among some people in central Europe around 7,500 years ago (and a couple of other places). Descendants of these people are able to consume dairy milk today without suffering the symptoms of lactose intolerance (bloating, wind, discomfort etc). However, that doesn’t mean it is good for them. Being lactose intolerant is the natural, normal state for most adults in the world.

Allergy vs intolerance: Lactose intolerance should not be confused with cow’s milk allergy, they are entirely different. Cow’s milk allergy is where the immune system reacts to cow’s milk proteins. Lactose intolerance is where the body cannot digest lactose – the sugar in milk.

Migraine

A migraine is much more than a bad headache; unless you suffer from them it is difficult to appreciate just how debilitating a migraine can be. Often people with a migraine can do nothing but lie quietly in a darkened room waiting for the pain to pass. The pain is excruciating, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine can last for a few hours or a few days.

A range of common factors that can cause migraines in some people have been identified. Some scientists suggest that fluctuating levels of hormones may be linked to the causes of migraines (hence the higher number of women affected). Other factors include: emotional, physical, environmental, medicinal and dietary factors. Foods are frequently identified as triggers and the most common culprits include dairy products (particularly cheese), chocolate, alcohol (particularly red wine), caffeine, citrus fruits, nuts, fried foods and foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) such as some Chinese food, processed meats and frozen pizzas. Other triggers include cigarette smoke, bright lights, hunger, certain drugs (such as sleeping tablets, HRT and the combined oral contraceptive pill), loud noises, strong smells, neck and back pain, stress and tiredness. All these factors and others can lead to a migraine, and some people may experience a migraine following any one or a combination of these factors.

The national medical charity Allergy UK lists cheese (particularly Stilton, Brie, Camembert and Emmenthal) as the third commonest cause of food-induced migraine after alcohol and chocolate.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common disease of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) affecting young adults in the UK. It is estimated that there are currently around 100,000 people with MS in the UK. Symptoms usually first develop between the ages of 15 and 45, with the average age of diagnosis being about 30.

Sclerosis means scarring and multiple refers to the different sites at which the scarring can occur throughout the brain and spinal cord. In MS the protective sheath (myelin) that surrounds the nerve fibres of the central nervous system becomes damaged. When myelin is damaged (demyelination) the messages between the brain and other parts of the body become disrupted.

MS is an autoimmune disease whereby the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. As with other autoimmune diseases, it is thought that a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers cause the disease. Recent research shows that an important environmental factor is diet.

Several studies found a link between the consumption of cow’s milk and the incidence of MS. Other research suggests that for people who already have MS, avoiding saturated fats (dairy and meat) may significantly slow down the progression of the disease.

Obesity

Most people know what the term obesity means: an increased body weight caused by the excessive accumulation of fat. Overweight and obesity occur when more calories are taken into the body than are burnt up over time. In other words, if you don’t burn up the energy you consume it will be stored as fat, and over time this may lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.

Abdominal fat (also known as internal or visceral fat) is of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems including high blood pressure and cholesterol (which can lead to heart disease), diabetes and some cancers. You don’t have to be overweight or obese to have high levels of this type of fat. Some slim people, who do little or no exercise, can have elevated levels of visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat (the kind you can grasp with your hand), visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal region, hidden in the white fat that surrounds the vital organs, streaked through underused muscles and wrapped around the heart.

The main causes of obesity include an excessive intake of food coupled to a lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle. As populations become more urban and incomes rise, diets high in sugar, fat and animal products replace more traditional diets that were high in plant foods with healthy carbohydrates and fibre.

Cutting the amount of fatty and sugary foods in the diet, replacing them with plant-based wholefoods and moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated plant fats is a smart move towards a healthy weight. Whole milk, cheese, cream, butter, ice-cream and most other dairy products, apart from skimmed and non-fat products, contain significant amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. There is no nutritional requirement for saturated fat in the human diet so cutting dairy foods out is a healthy decision.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (meaning porous bones) is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and more likely to fracture. Although the whole skeleton is usually affected, fractures most commonly occur in the spine, wrist and hips. Osteoporosis develops when calcium is lost from the bones and they become more fragile. It’s commonly associated with post-menopausal women but osteoporosis can also affect men, younger women and children. In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly because of poor bone health.

Many people believe that because dairy contains calcium, it must be good for the bones – which is a testament to the dairy industry’s marketing but bears no relevance to reality. In countries with the highest milk and dairy products intake, the rates of osteoporosis are also the highest.

In their recommendations for preventing osteoporosis the World Health Organisation state that:

The paradox (that hip fracture rates are higher in developed countries where calcium intake is higher than in developing countries where calcium intake is lower) clearly calls for an explanation. To date, the accumulated data indicate that the adverse effect of protein, in particular animal (but not vegetable) protein, might outweigh the positive effect of calcium intake on calcium balance.”

Western style diets (rich in dairy foods and animal protein) accompany hip fracture rates around the world. We do need calcium for healthy bones but as research shows, we’re best off getting it from plant sources as dairy products don’t help to improve our bone health and animal protein (from meat, dairy and eggs) may even weaken the bones because it increases calcium losses.

What matters most when it comes to bone health is physical (especially weight-bearing) activity to stimulate bones and a healthy diet and lifestyle – this means eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds and cutting down on caffeine and avoiding alcohol and smoking.

Nutrition

healthy lunch meal fruits calcium

Being dairy-free is a natural and healthy choice. All the nutrients in milk are easily found in plant-based foods that will make you thrive and you won’t miss a thing!

Many of us have been brought up with the idea that we need milk for calcium but it’s nothing more than a successful ploy by the dairy industry. They provide ‘educational’ materials to schools, lobby the Government, organise lectures for healthcare professionals, sponsor research and pay millions for advertising to condition people to think they ‘need’ milk. Yet no one needs milk after weaning and no one needs the milk of another species. There’s nothing in cow’s milk that you can’t find in plants, just minus all the bad fats, hormones and gluey protein.

 

Calcium Question

Calcium is an important mineral that we need for healthy bones, muscle function, numerous metabolic reactions and hormonal balance – about 700 mg per day (adults), children a bit less, adolescents and lactating women slightly more. And we can get more than enough from non-dairy sources as long as we eat a varied and reasonably healthy diet.

The National Osteoporosis Society agree:

If you don’t eat dairy products, you will need to include lots of other calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds, dried fruit, pulses, fortified soya drinks and soya protein (tofu) in your diet. A vegetarian diet is not a risk factor for osteoporosis and vegetarians and vegans do not appear to have poorer bone health than the rest of the population.”

Get your calcium from:

  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste used in many recipes)
  • Pulses: peas, beans, lentils, soya and calcium-set tofu
  • Green leafy vegetables: broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, watercress, parsley
  • Dried fruit: figs, apricots
  • Fortified products: plant milks (soya, almond, oat, hemp, rice, coconut), soya yogurts

Calcium-Rich Foods Poster

Get our calcium-rich foods poster as a reminder of all the great plant sources of calcium!

It has an extendable piece with sample portion sizes and calcium amounts.

Click here to get it.

Healthy Bones

Our bones need good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to be strong and healthy. Milk is not just unnecessary for healthy bones – studies show that high intakes can even increase the risk of bone fracture!

Calcium is important to bones health and easy to get from the foods listed above. Another nutrient crucial to maintaining healthy bones is vitamin D. It’s produced in your skin when exposed to the sun in the summer but during the winter months (or if you always protect your skin from sunlight), you might need to take a supplement regardless of your diet (this advice applies to everyone in the UK).

However, we need much more than calcium and vitamin D to produce strong bones. Nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, boron, iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, B group, beta carotene (vitamin A) are also necessary but don’t panic! Fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, pulses and wholegrains are the best sources.

One last thing – bone adapts to the weight and pressure applied to it and it needs this stimulation to stay strong. There’s no need to sweat your socks off but moderate, weight-bearing exercise is a must. This means walking, carrying shopping bags, dancing, gardening, ball games, jogging, yoga, weight-lifting exercise and so on.

More on healthy bones here.

Protein Fiction

Some people believe that dairy products are a good source of protein. It’s true that milk contains some protein but it’s certainly not good for us! One type of protein found in milk – casein – is notoriously hard to digest and it’s so tough that it can be used to make furniture glue. Scientists also discovered that it encourages prostate cancer growth! And other milk proteins – whey proteins – are no miracle either. Whey protein powders have been repeatedly linked to acne.

Milk protein can also cause milk allergy and intestinal bleeding in babies – it’s the most common cause of infant anaemia.

There’s an abundance of protein in plant-based diets and it comes in a much healthier package! Among vegan protein heroes are: pulses (beans, lentils, soya, peas, chickpeas), nuts, seeds, wholegrains and ready-made products such as mock meats, hummus, falafel, soya yoghurts and more!

Health Benefits of Being Dairy-Free

Being dairy-free is a natural state of being for all adults and children past early years. When you decide to go dairy-free, you’ll most likely experience some health benefits but it has long-term perks too!

Many people notice positive health changes when they cut dairy out of their diet, such as clearer skin, better breathing and better digestion. It’s no coincidence! There’s a lot of research backing up the health improvements people experience.

Better skin

The hormones in milk and dairy products can make your skin more prone to acne. Teenagers who consume dairy tend to have worse acne than those who don’t drink/eat it and bodybuilders who use whey protein powders often suffer from bad skin too.

This is what the world-famous actor Woody Harrelson had to say on the subject in an interview with Maxim magazine:

I was about 24 years old and I had tons of acne and mucus. I met some random girl on a bus who told me to quit dairy and all those symptoms would go away three days later. By God she was right.”

Ditching dairy can make your skin clearer but for best results also limit your sugar, fried food and alcohol intake and make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Beach blue sky cheerful

Improved digestion

Dairy is often the culprit in indigestion, several inflammatory bowel conditions, constipation and stomach pains. When you cut out dairy products, your digestion will very likely improve even if you don’t suffer from any serious conditions. Simply by not eating dairy foods that are high in saturated fat, lactose and devoid of fibre, and replacing them with plant foods (rich in fibre, healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants), your digestive tract will become happier and healthier!

Healthier bones

Better bone health without milk? Yes! Sounds counterintuitive thanks to decades of the dairy industry’s brainwashing but it’s true. Research shows that high intakes of milk and dairy products don’t help your bones but may actually have adverse effect on them. Countries with the highest dairy intake also have the highest rates of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease).

Your bones need many minerals and vitamins to be strong, all of which are abundant in plant foods. The best sources of the most important mineral, calcium, are: nuts and seeds (almonds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds and tahini – sesame seed paste), pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soya and calcium-set tofu), green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, watercress, parsley), dried fruit (figs, apricots) and fortified plant milks (soya, almond, oat, hemp, rice, coconut) and soya yoghurts.

And what’s more, plant protein has beneficial effects on bone health whilst animal protein (from dairy, meat and eggs) has been repeatedly shown to have negative effects and even to contribute to calcium losses from bones due to its acid-producing nature.

A healthy vegan diet, active lifestyle (to stimulate bones), sufficient vitamin D intake and low or no alcohol intake is all you need to have healthy bones.

Happier heart

By avoiding dairy you’re leaving a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol out of your diet and that’s a great step for a healthier heart and the whole circulation system. Saturated fat, in particular, is a risk factor for heart disease and it can contribute to artery-clogging plaques. Butter is definitely not back – hundreds of scientists agree that avoiding saturated fats is one of the best things you can do for your heart health.

A plant-based diet with healthy, unsaturated fats is what your heart needs and the many antioxidants in plants help to protect your blood vessel walls from damage.

Healthy heart dairy free vegan

Lower risk of some cancers

Milk and other dairy products contain 35 different hormones and dairy consumption also increases your body’s production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 can fuel cancer cell growth and people with high IGF-1 levels are at an increased risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer.

For ovarian cancer, milk consumption may also be a risk factor – not just because of the hormones but also due to the milk sugar lactose. Women consuming it on a regular basis (in a range of dairy products) seem to have an increased risk of the disease.

When you go dairy-free, you stop consuming all these hormones and lactose. Studies also show that vegans have lower levels of IGF-1 in their bloodstream. These facts lower your risk of several cancers and if you make your diet healthy with plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds, you’re lowering your chances of developing cancer even more.

Dairy FAQs

Going dairy-free is great for your health but thanks to decades of the dairy industry’s aggressive marketing, many people are worried about making that step. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions about dairy, your health and dairy-free diets.

What’s calcium, why do we need it and how much?

Calcium is a mineral and naturally occurs in compounds such as limestone, chalk and marble. In the human body, it plays a central role in maintaining bone health and strength; around 99 per cent of our calcium is in the bones and teeth, the other one per cent is involved in the regulation of muscle contraction, heartbeat, blood clotting and functioning of the nervous system.

This s how much we need according to the UK government:

Children

  • 0-12 months: 525 mg
  • 1-3 years: 350 mg
  • 4-6 years: 450 mg
  • 7-10 years: 550 mg

Males

  • 11-18 years 1,000 mg
  • Over 19 years 700 mg

Females

  • 11-18 years: 800 mg
  • Over 19 years: 700 mg
  • During lactation: +550 mg

 

Latest studies show that calcium intake above the recommended dose offers no additional protection from fractures and can actually increase the risk.

While milk and dairy products do contain calcium, plant-based sources provide a much healthier source. Good plant-based sources include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, parsley and watercress. Also rich in calcium are dried fruits such as figs and apricots, nuts, particularly almonds and Brazil nuts and seeds including sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste). Pulses including peas, beans, lentils and calcium-set tofu (soya bean curd) provide a good source of calcium as does molasses.

Calcium content of some plant foods:

Cauldron Foods plain tofu (100g) – 400mg, almonds (30g – a small handful) – 72mg, Brazil nuts (30g – a small handful) – 87mg, sesame seeds (1 tablespoon) – 56mg, tahini (10g – two teaspoons) – 68mg sunflower seeds (25g – a small handful) – 28mg, broccoli (80g portion boiled in unsalted water) – 32mg, kale (80g portion boiled in unsalted water) – 120mg, watercress (80g portion raw) – 136mg, dried figs (100g – four to six pieces of fruit) – 250mg, fortified plant milks (200ml glass) – 240mg

For more information, see the calcium fact sheet or calcium-rich foods poster.

How easily is plant calcium absorbed?

Calcium is absorbed best from foods that also contain good amounts of magnesium – and many plant foods rich in calcium also have plenty of magnesium so it’s an easy equation. These foods are for example kale, cabbage, spring greens, broccoli, bok choy, almonds, other nuts and seeds, beans and dried figs.

Spinach contains a lot of calcium but it’s bound to a substance called oxalate which inhibits calcium absorption, so it’s best to not rely on spinach for calcium too much.

Grains, nuts and seeds contain a substance called phytic acid which was considered to hinder calcium absorption; however phytic acid is now believed to have only a minor influence and cooking, baking and sprouting minimises its effects so it’s nothing to worry about.

Caffeine and smoking have been shown to reduce calcium absorption.

Milk is a natural food... isn't it?

All mammals drink the milk of their mothers until they are weaned. Unlike all other mammals, humans continue to drink milk after weaning and into adulthood, and not just that, we drink the milk of another species! To state the obvious (but often overlooked) fact – cow’s milk has evolved to help turn a small calf into a cow in less than a year. That’s why cow’s milk contains around four times as much calcium as human milk. Calves need a huge amount of calcium for fast bone growth over the first year of life. A human infant does not require such high levels of calcium; indeed the high mineral content of cow’s milk puts a strain on the human infant kidney which is why most governments strongly recommend that children do not drink normal ‘off the shelf’ milk in the first year.

The proteins in cow’s milk (especially casein) are the most common food allergen and most people in the world are unable to digest milk sugar, lactose, after weaning (they are lactose intolerant). The explanation to this is simple – cow’s milk is not a natural food for people.

Don’t children need milk for calcium?

No, what they do need is exercise and a healthy plant-based diet. Research shows that physical exercise is the most critical factor for building and maintaining healthy bones, followed by improving the diet and lifestyle – this means eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, plant protein (pulses, nuts and seeds) and – especially important for teenagers – avoiding alcohol and smoking.

Children can get more than enough calcium from nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, beans, dried figs, fortified plant milks and yogurts.

For more information, see Healthy Bones for Life.

Doesn't most of our calcium come from milk?

No, only 35-45 per cent of the calcium in the average UK diet comes from milk and milk products. So despite the misconceived notion that milk is the best (or only) source of calcium the facts show that a large share of the calcium in our diets is derived from sources other than dairy foods. This is not surprising as most people in the world (around 70 per cent) obtain their calcium from plant-based sources rather than dairy products.

While milk and dairy products do contain calcium, plant-based sources provide a much healthier source. Good plant-based sources include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, parsley and watercress. Also rich in calcium are dried fruits such as figs and apricots, nuts, particularly almonds and Brazil nuts and seeds including sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste). Pulses including peas, beans, lentils and calcium-set tofu (soya bean curd) provide a good source of calcium as does molasses.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. In order for the sugar in lactose to be digested it must be broken down in the gut by the enzyme lactase into its two component sugars (glucose and galactose). Most infants produce lactase for a while but lose the ability to digest lactose after weaning (commonly after the age of two). Losing this ability is a clear indication that after weaning, milk is not a natural food for us. In other words, being lactose intolerant after infancy is actually a natural state of being for all mammals.

Lactose intolerance occurs in around 90-100 per cent of Asians, 65-70 per cent of Africans and 10 per cent of Caucasians. Symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, wind, and diarrhoea.

What causes milk allergies?

Milk allergies occur when the body’s immune system perceives one of the proteins (casein or whey) in milk as a foreign invader and launches an attack. Symptoms usually include excessive mucus production resulting in a runny nose and blocked ears. More serious symptoms include eczema/rash, swelling of the throat, tongue or lips, colic, diarrhoea, asthma and vomiting.

Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Any animal milk (not just cow’s milk) can cause an allergy.

What is the link between cow's milk and diabetes?

Early exposure to cow’s milk formula has been linked to an immune response that can lead to type 1 diabetes in genetically susceptible children. The immune response involves the body’s immune system reacting to a trigger (which may be bovine insulin or a protein from cow’s milk – casein). Structural similarities between the triggering molecule and the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells confuse the human immune system and it attacks the pancreatic cells by mistake. This then limits the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin and may lead to diabetes.

For more information see Viva!Health’s fully-referenced scientific report The Big-D: Defeating Diabetes through Diet and a practical guide The Big-D: defeating diabetes with the D-Diet, both can be downloaded here.

Is there anything I can do to increase my calcium absorption?

Several nutrients help calcium absorption. Vitamin D is very important for both calcium absorption and bone health – it is either obtained from the diet or it is made in the skin following exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency may occur if exposure to the sun is limited (eg in autumn and winter, if you’re housebound or always protect your skin from the sun) and without sufficient vitamin D, your body absorbs less calcium. It is now recommended that everyone in the UK (regardless of diet) takes a vitamin D supplement from October to April.

Vegans obtain vitamin D from sunlight and fortified foods such as soya milks, cereals and margarines. It is important to get the balance right between being cautious about exposure to the sun and aware of the need for some exposure. It is now advised by the UK government that we apply sun block after 10 to 15 minutes exposure to the sun, this is so that we can synthesise vitamin D in the skin.

Aside from vitamin D, we also need magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K for good bone health. A healthy diet that includes at least seven servings a day of fruit and vegetables (including green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli or rocket) should optimise the intake of these and other micronutrients required.

Doesn't cow’s milk protect against osteoporosis?

No, osteoporosis occurs most commonly in countries where people drink the most cow’s milk! American women are among the biggest consumers of calcium in the world yet they suffer one of the highest levels of osteoporosis, while African Bantu women eat almost no dairy products at all and have a relatively low calcium intake from vegetable sources yet osteoporosis is virtually unknown among them. Milk consumption does not protect against bone fracture, in fact, an increased dairy calcium intake may even increase the risk of fracture.

Calcium loss from the bones has been linked to high intakes of animal protein. By the age of 80, vegetarians tend to have lost less bone mineral compared to omnivores. Research suggests that the more animal protein you eat, the higher your risk of hip fracture becomes. Cross-cultural studies show strong links between a high animal protein diet, bone degeneration and the occurrence of hip fractures. In a rural community in China where most of the protein in the diet came from plant foods rather than animal foods, the fracture rate was one-fifth of that in the US.

For more information, see Healthy Bones for Life.

Can a vegan diet provide sufficient calcium?

Yes it certainly can. There are no scientific reports of calcium deficiency in adult vegans. Looking solely at calcium intake and not at calcium losses tells only half the story – while a vegan’s intake might be lower than a meat- and dairy-eater’s, their losses are likely to be much lower. The evidence is that a plant-based diet free of animal products – a vegan diet – doesn’t produce these losses. A vegan diet rich in fruit and vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds can provide the basis for a long and healthy life, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and many other diseases. In contrast, diets loaded with dairy products are associated with increased risk of osteoporosis, certain hormone-sensitive cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

For more information, see the calcium fact sheet or calcium-rich foods poster.

In a nutshell, what do I need to know about dairy and my health?
  • Children and adults alike do not need dairy foods for good bone health; they do need exercise and a healthy plant-based diet to ensure strong bones.
  • You can get enough calcium to cover your body’s needs from green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, pulses, fortified plant milks and yogurts, dried figs and tahini (sesame seed paste).
  • Diets loaded with dairy products are associated with an increased risk of many diseases including asthma, osteoporosis, hormone-sensitive cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
  • Cow’s milk is not a natural food for humans to consume.
  • Most people in the world are lactose intolerant – it’s a natural state of being as we’re not supposed to suckle past infancy.
  • Many children are affected by cow’s milk allergies and suffer from serious digestive problems if they consume milk and dairy products.
  • Looking only at calcium intake and not at calcium losses tells only half the story, while a vegan’s calcium intake might be lower than a meat- and dairy-eater’s, their losses are likely to be much lower. A plant-based diet free of animal products – a vegan diet – does not produce these losses.
  • There are no scientific reports of calcium deficiency in adult vegans.
  • Vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K are all required for good bone health.
What can I do to improve my bone health?

Your bones, just like the rest of your body, need a wide range of nutrients to be healthy. If you have a bad diet and top it up with an extra dose of calcium, you won’t get the benefits you might think you’re getting and it can actually be harmful for your bones. A healthy lifestyle is important for healthy bones too – bones adapt to physical stimulation so need you to be active and engage in a weight-bearing activity a few times a week (weight-bearing means anything where you carry the weight of your own body so it includes a wide range of activities apart from swimming and cycling).

These are our top tips for healthy bones:

  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 7-10 per day
  • Use almonds for snacking and tahini (sesame seed paste) in cooking
  • Have some green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage, rocket, watercress) daily
  • Avoid protein from animal sources (meat, dairy, fish, eggs)
  • Exercise regularly, use stairs rather than lift, walk wherever you can
  • When watching TV, get up during ad breaks and walk around or do a few squats.
  • Get adequate vitamin D through sunshine or a supplement
  • Limit your alcohol intake and don’t smoke

For more information, see Healthy Bones for Life.

Is there pus or antibiotics in milk?

When a cow is suffering from mastitis (a painful bacterial infection of the udder), her body produces large numbers of white blood cells which fight the infection in the udder. Many of these cells together with dead cells from the inner lining of the udder then pass out in her milk and the greater the infection the higher the number of these ‘somatic’ cells (which is a sophisticated name for pus) in the milk. An increased number of somatic cells indicates infection so whilst a certain level of somatic cells is considered normal, higher levels mean there’s an inflammation and the udder is shedding more cells than usual – white blood cells, dead cells and bacteria, in other words, the components of what we know as pus when it’s contained in an abscess.

The average number of ‘somatic cells’ in one millilitre of milk (1/5 of a teaspoon) is 200,000. Under EU regulations, milk with a somatic cell count as high as 400 million per litre may still be sold for human consumption. Some farmers feed milk which exceeds this threshold to the calves.

Around 33-50 per cent of dairy cows suffer from clinical mastitis every year and 14 per cent of cows are culled as a result. Clinical mastitis produces symptoms such as swollen, hard udders causing a lot of pain to the cow and discoloured or clotted milk.

Antibiotics are routinely used to treat mastitis and may be injected up the teat canal or administered orally. To help decrease the occurrence of mastitis in dairy herds, most farmers practice 100 per cent dry cow therapy. This involves injecting a long-acting antibiotic into all four teats of all cows, whether infected or not, as soon as they enter their dry period. There are strict limits on antibiotic residues in milk so whilst there are always hormones and a little bit of pus in milk, the antibiotic residues are very low.

For more information, see the White Lies report.

Are there hormones in milk and dairy products?

Yes, there are 35 hormones and growth factors naturally present in cow’s milk. These hormones are normal components of milk meant to direct and fuel the rapid growth of a calf. After all, a tiny calf reaches the almost-adult size in a year!

These hormones are present in all milk and dairy products. Sometimes, the dairy industry deflects questions about hormones by saying they don’t inject their cows with hormones but that only means there are no ‘extra’ hormones in the cows’ milk. That’s hardly reassuring! Dairy cows not only produce all the hormones naturally but because they are forcibly impregnated whilst lactating, their hormone levels rise even higher with the pregnancy.

Many scientists now warn against dairy as some of the hormones present in it and their effects on the human body have been linked to an increased risk of hormone-sensitive cancers (particularly prostate and breast cancers).

For more information, see the White Lies report.

Resources

White Lies

This report combines the findings of over 400 scientific papers from reputable peer-reviewed journals such as the British Medical Journal and the Lancet…

Read more

Why You Don’t Need Dairy

I thought a dairy cows’ life was idyllic. Now I know differently. This guide has given me the confidence to accept that my vegan diet is the healthiest possible – and the kindest.

Read more

White Lies

Cow’s milk is promoted natural, wholesome and healthy. It is none of these things. The saturated fat, animal protein, cholesterol, hormones and growth factors it contains are linked to a wide range…

Read more

History of Plant Milks

There’s a long history of plant milks and other plant drinks having been made by people over millennia. There’s certainly nothing new or unusual about us consuming them.

Read more

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