Cultures Without Dairy Are Healthier
By Brian Clement Ph.D., L.N. http://www.hippocratesinst.org
Though no one knows for certain, it has been theorized that goats were the first dairy animals ever domesticated, probably in present day Iraq and Iran, about 10,000 years ago. Around this same time the Aurochs, wild long-horned ancestors of modern cows, were also domesticated but their milk wouldn’t be consumed for another few thousand years, until some humans could mutate a gene giving them lactase persistence so they could digest milk from ruminants.1
Dairy industry proponents of milk consumption today like to make the argument that milk and its byproducts—butter and cheese—have been the central feature of human diets throughout recorded history, with references to ‘milk and honey’ showing up numerous times in the Old Testament of the Bible.
While that may be true, at least in terms of Biblical references, this explanation conveniently leaves out one essential clarifying point—milk drinking only came about because of that genetic accident of human evolution and this accident only affected a small minority of Earth’s inhabitants about 6,000 or so years ago.
“It was only because of a genetic aberration that milk became a food staple in northern Europe and North America,” observed Discover magazine in a 2000 examination of milk and nutrition. “Nature normally programs the young for weaning before they reach adulthood by turning down production in early childhood of the enzyme that breaks down lactose. But a gene mutation inherited by people of northern European descent prevents the production of this enzyme from being turned down.”2
Today, the majority of adults throughout the world, especially in Asia and Africa, still can’t absorb the main sugar in cow’s milk—lactose— without experiencing sometimes severe physical symptoms.
We humans weren’t meant to be dairy consumers. We weren’t designed to consume milk from any species other than our own. The reason is because nature offers up different mother’s milk formulas for different species based on their unique nutritional needs.
“It’s unnatural to drink milk and what’s good for baby calves isn’t necessarily good for human babies or adults,” is how nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell has put it.3 By the time most humans reach 10 years of age, they can’t consume milk without cramping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.
Perhaps the first human nutritional expert to point out that milk isn’t essential to the human diet was the Biochemist and Professor E.V. McCollum of Johns Hopkins University, in the early 20th century. He described how people in southern Asia, with no history of drinking milk, have remarkable physiques and endurance, along with strong bones and “the finest teeth of any people in the world,” which is in sharp contrast to lesser physiques found among dairy consuming cultures. Ironically and rather sadly, this information unfavorable to dairy was deleted in the later editions of his book The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition, after Professor McCollum became a well paid consultant to the National Dairy Products Company.4
There is anecdotal evidence that during World War I, when cow’s milk was in short supply throughout much of Europe, infant death rates dropped because mothers had to breast-feed more often. Subsequent research on infant mortality and the use of cow’s milk have added weight to that observation.
In a study involving 9,886 newborn babies in the Philippines, researchers found that when nursery policies changed from a reliance on cow’s milk formula to breastfeeding, the incidence of oral thrush, diarrhea, and clinical sepsis and death “were drastically reduced during the intensification of the breastfeeding program,” according to the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics.5 Similar findings came from Brazil where a team of researchers studying infant mortality discovered that breast-fed infants had 14 times less risk of death from diarrhea and 3 times less risk of death from respiratory infections than infants given cow’s milk or formula made with cow’s milk.6
Somewhat more controversial has been evidence that cow’s milk and baby formula raise the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Such findings initially came from New Zealand in the form of a three-year study that followed nearly 2,000 infants and their feeding habits. Breastfed infants had “a significantly lower risk of SIDS than infants not breastfed,” concluded the International Journal of Epidemiology report.7 What has become clear is that cultures without a history of dairy consumption are healthier in many important respects than cultures which have embraced high levels of dairy consumption. Breast cancer rates are one example. Among rural Chinese women, aged 35 to 64, a major nutritional study found that breast cancer only averaged 8.7 cases per 100,000 women, compared to 44 cases and above per 100,000 women in the U.S. and much of Europe. Much lower dairy consumption, milk in particular, among the Chinese women seemed to account for the cancer differences.8
Consider the rates of osteoporosis in dairy reliant versus non-dairy reliant cultures. During the 1980s the China-Oxford-Cornell project on diet and disease, directed by Cornell University Professor Campbell, used data gathered from 6,500 Chinese families to find that among women over 50 years of age, their hip fracture rate was five times lower than what the U.S. and other Western cultures endure. Chinese women with their milk-free diet were getting their calcium from vegetables and fruits, whereas Western women absorbed most of their calcium from dairy products. Apparently, chemistry inherent to dairy leaches calcium from bone, making the Western women alarmingly more susceptible to weakened bones and fractures.9
The health pattern of non-dairy cultures being healthier than dairy cultures holds up when we look at prostate cancer and other diseases. In the case of prostate cancer, research has revealed the incidence rates to be 10 times higher in dairy-glutted Western Europe than in Asia, though those rates in Asian countries gradually began to get higher as Western dietary habits centered on dairy consumption were popularized and began to spread along with fast food.10
Diabetes rates provide another example in point. There is study evidence that in Finland, where cow’s milk in particular, and dairy consumption in general, is historically high, type 1 diabetes is 36 times higher than in Japan, where dairy has historically never been a dietary staple.11 This glaring difference should give any cow’s milk drinker pause for considerable reflection and concern.
Within dairy consuming cultures the health pattern also appears when comparing those who consume dairy and animal products to those who do not consume them. In a 2010 study of 85,168 U.S. women (aged 34 to 59 years) and 44,548 men (aged 40 to 75 years) without any diagnosed heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, an extraordinary 26 years of follow-up assessment by researchers occurred for the women and 20 years of follow-up for the men. Low-carbohydrate diets, either animal-based (emphasizing animal sources of fat and protein, including dairy) or vegetable-based (emphasizing vegetable sources of fat and protein) were computed from several food-frequency questionnaires. The study concluded: “The animal low-carbohydrate diet based on animal sources was associated with a higher all-cause mortality in both men and women, whereas a vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates.”12
A huge European study with results released in 2013 came up with similar findings. Using data from 23,531 study participants, associations were analyzed between consuming 45 different foods and the risk for a variety of major chronic diseases, namely, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The scientists concluded: “Higher intakes of low-fat dairy, butter, red meat and sauce were associated with higher risks of chronic diseases.”13
The evidence for a link between dairy consumption and your risk of stroke has been mixed and inconclusive, with some study results indicating a possible risk and many others failing to find a connection. The key to an answer might be found in the synergistic interactions between certain ‘nutrients’ in dairy and other foods combined with lifestyle habits which compound health problems.
To illustrate what I mean, a 2009 study in Finland examined the association between dairy food intake and risk of stroke using 26,556 Finnish male smokers aged 50–69 years who had no history of stroke. They completed a food frequency questionnaire. With the study researchers came to this conclusion: “We observed positive associations between whole milk intake and risk of intracerebral hemorrhage, and between yogurt intake and subarachnoid hemorrhage. These findings suggest that intake of certain dairy foods may be associated with risk of stroke.”14
What you will see in the large accumulation of medical science studies is a clear, persuasive, and growing body of research linking dairy products with the upsurge in chronic diseases being inflicted on humankind. It all starts with the cocktail of chemicals found naturally in milk.
1 “Historical Timeline: A brief history of cow’s milk.” ProCon.org. http://milk.procon.org/viiew.resource.php?resourceID=000832.
2 Dan Winters, Gary Tanhauser, Will Hively. “Worrying About Milk.” Discover. August 2000.
4 Shelton, Herbert M. The Hygienic System, pg. 172 (Dr. Shelton’s Health School: 1947.)
5 Clavano NR. “Mode of Feeding and its Effect on Infant Mortality and Morbidity.” J Trop Ped. 1982;28(6):287–293.
6 Victora CG. Et al. “Evidence for protection by breast-feeding against infant deaths from infectious diseases in Brazil.” Lancet. 1987 Aug 8;2(8554):319–22.
7 Ford, RPK. Et al. Int J Epidemology. 1993;22(5):885–890.
8 Ibid. Dan Winters.
9 Campbell, T. Colin. The China Study. 2006 (BenBella: Dallas).
10 Ibid. Winters.
11 LaPorte RE. Et al. “Geographic differences in the risk of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: the importance of registries.” Diabetes Care. 1985; 8(Suppl. 1)101–107.
12 Fung TT. Et al. “Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality.” Annals of Internal Medicine. Sep 7, 2010:153(5):289–298.
13 Von Ruesten A. Et al. “Diet and risk of chronic diseases: results from the first 8 years of follow-up in the EPIC-Potsdam study.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb 6 (Epub ahead of print.)
14 Larsson SC. Et al. “Dairy foods and risk of stroke.” Epidemiology. 2009 May;20(3):355–60.