Hello and apologies for the long time between posts! As you may have noticed from my Instagram account, I’ve been galavanting around The Big Apple. It’s been sooo exciting and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to travel despite my left knee still technically in rehab after surgery not long ago! Safe to say I was ecstatic when my Orthopaedic doctor gave me the green light to get on board a long haul flight. So with all the “running” around to see the sights while my hubby worked (poor hubby), the shopping, the health cafe and restaurant hunting I admit I had to put the the blog on the back burner. That being said, be sure to check back soon and read all about my adventure in New York right here.
But first, I want to talk about dairy.
I’ve had many a conversation with family and friends on the topic of whether we should or shouldn’t be consuming dairy as humans. It certainly makes for an interesting discussion and one that tends to ignite a deep rooted attachment…It’s also a topic I’m pretty passionate about. So much so, I’m splitting the post into two segments because it’s such a beast of a topic!
For me, as my health conscious shifts more toward understanding the origins of the food on my plate, (where it was grown, the distance it’s travelled, and how it was treated – plant or animal), I’m realising that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Just like so many others whose lives are being changed by the health food revolution, an awareness is growing and belief systems are being shaken up. And unfortunately for many, the truth is out about dairy, and it’s not pretty.
The Dairy Industry
In Australia, the dairy industry is worth $13 billion and there are approximately 6,700 dairy farmers around the country producing up to 9.5 billion litres of milk a year. Victoria leads the way with 61% dairy cow ownership.
During the 1900s the Australian dairy industry experienced massive growth thanks to technological advances, transportation and overseas export. By this stage most towns had fresh supply of milk, either via rail or shipment in and around the country. Mechanical milking became standard practice around 1930 according to the ABS, and overseas exports continued to grow exponentially. Nowadays, up to 800 cows are being milked in large dairys using similar machinery, operating 24/7…and there are about 2.2 million dairy cows nationwide! There’s no doubt, commercial production and overseas trading in this industry is big business, and not just in Australia. New Zealand and the EU are big dairy producers also.
We are told from a young age that dairy, specifically milk, is good for us. It’s richness in calcium helps strengthens our bones which in turn makes us strong. But as more and more research comes out about the effects of dairy, we have to ask ourselves whether we are getting the whole truth? Do the powers above really have our best interests at heart??
Some interesting points to ponder:
1. Drinking milk doesn’t mean better bone health
Interestingly it has been found that rates of osteoporosis are lower in countries that consume less dairy, such as Africa and Asia, unlike in Western countries. As Dr Amy Lanou, nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC stated in her study;
“The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.”
2. Increasing milk intake does not prevent bone fractures
Similar to the first point, increasing consumption of milk doesn’t necessarily protect against bone fractures. A 12 year study by the renowned Dr Walter Willet, professor of epidemiology and nutrition found that there was no evidence to prove higher amounts of milk or calcium prevented fractures.
3. Dairy may increase risk of cancer
It seems common these days to hear that a lot of our food source is linked to cancer, but there is undeniable evidence now that proves this link with dairy consumption. You can read one study in more detail here. Basically what they have found is that consuming dairy interferes with the body’s Insulin Growth Factor-01 (IGF-1), a known cancer promoter. Author, Bodo Melnik, states that;
“Given the tumor promoting effect of IGF-1, patients with tumorous disease should restrict consumption of milk and milk protein…”
The problem is, in order to detect a tumor, it needs to be at a decent size first…
Research also shows that that higher intake of dairy in the diet, may increase the risk of a man developing prostate cancer by 30-50%.
Likewise, breast cancer has been linked to dairy. In an article titled “Monsanto’s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer, Besides Other Cancers” Dr. S Epstein (MD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition) concludes that:
“Drinking rBGH (added hormone administered to cows to increase milk production) milk would thus be expected to significantly increase IGF-1 blood levels and consequently to increase risks of developing breast cancer and promoting its invasiveness.”
4. Dairy linked to hormonal imbalances
Part of the same study in point 3 by B. Melnik also mentions the link between dairy and acne;
“Milk consumption has already been identified as an aggrevating factor in the acne “epidemic” among adolescents, and preliminary successes have been reported with reduced milk consumption. It is even more important that excessive milk consumption can promote diseases commonly associated with a Western lifestyle.”
5. Lactose intolerance
It’s no secret that so many people are lactose intolerant, meaning they are unable to properly digest milk! It’s estimated that this is about 75% of the world’s population in fact. That’s a pretty staggering number. The reason for this is that most adults stop producing the enzyme lactase, which is required to breakdown the lactose (sugar in milk).
In order to keep up with demand, dairy cows need to be almost continually pregnant. This allows them to produce enough milk for the industry. As such, they are artificially impregnated on a yearly basis.
Just as a human mother produces enough milk for her baby, a cow must also produce for her young. The difference is, calves grow at a super fast rate and are almost 40kgs at birth on average! The cow’s milk is specifically made to assist in this growth. But rather than provide this milk for her young, calves are taken away from their distraught mothers so that the milk can be used for human consumption. Calves that are not reared to be veal or dairy cows later on are known as bobby calves. Majority of them are male and are essentially waste products of the industry taken out to slaughter.
It’s the treatment of bobby calves that has us as the consumer completely in the dark. If it weren’t for the animal welfare groups raising awareness it’s unlikely we would realise the full extent of what occurs behind closed doors. The core issue here is the unethical treatment of these calves who are often only a mere 5 days old before being poked, prodded, dragged by their hind legs and put into cramped conditions with no where to lay down, let alone to feed. Any animal that young needs to be fed at least twice a day, but this costs the industry money and since the calves are not intended to live long it’s no surprise that this is not the case.
It is also not mandatory for Australian abattoirs to have CCTV. Having this keeps the slaughterhouses accountable. Unfortunately without this, animal welfare laws can (and have been) broken allowing independent 3rd party audits of footage and practices to slip under the radar.
Since learning more about what has been uncovered in the dairy industry, I am finding it increasingly difficult to accept it’s consumption. Now, trust me, that was hard for me to try and live by for a while. Especially with such a soft spot for cheese in particular! But it has come down to understanding that there are so many other ethical alternatives that are even better for our bodies and just as enjoyable to eat that has enabled me to restrict dairy altogether.
This has been a long post, so please stay tuned for my next update where I will discuss some more personal experiences and provide some details on these alternatives!
If you are willing to stop eating just one group of foods, you will experience the most profound improvement in your health and appearance by eliminating all dairy.
– John A. McDougall, MD
Now to leave you with one of the best videos going around. Have you ever seen a cow jump for joy? Take a look at this beautiful footage captured when a group of 25 cows are finally released into green pastures…freedom, after a life of hardship.
As always, feel free to leave me a comment below.
Do you agree that dairy could be bad for you? Have you tried eliminating it from your diet and if so what were the results?