Milk: No Longer Recommended or Required
substantial body of scientific evidence raises concerns about health risks from cow’s
milk products. These problems relate to the proteins, sugar, fat, and contaminants in
dairy products, and the inadequacy of whole cow’s milk for infant nutrition.
Health risks from milk consumption are greatest for infants less than one year of age,
in whom whole cow’s milk can contribute to deficiencies in several nutrients,
including iron, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. The American Academy of Pediatrics1
recommends that infants under one year of age not receive whole cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk products are very low in iron,2 containing only about
one-tenth of a milligram (mg) per eight-ounce serving. To get the U.S. Recommended Daily
Allowance of 15 mg of iron, an infant would have to drink more than 31 quarts of milk per
day. Milk can also cause blood loss from the intestinal tract, which, over time, reduces
the body’s iron stores. Researchers speculate that the blood loss may be a reaction
to proteins present in milk.3 Pasteurization does not eliminate the problem.
Researchers from the University of Iowa recently wrote in the Journal of Pediatrics
that "in a large proportion of infants, the feeding of cow milk causes a substantial
increase of hemoglobin loss. Some infants are exquisitely sensitive to cow milk and can
lose large quantities of blood."3
Although concerns are greatest for children in the first year of life, there are also
health concerns related to milk use among older children and some problems associated with
cow’s milk formulas.
Milk Proteins and Diabetes
Several reports link insulin-dependent diabetes to a specific protein in dairy
products. This form of diabetes usually begins in childhood. It is a leading cause of
blindness and contributes to heart disease, kidney damage, and amputations due to poor
Studies of various countries show a strong correlation between the use of dairy
products and the incidence of diabetes.4 A recent report in the New England
Journal of Medicine5 adds substantial support to the long-standing theory
that cow’s milk proteins stimulate the production of the antibodies6
which, in turn, destroy the insulin-producing pancreatic cells.7 In the new
report, researchers from Canada and Finland found high levels of antibodies to a specific
portion of a cow’s milk protein, called bovine serum albumin, in 100 percent of the
142 diabetic children they studied at the time the disease was diagnosed. Non-diabetic
children may have such antibodies, but only at much lower levels. Evidence suggests that
the combination of a genetic predisposition and cow’s milk exposure is the major
cause of the childhood form of diabetes, although there is no way of determining which
children are genetically predisposed. Antibodies can apparently form in response to even
small quantities of milk products, including infant formulas.
Pancreatic cell destruction occurs gradually, especially after infections, which cause
the cellular proteins to be exposed to the damage of antibodies. Diabetes becomes evident
when 80 to 90 percent of the insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed.
Milk proteins are also among the most common causes of food allergies. Often, the cause
of the symptoms is not recognized for substantial periods of time.
Milk Sugar and Health Problems
Many people, particularly those of Asian and African ancestry, are unable to digest the