Is milk bad for you?

Posted: November 8, 2011 in thinking tuesday

Welcome for another edition of “Thinking Tuesday” where I force you to think about what you eat from a scientific point of view.  Like a poor man’s Alton Brown.

In the past I’ve blogged about the cholesterol in eggs, bottled water battles, food stamps for fast food, and random nutrition thoughts.  Today on the docket is: DAIRY!

In school last week we had to write a research paper on a controversial health issue.  It was a short paper that we did in class, and I chose to do mine on dairy.  Many people, especially minorities, are lactose intolerant.  I personally choose to avoid milk and limit dairy products.  Just a little cheese please! Kyle drinks milk, however I only give him organic. Yes, the $4 organic.

Based on my research I thought here were some things that might be “food for thought” during your next trip to the store. 
The two main issues at hand are the increased estrogen levels in milk and the use of rBGH. rBGH is not allowed in European or Canadian milk and I CANNOT understand why the US allows us to drink it. As I said this was a quick research paper, so if you know more than me or have an opposing viewpoint please share.

  • The hormone levels in the milk consumed today are far greater than that which was consumed by our ancestors.
    • According to Dr. Ganmaa Davaasambuu, a working scientist for the Harvard School of Public Health, dairy accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the estrogen we consume.  
    • That is of note, because increased consumption of estrogen has been linked to an increased risk of hormone dependent cancers such as breast and testicular cancers. 
    • Increased estrogen consumption means a greater risk of developing such cancers, and today’s milk has more estrogen then ever.  
    • One reason for this increase in estrogen is that cows on today’s modern dairy farms are milked about 300 days a year.  This means the cows are milked when they are pregnant and their estrogen levels are naturally higher.  Traditionally cows were only milked 5 months out of the year. Studies on Mongolian children showed an increase in estrogen levels after drinking US produced milk for one month as compared to Mongolian milk. 
  • The United States uses the controversial recombinant bovine growth hormone in cows and we conversely drink it in our milk. 
    • European nations and Canada have banned the use the rBGH in their milks to prevent their citizens from the dangers of IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor.
    • Excess levels of IGF-1 have been increasingly linked to human cancer development and growth.
    • When cows are treated with rBGH they produce more milk and more IGF-1. 
    • When humans consume IGF-1 it is not digested, but rather absorbed across the intestinal wall.  Research suggests that it can then be absorbed into the blood stream and affect hormone levels.
    • The research against rBGH was so compelling that in the early 1990’s Europe and Canada banned milk from cows given rBGH.  A current study by the European Commission’s international 16-member scientific committee concluded that the excess levels of IGF-1 pose serious risks of breast and prostate cancer. “Experimental evidence for an association between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer is supported by epidemiological — evidence arising from recently published cohort studies.” (Cancer Prevention Coalition, 1999) 
    • It is worth noting that IGF-1 is not destroyed in pasteurization.  Its levels actually increase.
From Chipotle’s website.
Advocates for milk site the many nutritional benefits such as calcium and Vitamin D as benefits that outweigh the risks, which they claim have not been proven in significant studies.

So for you Americans out there how do you feel?  Does it make you think about what you give your kids?

What do you think about Thinking Tuesday and dangerous dairy?

Love and udders, 

Carissa & Kyle


Cancer Prevention Coalition. (1999, March 21). Press Room. Retrieved November 3,       2011, from Cancer Prevention Coalition:
Gandhi, R. Consumer Concerns about Hormones in Food. Cornell University.

Ireland, C. (2006, December 7). Hormones in Milk can be Dangerous. Harvard Gazette .

Organic Consumers Association. (n.d.). Beef Hormones Linked to PreMature onset of Puberty and Cancer. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from Organic Consumers Association:

  1. I feel that cutting out dairy completely from my or my daughter's diet would potentially cause as much damage as it would prevent. Milk is an invaluable source of both calcium and Vitamin D which are essential for bone health. For a family with a history of osteoporosis these nutrients are essential.I think the hormone levels are high and unnecessary but I have no interest in switching to soy or almond. So many things these days can cause cancer that I think we would find very few things we could safely consume. Plus there is conflicting data for pretty much every claim. So hard to determine the 'facts'!

  2. I agree – the nutrients in milk are invaluable. I do know that for little ones breast milk is best if possible and organic milk is the way I go. It can be more expensive, however Horizon sometimes offers coupons. Since I don't have kids it's good to see someone else's viewpoint. Great thoughts.

  3. Victoria says:

    I'm not much of a milk person either (it tends to make me sick), but I only buy organic milk too. Trying to get knocked up (and having it take so long) has REALLY made me start thinking about what I am putting in my body. The hormones in mass produced meat have also affected the amount of meat I'm now eating. Now that I know there are other sources of protein, I'm backing off the cheap-o chicken.

  4. I'm right there with ya victoria on the "cheap-o" chicken. Isn't it crazy what we can do to our food supply? What type of meat are you buying? I'm trying to balance health with large, hungry husband, and wallet!

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