Hard to Swallow: How Meat Advocates Skewer Science
In 1974, a new book titled We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle alleged that NASA faked the lunar landing. In 2001, the Fox network broadcasted a documentary on the subject, and a follow-up survey showed that as many as one in five Americans doubted that Neil Armstrong’s boots had ever touched the moon’s surface.
Fast-forward to June 23, 2014. Time magazine’s cover proclaimed in large type “Eat Butter” and featured a big artistic swirl of the stuff. Several other publications—the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Scientist, and others—ran similar stories. The experts have been wrong all this time, the articles exclaimed. Fat isn’t unhealthy after all. Steak and pork chops won’t hurt you. Go ahead, dig in!
Of course, meat and dairy products are strongly linked to all manner of health problems, from heart disease to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. So what is behind the contrarian stories?
Eskimos and Maasai
Some of the articles were based on a new book called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Its author, Nina Teicholz, aimed to rehabilitate meat’s image, starting with Eskimo and Inuit populations of the far north. They have almost no heart disease, she held, despite a diet heavy on fish and blubber. Was she right or wrong?
Wrong. A study from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology showed that cardiovascular disease has been at least as frequent among northern native populations as for others.1 Strokes have been particularly common, and life expectancy overall was found to be about a decade shorter. Heart disease seemed rare among northern native populations mainly because reporting of medical problems has been spotty.
Teicholz then invoked the Maasai, an African population who are supposedly free of heart disease, despite a diet of meat, milk, and blood. Right or wrong?
Wrong. Researcher George V. Mann wrote in 1978, “We have collected hearts and aortae from 50 authenticated Maasai men who died of trauma and we found extensive atherosclerosis.”2
Okay, so the Maasai’s arteries are clogged with atherosclerotic plaques. But they don’t have heart attacks, Teicholz maintained; so meat and milk must be safe. Right or wrong?
Wrong. Plaques that form in arteries can rupture, sparking the formation of a clot that blocks blood flow like a cork in an artery, causing a heart attack. Teicholz’s notion was that the Maasai have plaques, but the plaques somehow never rupture, like time bombs that never explode. This is highly unlikely. A better explanation for the lack of reported heart attacks among the Maasai comes from their tragically short life expectancy. If life is cut short in one’s 40s by an accident or an infection, plaques have not had enough time to produce a heart attack. Moreover, in a rural population with limited medical care and poor medical records, heart attacks may not be recognized or reported.
Ancel Keys and the Seven Countries Study
Teicholz and other fat-backers zeroed in especially on Ancel Keys, the University of Minnesota researcher who identified the dangers of fatty foods in the 1950s. Looking at six countries with reliable dietary and medical records, Keys found a clear association between fat intake and heart disease deaths.3
But as Teicholz tells it, the rug was pulled out from under Ancel Keys by University of California at Berkeley statistician Jacob Yerushalmy.4 If Keys had zeroed in on more countries than just six, Yerushalmy held, the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease would have been weakened. In Teicholz’s words, it “nearly disappeared.” Right or wrong?
Wrong. Including additional countries, as Yerushalmy suggested, did muddy the correlation between fat and heart disease deaths, because many of these countries had poor data on diet or medical care at that time. Even so, the correlation between fat and heart deaths remained high, and the correlation between animal protein and heart deaths was even higher.
What really grabbed the headlines, however, was a meta-analysis published in early 2014 by the Annals of Internal Medicine.5 The meta-analysis combined 72 smaller studies, finding no overall effect of saturated fat on heart risks. According to the fat lobby, that proved that “bad” fat isn’t bad for your heart after all. Right or wrong?
Wrong. The Annals meta-analysis combined data from many studies. Some were designed to accurately show the dangerous effects of saturated fat. The designs of other studies did not make the hazards of saturated fat readily apparent. The net result was that the two types of studies canceled each other out, showing no risks. For example, take these two studies the Annals meta-analysis included:
The Oxford Vegetarian Study6 included 11,000 people whose diets ranged from vegan to ovolactovegetarian to nonvegetarian, with saturated fat intake ranging from a low of 6 percent of calories to more than 13 percent of calories. The study found that the fattiest diets tripled the risk of dying of heart disease, compared with diets that had very little saturated fat.
But in a Swedish study, no groups were on lower-fat diets. All of the study groups averaged more than 13 percent of their calories from saturated fat.Not surprisingly, the study could not identify any effect of avoiding saturated fat, because no groups in the study had a low fat intake.
Is Meat Safe or Not?
Of course, no one orders saturated fat at a restaurant or puts it on a shopping list. This fat is hidden in meat, dairy products, and other foods. And here, the evidence is crystal clear. Meat-eaters are heavier than people who avoid meat. They have higher blood pressure, higher risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and many other problems. And in carefully controlled studies, when people take meat out of their diets, they lose weight, and cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease all improve. So while researchers debate the statistics on saturated fat, it pays to remember that getting away from meat is a healthy choice.
So how could the media have been duped? As John McDougall, M.D., said, people are always looking for good news about bad habits.
1. Fodor GJ, Helis E, Yazdekhasti N, Vohnout B. “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story: facts or wishful thinking? Can J Cardiol. 2014;30:864-868.
2. Mann GV. The Masai, milk, and the yogurt factor: an alternative explanation. Atherosclerosis. 1978;29:265.
3. Keys A. Atherosclerosis: a problem in newer public health. J Mt Sinai Hosp NY. 1953;20:118-139.
4. Yerushalmy J, Hilleboe HE. Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease: a methodologic note. NY State J Med. 1957;57:2343-2354.
5. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406.
6. Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJA. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:525S-531S.
7. Wallstrom P, Sonestedt E, Hlebowicz J, et al. Dietary fiber and saturated fat intake associations with cardiovascular disease differ by sex in the Malmo Diet and Cancer Cohort: a prospective study. PLoS One. 2012;7:e31637.
The Dairy and Meat Industry again and again.
Tofu. It was just a mixed diet all together. In that setting, with carbohydrate intake kept moderately low, saturated fat did not raise Apo-B. It didn’t raise the number of LDL particles. It didn’t increase inflammatory markers either. It didn’t raise any of the really meaningful basis of heart disease risk.
So that was an interesting study which showed that eating more saturated fat does not increase heart disease risk. But then, there’s that newer study you’ve done that involves saturated fat and red meat. And it’s a fascinating study because of some clues it gives about how health may be affected by both saturated fat and red meat. Right now there’s a great deal of concern that eating red meat may be dangerous for people’s health. But the question is why. In your recent study, you hint at a reason why.
We published a paper this past fall in the Journal of Nutrition, in which we reported the results of the study that we carried out as a followup to the one we just discussed. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that the first study was funded the National Dairy Council, and we used dairy fat and dairy products liberally in that study, since they’re high in saturated fats. The second, more recent study was funded by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association because they felt, and frankly we felt at the time, based on the evidence we had, that feeding a high saturated fat and low carbohydrate intake would have the same benefit on a high beef diet as as on a mixed protein diet, and bottom line is that when we did the study, we found out that was not the case.
So using what you learned from your 2006 study of a mixed-protein diet and high saturated fats, in this new study, you kept carbohydrates somewhat low, and fats somewhat higher, just as you did in 2006. Really, the main difference was that this time, you didn’t feed a variety of protein sources. Your test subjects just ate lots and lots of beef. And this time, you found that “healthy” blood work depended not only on what kind of protein people ate, but what kind of fat the people WITH the protein. So if you get out your Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe, what were the clues and what did they mean?
Skim Milk is 5% Fat and 57% Sugar. So what?
Whole Milk is 50% Fat and 35% Sugar. So What?
5 Health Claims About Cow’s Milk That You Need to Quit Believing
Let’s get to the low down and dirty on dairy in a few words: it’s a bad choice! But don’t let us be the one to tell you that. How about Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Neal Barnard, T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Mercola,Dr. Joel Kahn, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman?
Forbes magazine even detailed a study conducted in Britain at the end of last month that proves dairy milk is a bad choice. The milk drinkers in the study were not only more likely to die of cancer and heart disease, but also at a higher risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Then there’s the issue of vitality and wellness. Dr. Joel Kahn, a vegan cardiologist, explains that a life without dairy (and meat, fish, and eggs) is full of vitality, choices, and heart healthy nutrition.
Milk Myths From Mass Media Marketing
But the mass amount of marketing from the media would like you to believe otherwise. The “Got Milk?” campaign slogan is still booming with popularity as The National Dairy Council uses celebrities to promote the use of milk in our culture. Children are told they need at least three servings a day to grow up big and strong, and trendy fitness foods like Muscle Milk and Power Bars are promoted to athletes looking to pump up their muscles with some protein. But let’s get real here: we don’t need milk to be strong, healthy, or fit.
1. It’s Natural
Since more people are aware of dairy milk’s dangers these days, milk marketers are attacking non-dairy milk choices as unnatural or inferior sources. But let’s think about this for a minute: how is processing some almonds into milk any less natural than mechanically milking a pregnant cow that’s been impregnated multiple times a day (via artificial insemination, aka raped) who has udders that are likely infected and filled with bacteria? Keep in mind that that same cow’s children she gives birth to are stripped away from her at the moment of birth. That milk has to be extensively cleaned and heated (pasteurized), which destroys some the nutrients actually found in milk, so some nutrients are added back into the milk after processing. Hmm..doesn’t sound too natural to us!
2. It’s a Good Source of Biological Protein
Everyone knows plants contain protein by now, so the new health claim regarding milk and protein is that it’s higher in its BV (biological value.) What a stretch! Don’t believe the myth that you need mammary liquid from another animal to get enough protein. If you don’t need milk from your mother after a certain age, why would use need breast milk from an animal? Plenty of plants are packed with protein and offer plenty of beneficial protein with none of the harmful side effects of dairy. You don’t even have to combine foods (like rice and beans) as we once thought to get enough. Try some of our favorite sources.
3. It Prevents Osteoporosis
Cow’s milk has been found to promote osteoporosis, not prevent it. Because dairy is so acidic and inflammatory, it’s been found to cause excessive bone loss, debunking the myth that calcium from dairy is the best option. What builds your bones? Greens, nuts, seeds, seaweed, beans, and legumes- all of our favorite foods!
4. It Keeps You Strong
Athletes often believe they need whey protein, milk, yogurt, or dairy-based fitness foods to keep them strong and build lean muscle. Again, wrong! Thanks to plants that encourage muscle strength, decrease inflammation, and promote greater satiety than dairy-based products, not one bit of dairy is needed to keep you strong. Learn How to Get Stronger on a Plant-Based Diet and how this vegan bodybuilder gets fit and buff without one bit of dairy in his diet.
5. It Keeps You Thin
The newest trendy health claim about dairy is that it promotes weight loss and a smaller waistline. You don’t need dairy to maintain a healthy weight or even lose weight. In fact, weight loss is one of the first benefits most people notice when they approach a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. While small amounts of dairy may not lead to weight gain, it isn’t a ‘must-have’ for weight loss, to say the least. And while a junk-food plant-based diet isn’t the answer to a healthy weight either, no one can argue that a balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet will help you reach a healthy weight naturally.
How To Go Dairy-Free:
Though dairy is one of the hardest foods for people to give up, it’s completely doable. Pick up some non-dairy milk, coconut or almond yogurt in place of dairy yogurt, try a vegan cheese or make your own, and go for coconut butter or non-dairy butter in place of regular butter.
Here are some helpful resources to ease you into the transition away from dairy easily and deliciously:
- How Almonds Support Your Body When You Go Dairy-Free
- 5 Calcium-Rich Lunch Combos to Keep Your Bones Strong, No Dairy Required
- 5 Ways to Battle Those Cheese Cravings When You Go Vegan
- Who Needs Dairy When You Can Make Healthier Ice Cream With These Clean Foods?
- The Importance of Calcium and How to Get Enough Without Without Dairy
- 5 Easy Ways to Wean Your Way Off Dairy
So while the popular endorsed saying might not be “Got Kale?”, we can change that when we continue to ignore the media hype surrounding the ridiculous health claims given to cow’s milk. Check out our entire dairy-free living section to read up on our best tips and get some food tips for working dairy-free calcium into your diet and join us in a dairy-free, delicious lifestyle!
Image Source: bluewaikiki.com/Flickr
Here’s Why Cow’s Milk Doesn’t Do a Body Good
Milk marketing campaigns will have you believe that if you don’t consume the recommended three 8 ounce servings of dairy a day, that likely, you’ll fall over and die from a bone fracture, develop osteoporosis, or become puny and weak. But use your brain- dairy milk was made for cows by nature to make them big and bulky- something I doubt any of us are aspiring to.
The Low Down and Dirty on Dairy
Cow’s milk also contains the milk protein casein, a natural drug-like chemical found in milk that has addictive properties. This is helpful for baby cows since it keeps them coming back for more breast milk from their mothers, which they need to be healthy and strong. But do we need casein? Obviously not, since this protein has been linked to cancer, food addictions, diabetes, and more.
Also consider that over 10,000 years ago, when animal domestication began, no one consumed cow’s milk to get their calcium, Vitamin D, or protein – they ate mostly plants for these benefits. Though breastfeeding is recommended for humans (and all other mammals), we weren’t designed to consume milk from our species after a certain age. Why in the world would we continue to breastfeed from another species? This is essentially what we’re doing when we drink cow’s milk, mind you. Only pregnant cows produce milk, and many are impregnated multiple times a day due to the high increase for milk demand in this country. With that not only comes animal cruelty, but also extra hormones from the pregnant, lactating cows. Yum, right?
Why Dairy Milk is Not a Health Drink
Millions of people suffer from lactose intolerance a day, therefore avoiding dairy. And guess what? They’re absolutely fine. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that’s not only hard to digest, but also high in calories. A glass of skim milk is not a low calorie beverage, despite what marketing claims would have you believe. It still contains 12-13 grams of sugar, all from lactose. This not only contributes to higher insulin levels, but also added calorie intake. A glass of unsweetened almond milk on the other hand? You’re looking at 30 calories, 0 grams of sugar, 50 percent more calcium than dairy milk, and only 2 grams of fat, all from the healthy almonds the milk is made from. Which do you think is the real health drink?
What About Bone Health?
In case you haven’t heard, dairy milk has consistently been linked to causing osteoporosis and bone loss. A study published by JAMA Pediatrics this year, followed over 100,000 men and women for more than two decades, from their teenage years into their adulthood. Those who consumed dairy milk were found to have no greater protection against fractures or bone loss compared to those who didn’t consume dairy milk. However, a study in THE BMJ found that increased dairy consumption was associated with a much greater risk of bone fractures and death. Well now, there’s something you won’t see on the “Got Milk?” campaign slogan!
Something Else The Dairy Industry is Hiding
Aside from health, let’s talk about the low down and dirty on the environment- something most people don’t think about when turning up a glass of moo milk. There are 270 million dairy cows in the United States used for milk production. Cow’s manure and dairy milk processing contributes to higher levels of CO2 from greenhouse gas emissions, which also has a negative impact on climate change. This not only means we’re breathing all of these gases and emissions from manure back in, but also means that the manure, pesticides, hormones, and herbicides used for feeding dairy cowsare being dumped back into our local water resources by irresponsible dairy milk producers.
Don’t trust a milk label- it’s designed to make you think you need milk to be healthy and you don’t.Protein and calcium are found abundantly in plants, and plant-based milks are an incredible alternative to dairy-based milk. Ditching dairy– now that’s what really does a body good.
Image Source: Andrew Magill/Flickr
This content provided above is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
10 Fascinating Facts About Cow’s Milk
A side from hearing that cow’s milk helps bones grow strong, what else do you “know” about it? In the USA, we grow up hearing all about the benefits of dairy milk. We are told we need to drink it to be healthy. But, do we really? Are there any cold, hard facts about milk that contradict this health claim? There certainly are! Here are ten fascinating facts about cow’s milk.
1. Dairy has been linked to a host of health problems!
2. High dairy consumption means a higher rate of osteoporosis.
The Journal of Nutrition/elizalO/Flickr
3. Despite the happy imagery we often see of cows in the grass, dairy farms pollute the Earth.
4. “Dairy Farms?” Or maybe we can call them slaughter houses?
5. The amount of lactose intolerant people is more numerous than you think!
6. Sorry cows – soybeans are far superior to your milk.
7. Got plants?
One Green Planet/Wikimedia Commons
8. It’s strange when you really stop to think about it, right?
One Green Planet/Chris Booth/ Flickr
9. Would you like some pus with that glass of milk?
Heise Health Clinic/Wikimedia Commons
10. Movin’ on over to the green side!
Wall Street Journal/Wikimedia Commons
Now that you’ve read the facts, click here for dozens of brands of plant-based milks and hundreds of options to choose from. You’re bound to find one to meet your individual tastes and nutritional needs! Then, check out these fantastic nut milk recipes.
This content provided above is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
12 Frightening Facts About Milk
A large observational cohort study in Sweden found that women consuming more than 3 glasses of milk a day had almost twice the mortality over 20 years compared to those women consuming less than one glass a day. In addition, the high milk-drinkers did not have improved bone health. In fact, they had more fractures, particularly hip fractures.
Interestingly, the study also found that fermented milk products (cheese and yogurt) significantly decreased mortality and fractures among these women. For each serving of these fermented dairy products, the rate of mortality and hip fractures was reduced by 10-15%. The researchers pin the negative effects of liquid milk on D-galactose, a breakdown product of lactose that has been shown to be pro-inflammatory. Milk has much more D-galactose than does cheese or yogurt.
I am surprised that this study garnered so much mass media attention upon its release, as it highlights the deleterious side of milk, but I also think it is important to keep the findings in context. And when it comes to the health effects of dairy, the context is not so pretty:
- In observational studies both across countries and within single populations, higher dairy intake has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer (cited in ).
- Observational cohort studies have shown higher diary intake is linked to higher ovarian cancer risk (cited in ).
- Cow’s milk protein may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes through a process called molecular mimicry.
- Across countries, populations that consume more dairy have higher rates of multiple sclerosis.
- In interventional animal experiments and human studies, dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels. Increased levels of IGF-1 has now been implicated in several cancers.
- In interventional animal experiments and human experiments, dairy protein has been shown to promote increased cholesterol levels (in the human studies and animal studies) and atherosclerosis (in the animal studies).
- The primary milk protein (casein) promotes cancer initiated by a carcinogen in experimental animal studies.
- D-galactose has been found to be pro-inflammatory and actually is given to create animal models of aging.
- Higher milk intake is linked to acne.
- Milk intake has been implicated in constipation and ear infections (cited in ).
- Milk is perhaps the most common self-reported food allergen in the world.
- Much of the world’s population cannot adequately digest milk due to lactose intolerance.
So despite being very pleased that the public is glimpsing some of the evidence against milk in this recent study (though they also could be hearing about the benefits of cheese and yogurt from this same study), I think there is a far more powerful story; a story that takes into account the largely hidden context of diet and dairy research. There is a wealth of indirect evidence of very serious possible harms of consuming dairy foods, and, on the flip side, the evidence that milk prevents fractures is scant.
As we look beyond the headlines, it is hard to think that we should continue to consume the lactation fluid that exists in nature to nourish and rapidly grow calves.
- Michaelsson K, Wolk A, Langenskiold S, et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. Bmj 2014;349:g6015.
- Lanou AJ. Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Counterpoint. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2009;89:1638S-42S.
- Dahl-Jorgensen K, Joner G, Hanssen KF. Relationship between cows’ milk consumption and incidence of IDDM in childhood. Diabetes Care 1991;14:1081-3.
- Malosse D, Perron H, Sasco A, Seigneurin JM. Correlation between milk and dairy product consumption and multiple sclerosis prevalence: a worldwide study. Neuroepidemiology 1992;11:304-12.
- Key TJ. Diet, insulin-like growth factor-1 and cancer risk. Proc Nutr Soc 2011:1-4.
- Kritchevsky D. Dietary protein, cholesterol and atherosclerosis: a review of the early history. The Journal of nutrition 1995;125:589S-93S.
- Gardner CD, Messina M, Kiazand A, Morris JL, Franke AA. Effect of two types of soy milk and dairy milk on plasma lipids in hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2007;26:669-77.
- Youngman LD, Campbell TC. Inhibition of aflatoxin B1-induced gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase positive (GGT+) hepatic preneoplastic foci and tumors by low protein diets: evidence that altered GGT+ foci indicate neoplastic potential. Carcinogenesis 1992;13:1607-13.
- Spencer EH, Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. Int J Dermatol 2009;48:339-47.
- Caffarelli C, Baldi F, Bendandi B, Calzone L, Marani M, Pasquinelli P. Cow’s milk protein allergy in children: a practical guide. Italian journal of pediatrics 2010;36:5.
- Rona RJ, Keil T, Summers C, et al. The prevalence of food allergy: a meta-analysis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:638-46.
Cow’s Milk May Actually Be Bad For Your Bones!
Drinking three glasses of milk a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures, and correlates with a higher mortality rate, according to a new study by Michaëlsson K, Wolk A, Langenskiöld S, et al. in the The British Medical Journal. The BMJ explains, “Michaëlsson and colleagues suggest that milk is harmful because a metabolite of lactose, D-galactose, mimics aging through inflammation and oxidative stress in animal models,” and they call for a more definitive answer on the relationship between dairy and mortality.
With campaigns like the now-defunct Got Milk? the dairy industry has been soap-boxing for decades about the importance of dairy for calcium intake and bone strength. We’ve been bombarded with the idea that dairy is our most important nutritional supplement, and the best thing for a growing child. Not true. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine shows this is only the latest in a history of studies showing not only that milk fails to protect bone health, but that plant-based nutrition is more effective for disease prevention. One of the best ways to increase bone density is through exercise.
This news may not come as a surprise to readers, who know calcium and dairy need to break up, but it is impressive because of its scope. The researchers followed 61,433 women for over 20 years, and 45,339 men for 11 years. The scale of the study should satisfy concerns of bias, and spur the conversation about how marketing campaigns have substituted for real health advice, at least in the United States. We can only hope that findings of this magnitude will provide the push for government health programs to change their policies, from the food pyramid to The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal food subsidy program for low income nursing mothers and young children, emphasizing animal-source nutrition.
From children told to drink milk with their lunches to the elderly attempting to fight bone loss with cow’s milk, the system has to change. The good news is that studies like this provide both proof and reason.
Image Source: free photos & art/Flickr