Think a glass of cow’s milk is harmless? Think again. Switch4Good has consulted medical experts to reveal the many health hazards of dairy foods. We’re pulling back the curtain to expose the truth behind the dairy industry’s deceptive marketing campaigns. Learn the facts, ditch dairy, and improve your health.
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Cow’s Milk Allergy
Did you know that cow’s milk allergies might be more common than allergies to peanuts, shellfish, and eggs? Cow’s milk allergy mostly affects infants and children, but also as many as 1 in 13 adults! Further, a meta-analysis of 51 studies on the prevalence of food allergies found that up to 17% of people self-report an allergy to cow’s milk.
In addition to the immediate symptoms that can occur, such as wheezing, hives, vomiting, and life-threatening anaphylaxis, some symptoms can actually occur up to several days following dairy consumption, including eczema and acid reflux. This means people may not even realize their symptoms could be an allergic reaction to the cow’s milk they consumed days prior. Unfortunately, there is no proven method for reversing a cow’s milk allergy, which is why doctors recommend avoiding dairy products entirely. To learn more on what doctors and nutritionists think about ingesting cow’s milk, click here, and read up on the 4 Signs That You May Be Allergic to Dairy by Switch4Good expert, Dr. Vivian Chen.
Our tip to you: avoid all forms of dairy to manage symptoms, including milk from sheep and goats. Click here to learn about alternatives to cow’s milk.
How can cow’s milk be considered a health food when 65% of the world’s population is intolerant to it? According to the National Institute of Health, 65% of adults experience dairy intolerance, a generally lifelong inherited condition characterized by varying levels of difficulty digesting lactose (dairy sugar). This condition is commonly referred to as lactose intolerance.
Once someone who is lactose intolerant consumes cow’s milk or other lactose-containing dairy products, symptoms can happen fast! Within 30 minutes to two hours, things can get quite uncomfortable. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea. No one wants that!
Our tip to you: completely avoid lactose by passing on the milk, cheese, butter, cream, and other dairy products. Click here to read Switch4Good expert Dr. Angie Sadeghi’s breakdown of lactose intolerance. If you think you might be lactose intolerant, take our quiz to find out!
Don’t be fooled by advertisements claiming that cow’s milk helps strengthen bones – the research tells a different story. A 2018 meta-analysis involving over 250,000 subjects found no link between drinking cow’s milk and a reduced risk of bone fractures. In fact, according to a 12-year prospective study, drinking 2+ glasses of cow’s milk per day increased women’s risk of hip fracture by 45% compared to those drinking 1 glass or less per week. Furthermore, those getting the USDA “recommended” 3+ glasses per day had a whopping 60% greater hip fracture rate. Men are not in the clear either. Another 22-year prospective study found that each glass of milk men drank per day as teenagers was associated with a 9% increased risk of hip fracture in old age.
Yup, cow’s milk could actually make bones more brittle, not stronger. Researchers suggest the milk sugar D-galactose promotes oxidative stress and inflammation, which is linked to loss of muscle and bone. Additionally, while phosphorus is essential for calcium absorption, too much can be counterproductive. Some researchers postulate that the high amounts of phosphorus in cow’s milk may actually lead to calcium resorption from the bones.
Our tip to you: for truly strong bones eat more fruits and vegetables! The foods highest in calcium and 50% more bioavailable than the calcium in cow’s milk are almonds, tahini, kidney beans, and most dark, leafy greens. Diets higher in fruits and vegetables have been shown to lead to denser bones in younger and older adults.
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Guess what? Cow’s milk and other dairy products can exacerbate symptoms of asthma including increased mucus production.
Why might this be? Asthmatics need more antioxidants to protect their vulnerable lungs, as they have far fewer antioxidants than most. By eating more foods that contain these antioxidants, they can reduce the chance of worsening symptoms by half! Sounds so simple! But not for those who still consume dairy products. Unfortunately, there are not many antioxidants in dairy, so relying on dairy products may actually lead to worsening symptoms.
Our tip to you: try some vanilla soymilk. Vanilla soymilk contains more than double the antioxidant content of cow’s milk and yogurt. This may explain why an astounding 92% of people with asthma who cut out dairy and other animal foods for one year improved their symptoms enough to go from 4-5 medications to just 1! To learn more about how to include more antioxidant rich foods into your diet click here.
Research links cow’s milk to increased risk of ovarian cancer. In a study examining the incidence rates of ovarian cancer in 40 countries across 5 continents, researchers found they were most closely correlated with cow’s milk intake. The researchers suggest that women who drank just 1 or more glasses of whole cow’s milk per day were at three times greater risk for ovarian cancer. Skim milk has also been tied to this deadly disease.
Our tip to you: Eat more vegetables! Although dairy consumption can increase risk of ovarian cancer, vegetables can reduce it. Eating 3 or more servings of vegetables per day can decrease ovarian cancer risk by 39%.
Research links cow’s milk to increased risk of prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, American men have a 1 in 9 chance of developing prostate cancer – second most common to skin cancer. Drinking cow’s milk each day can increase a boy’s risk of advanced prostate cancer threefold! The same can be said for adults. A study of men across 42 countries revealed that cow’s milk was more closely linked to the development of prostate cancer than any other food. In fact, a primary research study found a 60% higher relative risk for those men consuming 2 cow’s milk servings per day compared to zero servings per day. Why might this be? Some researchers suggest it may be in part due to the high dietary phosphate content of cow’s milk, while others suggest that cow’s milk proteins can activate an enzyme whose signaling pathway can initiate prostate cancer development.
Our tip to you: Research shows that men who ditched dairy and opted for a plant-based diet were able to cut their risk of prostate cancer by 35%. Additionally, consuming the recommended 3 glasses of milk daily for 12 weeks increased blood IGF-1 levels by 10% compared to plant-based calcium and protein, which had zero effect. We suggest ditching dairy to lower your risk.
Research links cow’s milk to increased risk of breast cancer. A study of breast cancer cases which surveyed 40 countries across five continents revealed that cow’s milk was the second food most correlated with breast cancer (the first was meat). The cow’s milk we consume today is produced from pregnant cows, in which estrogen and progesterone levels are elevated. This can have adverse effects on the body and potentially stimulate the development of breast cancer. Furthermore, research suggests that cow’s milk increases our circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is a growth-stimulating hormone. Since unregulated cell growth is a characteristic of cancer, it’s best to avoid excess IGF-1 and ditch cow’s milk.
Our tip to you: Don’t be afraid to consume soy! Circulating estrogen levels decreased by 50% in women who drank soy milk every day and stayed down for one month even after they stopped drinking it. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens which not only can act as estrogen blockers but also inhibit breast cancer cells from producing estrogen in the first place.
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It is common knowledge that proper hydration is essential to any form of exercise, but chocolate milk is not the drink of champions. Cow’s milk, even “no hormone added,” “grass-fed,” and “locally produced,” contains 15 different sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. That does not even include the other 60 natural hormones found in cow’s milk and the synthetic hormones many dairy cows are given to boost milk production. Consuming these large amount of hormones can lead to a wide array of unwanted side effects and even cancer. To learn more about the toxic effects of hormones in today’s cow’s milk from Dr. Vivian Chen, click here.
Cow’s milk and dairy products are full of estrogen hormones. These products supply 60-80% of the estrogen in our diets. How can this be? Well, modern genetically-improved dairy cows, such as the Holstein, are usually fed a combination of grass and concentrates, allowing them to lactate during the latter half of pregnancy, even at 220 days of gestation. During this period, estrogen levels are highly elevated. In fact, just 30-60 minutes after drinking milk, estrogen levels can increase by 26%! Numerous studies have found an association between excess estrogen and increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, fatigue, and weight gain.
Our tip to you: Pomegranate juice! Pomegranates contain aromatase inhibitors like ellagitannins which inhibit estrogen production. It is also a great anti-inflammatory food. Compared to drinking a placebo, pomegranate juice can increase Olympic weightlifting performance by 8%, decrease how hard training felt by 4%, and decrease muscle soreness by 13%! And don’t be afraid of soy. Soy actually contains phytoestrogens which act as estrogen blockers. To learn more about the dairy-free athletes in the Switch4Good Coalition and what they eat and drink, click here!
We are always trying to find ways to decrease our stress levels. We all know the terrible effects stress can have on our minds and bodies. Stress is often controlled by a hormone known as cortisol. Well, this stress hormone is consistently found in cow’s milk. To make matters worse, high cortisol levels cause us to store belly fat and are linked to lower muscle mass and bone density. Consuming excess cortisol is definitely not going to help us lower our stress levels, and no one needs more stress in their lives.
Our tip to you: While dairy-laden meals have been shown to increase cortisol, research shows that barley soup and vegetable stir-frys with rice can lower levels of this high stress hormone.
INSULIN-LIKE GROWTH FACTOR-1
Milk naturally contains a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), a growth stimulating hormone. The whey protein naturally present in milk further stimulates our body’s production of IGF-1 by a pathway called mTOR. We need IGF-1 to grow and build muscle, but excess IGF-1 has been linked to advanced ageing, diabetes and cancer. This is due to the IGF-1 receptors that are present on most cancer cells. Excess IGF-1 can bind to these receptors and stimulate cancer cells to grow more quickly. Due to its growth-promoting characteristics, IGF-1 has also been associated with weight gain, unwanted hair growth, and acne.
Our tip to you: IGF-1 is a goldilocks hormone whereby you don’t want too much, and you don’t want too little. Exercise and, in particular, strength training is a great way to naturally boost your IGF-1 levels, without causing an excess. Removing dairy products is a simple and effective way to control IGF-1 and reduce your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and acne. Watch this video to hear from Dr. Milton Mills about why cow’s milk does NOT do a body good!
Cardiovascular Health and Inflammation
Years of research has told us that consuming foods high in saturated fats, like dairy products, can be detrimental to our cardiovascular health. Most recently, a 2018 study published in Laboratory Investigation found changes in size and shape of red blood cells just one hour after consuming a high-fat milkshake, setting the stage for heart disease.
Not only do dairy foods contain a significant amount of saturated fat, but also more than 2% of dairy’s calories come from trans fats, a substance deemed as the most harmful fat in our food supply by the Institute of Medicine. So harmful, in fact, that they have warned the public that these fats should be completely omitted from our diets. Trans fats cripple arteries, cutting blood flow to our muscles by 29% compared to saturated fat, and promote inflammation and heart disease.
Finally, cow’s milk products, especially cheese, contain a sugar molecule known as Neu5gc. This molecule is not recognized by the human body, so when it enters the bloodstream, our bodies create antibodies to combat it. Initiation of this immune response can lead to widespread inflammation, which is a catalyst for many diseases, including heart disease.
Our tip to you: While the dairy industry is adamant about promoting chocolate milk as a recovery beverage, this sugary drink is far from a health food. What actually stimulates cardiovascular health, athletic performance, and a speedy recovery? Antioxidants, which combat damage done to your cells during your workout. And those are found in plant sources, not dairy food. So, eat more berries instead of dairy! Berries boost artery function and soothe inflammation. This will help you perform better and recover faster. Click here to learn more from our Switch4Good dietitian, Matt Ruscigno about antioxidants and athletic performance.
Type 2 Diabetes
Dairy products, including full-fat milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and ice cream cause our bodies to produce large amounts of insulin, which works against type 2 diabetes prevention.
Research has found whey protein from cow’s milk to be highly insulinotropic, meaning that it causes the pancreas to produce excess insulin. Although a cup of milk has a low-glycemic index, drinking a cup of milk with other low-glycemic index foods was found to increase insulin production by an astounding 300%. While parents are giving their children milk for calcium, what they don’t know is that a study found that 8-year-old boys who were given skim milk for just one week more than doubled their insulin production.
When our bodies create too much insulin our tissues become desensitized to it, which can lead to insulin resistance. If not managed, glucose will remain in the blood, resulting in hyperglycemia, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
Our tip to you: Both observational and interventional studies show that a plant-based nutritional approach to diet can improve weight control and blood sugar levels. Plant foods are perfect for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes! Click here for some mouth-watering dairy-free and plant based recipes!
What Is Dairy Not Telling You?
The dairy industry uses the mainstream media to promote cow’s milk, but we’re not convinced. Our team of scientists look beyond the commercials and headlines to analyze the studies and debunk these false dairy claims.