Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Is the Problem with Dairy?

Source:  USDA

As those of you that read often know we eat this way for health. For the majority of my life I was omnivore and sometimes vegetarian. My vegetarian phases never lasted for long (until now) because it was too much trouble making multiple meals. Now that both my husband and I eat this way we are committed to this lifestyle.

I get many questions from people about why we have eliminated dairy. They seem to be under the impression that meat is the problem but dairy is fine. This really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Since I get so many email questions about this I wanted to write something for the blog for everyone.

For those of you that still eat dairy I wanted to share what I have learned about the problems with consuming it. Before you say to yourself that you don’t have cancer so it doesn’t matter please remember the statistics. At last count 42% of us will battle cancer sometime in our lives. It typically takes years for cancer to grow. If we can make dietary changes now maybe we can prevent cancer from being able to grow in the first place. It is much better to prevent cancer rather than to try to treat it once it has been able to grow.

1. Most dairy is high in cholesterol which is very bad for everyone but particularly for people with cancer. High serum cholesterol is associated with more deadly metastases. Conversely low cholesterol is associated with improved patient outcomes. This is a reason to not only eliminate dairy, but all animal products.

2. Consuming dairy is associated with higher levels of estradiol. This particular hormone stimulates tumor growth in quite a few cancer lines, typically the hormonally dependent ones.

3. Milk contains lactose which tends to raise blood sugar. If you have cancer you don’t want to increase your blood sugar. Cancer is a sugar feeder. Anything you can do to keep it from feeding is a good thing.

4. Milk is made up of two types of protein, 80% casein and 20% whey. Casein has been shown to accelerate the growth of tumors in lab experiments. Whey protein has been shown to inhibit cancer (again in lab experiments) but it comes with the casein or isolated (which has its own problems). Non-fat Greek yogurt which I used to love is also a problem. Greek yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt, which removes much of the whey. This was one of those facts that really angered me. We ate home made non-fat Greek yogurt for breakfast for decades with fresh fruit and thought we were eating healthy. So much for that theory. If I known years ago that dairy was so potentially harmful it would not have been in our house. Don’t be fooled by the people that tell you that non-fat Greek yogurt is healthy because it is non-fat that is just so much bull.

5. The purpose of dairy milk is to feed little cows. Milk naturally contains compounds that stimulate growth, like insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These growth factors also stimulate tumor growth. High dairy consumption is liked to poorer survival of patients with many types of cancer.

I could go on about the problems with dairy for pages. But I will stop here so that you can digest the information. The information above comes from a number of sources but primarily from “Life Over Cancer” by Keith I. Block, MD. In anyone reading this has a family member who had or has cancer I highly recommend this book. It is my bible when it comes to anything cancer related. The doctor does a great job of packing decades of work and research into 500+ pages of text.  Much of the science is over my head, but I am slowly learning more about this topic as I do more research.

The bottom line is that you don’t eat dairy, don’t start. If you do, you should know the potential problems with continuing to consume it. I only wish I had known some of this years ago. We would have made changes much sooner.

As always what I have written is my summary of what I have read on the subject.  Please do your own research and check with your doctor before making changes.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. (And I love the cow photo!) I've gotten bits and pieces from your previous posts, but was wondering about the full picture--or a summary of the full picture.

    And I'm just curious from a cooking point of view, what's the difference between homemade greek yogurt and regular yogurt?

  2. Thanks for the run down. Alicia, I'm sure you already know this, but just wanted to add for the record...that the countries that consume the largest amounts of dairy (like the US for example) also happen to be the countries with the highest rates of bone density loss and osteoporosis .

    In a nut shell, the crucial factor being that it is not so much how much calcium a person ingests, but rather the balance of how much calcium a person absorbs compared to how much they excrete.

    Diets rich in animal proteins tend to cause increased calcium excretion, and in many cases, a negative calcium balance (excreting more calcium than is absorbed)...this in turn is heavily co-related to bone loss and osteoporosis.

    So much for the milk industry's claim that dairy protects against osteoporosis.

    And as Dr Fuhrman elegantly points out, there is more calcium per 100 calories of collards, kale, tofu, and even romaine lettuce than there is in 100 calories worth of milk. These are much better choices for calcium intake as plant proteins are not linked to increased calcium excretion.

  3. PaganAngel,

    To make homemade Greek yogurt you must start with making regular yogurt and then strain it overnight in the refrigerator to remove much of the liquid (which is the whey). That is what makes the yogurt thicker than sour cream. It is also called strained yogurt, yogurt cheese, or Labneh. In the States the popular brand is Fage.


  4. Awesome post! I'm going to send it some family members who have questioned me and my husband's move from vegetarianism to veganism. Another important point to add is that dairy is considered a "high inflammatory" food, which can be problematic on lots of fronts - immune system, IBS, and general discomfort. I noticed a major difference years ago when I stopped consuming dairy products, I lost twenty pounds and many of my stomach issues went away. Thanks again Alicia for your awesome blogging!

  5. VeganPossum,

    I think most Americans have been brainwashed into thinking milk is healthy. We agree that is also inflammatory in addition to so many other problems. I can't look at dairy now without seeing it as toxic.

    It is amazing how many people ask me questions about why we gave up dairy. Those questions are much more common than why we gave up meat. I think giving up dairy had more of a positive health impact.

    Thank you for your kind words about the post. It is nice to know others had positive experiences as a result of giving up dairy.


  6. Rose,

    Good point about dairy consumption and bone loss. We could get into the issue with dairy and vitamin D. There are so many problems with dairy it was hard to know where to stop.

    The scary thing is that most Americans think they need dairy for the calcium. It just boggles the mind how brainwashed this country has been by the meat and dairy councils.


  7. Thank you for the information! I am printing this out and adding it to my "info to give people on why we are eating this way" packet!

  8. Morgan,

    You are very welcome. I get so many questions about dairy I thought a quick post on some of the problems with it would be useful for many. Glad you found it useful.


  9. Good post on the human health problems with dairy, Alicia! And you're so right that the list goes on and on. I wish I'd learned all the truths about dairy much sooner than I did (actually, I wish I'd been born a vegan to vegan parents!), I could have spared myself and an untold number of cows and their calves a lot of pain and anguish. I spent my first three decades consuming a lot of dairy products, starting with being bottle fed cow's milk. (The reason my mother fed me milk meant for baby cows instead of her own milk, meant for her own human baby? Marketing!) And so it continued into my early thirties, decades past the age when all other mammals are weaned from milk. I suffered from acne for which I was given prescription meds (strong link between dairy and acne, but no dermatologist told me), I was diagnosed with MS at 32 for which I was given toxic, expensive prescription meds (strong link between dairy and MS, but no neurologist told me), and I suffered from endometriosis so severe I had to have a complete hysterectomy at 34 (strong link between endometriosis and dairy, but no gynecologist told me). But that MS diagnosis began my vegan education and lifestyle overhaul, and at last I'd found doctors like Swank, McDougall, Barnard, Klaper, Campbell, etc who DID tell me. So when I took a hard fall on an icy hill and fractured my wrist three years ago and the orthopedic doc told me to "be sure and eat a lot of dairy for calcium," and when I had my skin check at the dermatologist last year and she told me to "be sure and eat a lot of dairy for your Vitamin D," now I knew better, and told them both so. Did they listen? Nah. But at least this time I didn't fall for the BS! ("Bovine Secretions!") ;-)

    So I wish I'd known a long time ago everything I know now about how terribly unhealthy and unnatural, cruel and exploitative, and wasteful and polluting the dairy industry is, and how various government agencies, industries and marketing firms collude to keep people thinking they "need" it. In my opinion, it's unconscionable and even criminal. So thanks for helping to inform people about this aspect of it, Alicia!

    "The human body has no more need for cows' milk than it does for dogs' milk, horses' milk, or giraffes' milk."
    ~ Michael Klaper, M.D.

  10. Lalo,

    Great comment! I could have written a paper about this subject. It really is almost criminal the information that we are taught in school about drinking milk for calcium. Like you I wish we had known sooner. But .... at least we know now.


  11. Great post, Alicia!

    I have been completely dairy free for nearly 3 weeks now and I am very encouraged about the whole thing. I feel like I've been set free actually! -- not something that I expected. My brain has accepted very matter of factly that I just can't have some things that I used to, like a trip once or twice a day for a piece of chocolate from my coworkers candy dish, or a piece of cake at our catered lunches, or a slice of pizza. I feel liberated by being able to resist them and not at all bummed about it. Since I was already cooking almost exclusively vegan as of late, it has mostly effected my unhealthy snacking which is something I wanted to stop doing anyway!

    While I know that I will face some tough situations socially, I am encouraged thus far. I have called ahead at restaurants that I have to go to for lunch meetings so that I am prepared. I am bracing myself for the questions that will inevitably follow this decision (which admittedly is the part that takes me out of my comfort zone). I am happy to have some ammo from your post and also the comments that followed.

    I am leery to assign the vegan label to myself yet. I am going to just keep going and see how things continue to develop. I'm not saying that I am not taking it seriously, because I am very much so! I'm pretty certain that these weeks will turn into months and before I know it years. I am excited about that prospect!

    I really have blogging to thank for inspiring this decision, thanks for being a part of that :)

  12. Alicia,

    I love these nutrition overview posts. Maybe you could even have a special link to an index of these. The stimulation of IGF-1 production is one of the worst things about consumption of animal products as related to cancer, in my limited view.


  13. Sarah,

    Yay on being dairy free for 3 weeks. Sounds like you are doing great. I feel very confident that it is better for you.

    When we first started eating this way I hated the questions too. People really don't seem to want to hear the problems with foods they eat everyday. They can get defensive and nasty when they feel like the choices they have made are being put down. Sometimes I just say I am allergic to dairy (depending on the audience it can be easier).

    Congratulations again on 3 weeks without dairy. :)

    I am happy I could play a small part in your decision,

  14. Thanks, Alicia, and yes... the dairy in schools, they start the brainwashing early. Your post is timely, Dr. McDougall's latest newsletter had this brief blurb about milk in school lunches. It includes links to two petitions (one at Care2 and one at Farm Sanctuary) to require plant-based milk alternatives in schools that you and your readers might be interested in signing.

    And that reminds me, remember our conversation at my blog about how when we were in school in 1878 (lol), we'd wrap our school books in brown paper wrappers? I asked BW if he used to do that, and he said yes, but at his school in Dallas they were given ready-made, commercial book wrappers... covered in advertising for Dr. Pepper! >:-( (Our homemade book wrappers were clearly superior!) ;-)

  15. Matt,

    For probably two decades we ate non-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts every morning for breakfast and believed we were being healthy. To now know how harmful that was really ticks me off. No one was talking about the hazards of dairy then. At least no one I knew.

    I get so many questions about dairy, like you have to consume it for calcium, that is why I wrote this. I knew you would enjoy the post. Dairy is harmful for so many reasons it was difficult for me to hold my reasons to 5. Sad that it is still in school lunches.

    Good idea about the index. When I figure out how to do it, I will add it.


    1878, LOL. You always make me laugh.

    Thanks for the link to Dr. McDougall. I will check that out next.



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