Milky Myths

How many of us grew up being taught that we should be drinking milk every day. It’s great for our bones with all the calcium and vitamins in it. Have it in your cereal, in your coffee or tea, or just drink a glass of it. It’s great. Fortunately, not everyone agrees with this. There are a number of reasons why we should not sing the praises of this food as we have done in the past.

The first question is, do we really need it? Well if you are a young cow, by all means, yes. But I really don’t know of many cows who read my posts, so if you are reading this, I’m guessing you are not one. Have a think about it, we are the only being that drinks milk of any kind beyond infancy. It is a food designed for babies to get a nutrient packed food in a liquid form and to help them grow rapidly while their stomachs adapt to real food.

Cow’s milk is obviously the most popular form on the market these days, but to look at a cow compared to a human, there are a number of differences. Cows are a lot bigger than us and have vastly different digestive systems to us. Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk is actually far more digestible for us as their milk is far closer to human milk than the stuff that comes from a cow. Initially you may think that these options sound horrible, but really, the taste is very similar.

The second problem is the way all our milk is processed. Would any of you consider drinking milk that is unpasteurized or unhomogenized? Sounds crazy to some, but years ago, if you were to tell someone that they should heat treat their milk, then pass it through a very fine sieve to break up the fat particles, they would have locked you up in the insane asylum.

When the dairy industry was first born and someone decided to start transporting the stuff, there were problems. There was no way of keeping the milk cold, or ensuring that the equipment was sterile. Many kinds of bacteria was making its way into the milk so something had to be done. Enter pasteurization. A process that was invented by a Frenchman to remove all the living yeast left over in beer. Surely this same process was able to be used in dairy products? So they treated it with a short, intense burst of heat which killed all the bacteria off while maintaining the taste of the product. It could now be packaged, confident that it was safe to drink. The other benefit was that shelf life doubled!

Now have a think about these benefits. Do they still hold true today? We have great sterilization methods, processing plants and tankers made out of stainless steel which is perfect for transport along with refrigerated trucks, advanced testing methods that can detect any bacteria with in a very short time. Is there any need for pasteurization? No. The only reason we still use it is so the industry can be controlled by the companies and the product can sit on the shelf for far longer than before. Raw milk lasts no longer than a week before it turns sour. Pasteurized milk lasts far longer.

Add to this the fact that many of the vitamins and minerals in the milk are denatured, it’s not a good thing. This is only the tip of the iceberg where pasteurization is concerned, I could go on for ages, but I don’t want to bore you too much!

Homogenization is a process where the fat particles, or cream, are broken down into much smaller particles so they mix into the milk far better. If you look at pasteurized milk that has not been homogenized, you will see little globules of cream all through it. So what they do, is pass it through a very fine sieve at very high pressure to break these particles down so they are no longer visible to us. The problem here is the fact that our gut (intestines) have fine holes through it so that food broken down by our digestive system can pass through into our bodies to be used as fuel. The homogenized milk particles are actually small enough to also pass through, even though it’s not properly digested yet. The list of problems this can cause is a long one, like excess inflammation and allergic reactions.

What it all comes down to is, if you can tolerate dairy, see if you can find a raw source. Many countries or states have banned the sale of it, including where I live, but if you ask around, you may be able to get “bath milk”. This is sold for cosmetic purposes, although I don’t know anyone who uses it for this. Natural yoghurt is another thing worth trying, even for those who are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar in the milk and when you create a product like natural yoghurt or cheese, the bacteria uses the lactose as food and transforms it into lactic acid (completely different to the stuff you get when running up hills). Just stay away from the flavoured stuff as this is just full of sugar.

Hope this has opened your eyes to the many issues surrounding dairy and will allow you to make more informed decisions in the future.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

Leave A Reply (6 comments so far)

  1. Tony
    4 years ago

    I am no expert, but I would have thought that an article so critical of drinking milk would have at least mentioned the good or bad effects drinking milk has on strengthening bones (which is pretty important to this runner) and reducing osteoperosis.
    Sometimes an incomplete article is just that, incomplete.

  2. Chris O'Driscoll
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the reply Tony, I appreciate your comments.
    The amount of calcium in milk is actually too high for us to process it properly. Our bodies prefer many small doses through the day rather than one big dose, like what you get from milk, which leads to other problems.
    When we exercise, the stress that it has on the body causes it to adapt by strengthening the bones and joints naturally. Just like when we strengthen our muscles. Yes, calcium plays a part in this, but milk is not my preferred source and there is no strong evidence that milk plays a role in preventing osteoporosis.
    Yes, I agree, it is an incomplete article due to the fact I could write many pages on this topic. I just choose to include a few key points to keep it to a readable length.

  3. Antony Daamen
    4 years ago

    Hi Chris,

    I have read many of these articles and mostly I agree with what you and others have said. Before WW1 (or was it WW2? ) we all got our calcium from green veg etc. However with the war looming the powers tobe (in europe at least) started to give free milk to the kids at school.

    The points you make re the pasteurisation makes sense, having said that there are certain microbes that could be in the milk that is bad for u (forgot the details) I lived in the Netherlands (coll, Holland) and thus lived of milk, cheese etc. At least that (bad germs etc) I have been told in the Netherlands that this was the reason for pasteurisation, not so much the shelf life. Evendough, that what you said makes sense (going off is done by germs so both could be true)

    Anyhow, I enjoy milk, so will continue to drink full cream milk (4% vs 2% who cares) , but I have been increasing my veg and carb intake (I run >40km and twice gym weekly) . I see milk (with Milo) as my protein intake 😛

    Thanks for your informative articles !

  4. Chris O'Driscoll
    4 years ago

    Thanks for your comments Antony.
    Some of the microbes/bacteria I was talking about can come from the cows not being sterilised before milking, so you can get some urine or faeces borne bacteria in the milk. This is easily prevented by cleaning the udders thoroughly and can be detected with a simple test. More naturally occurring bacteria are generally held at bay by the good bacteria present in the milk. Pasteurization kills off this good bacteria.
    Don’t get me wrong, the article wasn’t written to scare people away from milk. If you can tolerate it and enjoy it, I would advise you seek a raw source. I don’t tolerate milk very well but have no issues with natural yoghurt, butter or cheese. I even have cream in small amounts.
    Don’t stress over the fat content of it either. The majority of it is medium chain triglycerides, just like coconut oil, so all good.
    Thanks again

  5. Amanda
    4 years ago

    Chris, we loved this article and although we don’t endorse consuming animal products I think you have summarised well how we have changed a natural product to make it more consumable and profitable.

    Any food product in its natural form is best and its just a shame that our current shopping habits and clever marketing campaigns make us believe a fresh product like milk can last up to 2+ weeks in a fridge and that’s OK. If you are going to drink milk, like you we encourage people to source ‘bath milk’ and consume within its true life span of up to a week.

    Nature doesn’t make food to last prolonged amounts of time and nor do our bodies welcome foods full of preservatives and additives. We follow a 100% plant based diet and feel completely nourished with adequate vitamins and minerals from foods we consume.

    Eat well. Be well.

  6. Chris O'Driscoll
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the reply Amanda,
    Some great points you make there. Someone once said to me “Long shelf life, short human life” which I believe is so true. Any product that is processed to sit on the shelf for longer than nature intended, is off the list for me.

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