Like most other American kids, I grew up drinking several cups of milk every day. But it's been almost 10 years since I had my last cup. And while getting your milk-mustached face on billboards and the pages of national magazines has become a benchmark for the celebrity of numerous actors, musicians, athletes and cartoon characters, I don't ever intend to drink another.
Indeed, not everyone is convinced that milk does a body good. Some activists have started a national "not-milk" campaign to educate people about the problems associated with drinking milk and eating cheese. And doctors and nutritionists increasingly worry about the health impact of dairy products.
Michael Klaper, M.D., a physician who grew up loving the cheeses of his native Wisconsin, says it is unnatural for humans to drink any milk besides that of their own mothers. "Cow's milk is a superbly engineered fluid that will turn a 65-pound calf into a 500-pound cow in a year," he says. "That's what cow's milk is for."
Cows, after all, double their weight in 47 days (while it takes 180 for human babies), and have four stomachs. Cow's milk has about three times as much protein as human milk, and nearly 50 percent more fat. We're the only species that drinks milk beyond infancy, and no other animal drinks the milk of another species (except domesticated animals).
"Whole milk is filled with artery-clogging fat, allergenic proteins, indigestible milk sugars, antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and...cow pus," Klaper says. "It's enough to make me not want to pour it on my cereal."
Nonfat milk may not have all the fat of whole milk, but it has plenty of other problems. John Robbins, author of May All Be Fed, writes that nonfat dairy products have higher concentrations of protein than wholefat milk and cheese, and thus make an even greater contribution to osteoporosis, kidney problems and some forms of cancer.
Milk has been touted as the best prevention for osteoporosis, the crippling bone disease. But Klaper and many other doctors now believe, ironically, that osteoporosis is largely a result of overconsumption of animal products, including dairy. Third world countries whose citizens eat less meat and dairy have much lower rates of osteoporosis than the United States. An excess of animal protein in the blood causes it to become acidic, Klaper says, which then causes the body to leach calcium from our bones to make the blood alkaline again, leading to osteoporosis.
"Think about it: Cows do not drink milk," Klaper says. "Where do they get all that calcium? Well, they get it from green plants, of course. Green plants are loaded with calcium, and so are grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. You certainly don't have to drink the milk of a cow any more than the milk of a giraffe, or the milk of a horse."
Cameron Woodworth is author of Green Cuisine: A Guide to Vegetarian Dining around Seattle and Puget Sound. Contact him at email@example.com or 206-732-0355.