Scary Dairy

Calves drink their mother’s milk. And for some reason, humans drink it too. Growing up, baby boomers urged us to drink a glass a day, expecting us to digest their facts about milk just as quickly as we were able to finish a glass. However, most of us can’t actually digest dairy. With lactose intolerance affecting 65% of the human population, should dairy consumption be encouraged?

Most humans begin to produce less lactase –– the enzyme that helps digest milk –– when we’re as young as 2 years old. 

It’s our body’s natural reaction to wean us off breastmilk and move on to harder foods. Quite often, the reduction of lactase leads to lactose intolerance. 

It wasn’t until the agricultural revolution in the 18th century that humans began drinking milk beyond breastfeeding. Dairy milk offered nutrients needed to combat starvation. Now, we’re the only species that continues to consume milk into adulthood.

Propaganda praises the amount of calcium found in milk, but fails to address where that calcium goes post-consumption. To help with the digestion of animal proteins, our bodies burn calcium. 

Dairy advertisements tell the truth when saying that milk is rich in calcium, but they fail to address the difference between being rich in, and being a rich source of. 

Dairy milk gives, then takes away.

Many elders combat their anxiety about hip fractures and osteoporosis by drinking milk. They grew up being told that it’s a surefire way to strengthen bones, so why wouldn’t they continue to carry these beliefs? 

According to the Milk, Dietary Calcium, and Bone Fractures in Women: A 12-Year Prospective Study, published in 1997, women with the highest intake of dairy, animal protein and calcium have weaker bones. They were more prone to bone fractures, and osteoporosis. The results were so surprising that Dr. Eunyoung Cho, a Harvard professor, questioned if dairy milk may actually be the cause. 

People build most of their bone mass between the ages of 12-18. After turning 20, you’ve pretty much got all you’ll ever have. 

A study by The University of Pennsylvania found that women who exercised most in the early years of their lives had significantly stronger bones than those who consumed the most calcium. Even during prime bone-strengthening years, calcium lacks merit when compared to exercise. 

Evolution works because our bodies work. Humans reap the benefits of breastmilk, as calves reap the benefits of cattle’s milk. Cows have four stomachs, and gain hundreds of pounds in just a few months. Their needs are significantly different than ours. 

We live in a society that designates an entire aisle of our grocery stores for concoctions made out of the dairy that was squeezed from a cow’s udder. 

Milk. Cheese. Yogurt. 

However, the fermented and sometimes moldy mixtures take up little space in Canada’s most recent food guide. Nutritionists are questioning the significance of milk, and are encouraging us to consume more plant-based alternatives. Maybe it’s time we left the desire for dairy to the cattle that consume it.