Disease and Other Health Risks Associated with Meat and Dairy Consumption

“People are the only animals that drink the milk of the mother of another species. All other animals stop drinking milk altogether after weaning. It is unnatural for a dog to nurse from a mother giraffe; it is just as unnatural for a human being to drink the milk of a cow”― Dr. Michael Klaper

cow

To follow from one controversial health blog to the next, the relationship between dairy consumption and osteoporosis as well as other health related risks associated with meat and dairy consumption will be the main focus of this blog. Colin Campbell, the pioneering researcher responsible for the China–Cornell–Oxford Project or China Study (which will be discussed shortly), found that the higher the consumption of animal protein, including that found in milk, the higher the rate of bone fractures and Osteoporosis.

There’s no denying that cow’s milk is high in protein and calcium. However, these nutrients were meant for another species and so it is hardly surprising that it is very difficult for the human body to absorb this source of calcium. Animal protein within dairy products creates an acid-like condition in the body called metabolic acidosis. To combat this, the body draws calcium out of the biggest storage of calcium in our bodies – our bones. This weakens bones and over a lifetime, diseases such as Osteoporosis may develop (see link in resources to watch one minute clip on metabolic acidosis). Moreover, the refinement of low-fat dairy products, makes the concentration of animal protein higher and hence of greater detriment to the body.

Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the dairy industry has told us for so long. And I had difficulty believing it, as you may well be. So let’s have a quick look in our own backyard again, at more data from the most recent Australian Health Survey, courtesy of The Australian Bureau of Statistics, as an indicator of the average Australian’s health;

  • More than 8 out of 10 people (85%) consumed from the ‘Milk products and dishes’ group on the day prior to interview, with foods in this group providing an average 11% of the population’s energy intake.
  • Nearly three quarters of females (73%) and half of all males (51%) aged two years and over did not meet their calcium requirements based on their intakes from food.
  • In 2011-12, 29% of Australians reported taking at least one dietary supplement on the day prior to interview.

It appears our dairy consumption is through the roof, yet most of us are lacking nutritional calcium in our diet, in line with the results of The China Study and several other reputable studies on this topic. Sadder still, we’re being manipulated into thinking that dietary supplements can fill the void of our deficient fruit and vegetable consumption.

The China Study is one of America’s best-selling books about nutrition, based on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, one of the largest studies on diet and disease ever conducted. The study examined mortality rates from chronic diseases from 1973–75 in 65 countries in rural China (these countries had genetically similar populations that tended to live and eat in the same way, in the same place, over generations). The data was correlated with dietary surveys and blood tests from 100 people in each county, 10 years later. The results indicated that countries with a high consumption of animal-based products were more likely to have had higher death rates from “Western” diseases, while the opposite was true for countries that ate plant-based foods. They concluded there was a strong relationship between the consumption of animal-based products and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, as well as breast, prostate and bowel cancer. Moreover, populations who ate a whole-food, plant-based diet either escaped, reduced or reversed the development of numerous diseases.

These researchers outlined eight principles of food and health:

  • Nutrition represents combined activities of countless food substances.
  • Vitamin supplements are not a remedy for good health.
  • There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
  • Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes are expressed.
  • Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of harmful chemicals.
  • The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages can also halt or reverse it in its later stages.
  • Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
  • Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

My interpretation of the eighth principles encompasses the age-old adage “you are what you eat”, the bacteria, antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides and all. As we are extremely disconnected from our food in the Western world, I for one, was shocked to make the connection between the ingestion of the animal-based products with the ingestion of the things that animal has ingested in its lifetime.

“Recognize meat for what it really is: the antibiotic- and pesticide-laden corpse of a tortured animal” – Ingrid Newkirk

Bacteria

Cows are often fed corn because it’s cheap, but cows aren’t supposed to eat corn. This diet has led cow’s stomachs to become a cesspit for bacteria such as E-coli. A great documentary, Food Inc explains that after several E-coli deaths, the source of which became increasingly difficult to hush, the meat industry created a method to manage this issue – antibiotics. Alternatively, you can pay a nice tax on your trendy grass-fed beef burger, to slightly lower your risk of E-coli infection.

Antibiotics

Factory farmed animals are routinely injected with antibiotics to promote rapid growth as well as prevent the animal from dying from the diseases commonly associated with factory farming practices. This abuse of pharmaceuticals, means you ingest antibiotics when you eat these products and disturbingly, a commonly used antibiotic on factory farms called Roxarsone, is a compound of arsenic. Moreover, this practice has prompted the evolution of new strains of antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria. This means that the very medicine used to treat the food poisoning you got from that dodgy chicken, is being rendered less effective by animal agriculture practices.

Hormones

Synthetic hormonal implants which make cows produce more milk and grow larger than they would naturally, have been shown to increase the risk of cancer in humans. The hormones in milk and meat can also increase the risk of developing other disorders, including gynecomastia, or enlarged male breasts. As dairy cows are artificially impregnated each year to keep them producing milk, these sex and pregnancy hormones are present even in “organic” milk.

Pesticides

Pesticides are sprayed on crops that are eventually fed to farmed animals and accumulate in their bodies over time as ‘dioxins’ (a highly toxic compound produced as a by-product in some manufacturing processes). It has been estimated that the large majority of human dioxin exposure comes in the concentrated form of meat, fish and dairy products. That is, when we eat animal products, the dioxin that animals have built up in their bodies is absorbed into our body.

A lot of the information on the health risks associated with meat and dairy consumption are difficult to find – Food Inc is the resource I have found most informative. But when you enter the supermarket, you can see it for yourself, with antibiotic-free chicken, hormone-free milk and grass-fed beef sales. It is for all these reasons and more that I choose not to consume these products. My next post will focus on the cousin of positive psychology – the theory of food as medicine.

Resources

One minute clip on metabolic acidosis from Forks Over Knives https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jm7IcJJ8mw

Four minute clip summarising scientific research on relationship between dairy and disease; http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-good-for-our-bones 

To watch Food Inc on YouTube free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMVdrEo5130&feature=youtu.be

References

Campbell, C & Campbell T (2005). The China Study. Dallas: BenBella Books

Olivira, R. (2015). Getting Clarity About Calcium. Retrieved from: http://www.forksoverknives.com/milk-myth-why-you-dont-need-dairy-for-calcium/

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.008~2011-12~Main%20Features~Key%20findings~100

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