That white stuff from a carton you pour onto cereal in the morning or get steaming hot in a cappuccino, that’s called milk right? Well, maybe in the most general sort of way, a bit like a chicken nugget might be called ‘meat’. The white liquid referred to above bears only a passing resemblance to what our grand parents would have called ‘milk’, a nod in the direction of the secretions produced by mammary glands, before it has been mechanical and biochemically altered into something that one can, at best, describe as a ‘milk-like’ substance, to mis-quote Michael Pollan. This article intends to provide the case for why it is the industrialisation of milk rather than milk itself that is the problem for many people, and why cultural bias is the basis for much of the TCM abhorrence of dairy.
Say dairy to most Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) practitioners and it’s as if you have suggested they smoke crack. Milk, and it’s offspring, so we have been told, is Cold and Damp, and will make you drown in mucous. And of course Phlegm causes lumps and nodules, which are the basis of most ‘concretions and conglomerations’ in TCM, which many people read as cancer. So the message is simple – drink milk and you will die. Cow’s milk is for baby cow’s goes the mantra.
But how can it be that the universally recognised most nutritious substance on the planet suddenly turns into disease in a bottle as soon as we have been weaned? The same people who are happy to give their babies powdered milk that has been denatured and modified (did nobody tell them rationing finished in 1954?) then ask for a skinny soy decaf Americano in Starsmucks…
I think it would be useful to first look at our relationship with non-human milk.
We should probably start with some context via clinical experience and reality. The fact is, every practitioner will have seen people who genuinely do not do well with dairy products. And not just practitioners – parents know of children who are clearly lactose or milk intolerant, perhaps in combination with atopia such as asthma or eczema, or behavioral issues within the Autistic Spectrum.
Clearly something is going on. The increase in diagnosis or recognition of lactose intolerance has certainly increased in the last couple of decades, along with gluten, wheat (Tuula 2000). Some of this can probably be explained by an increase in the willingness of doctors or people to self-diagnose, but not all of it. I believe that consistent with most modern syndromes, incidence is multi-factoral, in this case; immune systems, specifically the mucosal membranes have become compromised; toxic environmental load has risen exponentially putting the capacity for detoxification under undue strain; and the food chain has been altered beyond recognition, from field to fridge. We will be focussing on the food quality aspect in relation to toxicology.
When did people start drinking milk?
Somewhere between 5000 and 7500 years appears to be the answer (BBC 2007). Until recently, it had been thought that it was the sun-starved Scandinavians who first quaffed a pint of the white stuff (a reasonable idea, as this is where lactose tolerance is most common and milk is a way of getting vitamin D in places with little sunshine). But research in 2009 suggests that the earliest adult milk drinkers came from central Europe, probably the steppe dwelling nomadic tribes (Itan, Thomas et al 2009).
Copley (2003) believes we have been drinking milk in what is now called the UK for around 7,000 years. To digest milk, adult humans need to have a gene which produces an enzyme called lactase that breaks down lactose, so lactose intolerance should more accurately be referred to as lactase sufficiency, as around 75% of the world’s population is ‘intolerant’, or more the 25% of adults who can drink milk have lactase persistence (Starr 2004).
However, more than 90% of people of northern European origin have this gene (PNAS 2007). “The ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans a big survival advantage” says Dr Mark Thomas of University College London, who conducted the research. “This is probably the single most advantageous gene trait in humans in the last 30,000 years”. The genetic change that enabled early Europeans to drink milk without getting sick has been mapped to dairying farmers who lived around 7,500 years ago in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe.
Anna Denny, a scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation, confirms that in some parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, the vast majority of people are lactose intolerant to some degree, but only about 5% of white British people have said lactase deficiency. Almost all of us have the gene for making lactase at birth (except in Finland). The gene just stops working in most adults (there are different theories as to why, and deep genetics is beyond the scope of this article). Human ingenuity has found numerous uses for milk, including cream, butter, butter milk, sour milk, yoghurt, milk fat, whey, curd, colostrum and the multitude of cheeses native to all countries north and west of China.
March of the Blood types
According to evolutionary theories of epigenetics, one of who’s main proponents is Peter D’Adamo, people with blood group B are the most suited to dairy consumption. The Nomad phenotype (D’Adamo 1998), as he refers to them, B type developed only 10,000 years ago (which is recent history in hominid terms). This evolutionary theory of blood groups and diet remains somewhat controversial. This skepticism arises partly perhaps from confusion as to how blood type as a surface antigen could influence the level of acid in your stomach. In fact, it is the gene for your blood type influencing other genes located close to the ABO blood type gene that can effect stomach acid levels, a well recognised, but poorly understood phenomenon called gene linkage.
“By looking at the distribution of blood groups today, we can see the threads of our evolutionary history. In the United States, O is the most prevalent blood group, A is second, followed by B, and finally AB. The breakdown in Great Britain is very similar to the U.S. percentages. In Germany there are slightly more A than O; B and AB remain almost the same as U.S. percentages. In Japan and China As, Os and Bs are fairly evenly split, and the AB percentage increases over that found in European populations.” (D’Adamo).
Blood Type B developed in the Himalayan highlands, now part of present day Pakistan and India. Pushed from the hot, lush Savannah’s of eastern Africa to the cold highlands of the Himalayan Mountains, Blood type B may have initially mutated in response to climactic changes. This new blood type first appeared amongst Caucasian and Mongolian tribes and as the Mongolians moved through Asia, the gene for Type B blood was firmly established. The Mongols swept northward, promoting a culture based herding and domesticating animals – as attested by their diet of meat and cultured dairy products (kefir etc).
A range of mountainous runs from the Urals in Russia to the Caucasus in Asia, and towards the Pyrenees of southern France. This natural obstacle meant that the migrating blood groups divided into a northern and southern route. The southern migrators became the ancestors of the Mediterranean people and western Europeans, and carried with them the gene for blood group A. The Ural Mountains prevented a large migration westwards from Asia, although small numbers of Caucasians entered eastern Europe, carrying with them the gene for blood group B that they picked up by intermingling with the Asian Mongolians. This barrier served to divide blood groups into a western group, A; and an eastern group, B. (D’Adamo).
The Chinese paradox
However, dairy intolerance in Asian population is not from the traditional lack of a lactose gene (as seen in African populations) but rather from generalised cultural aversions to dairy products, which were, for many generations, viewed as the food of their barbaric steppe dwelling conquerers.
(D’Adamo private correspondence Sept 2011).
Dunlop (2011) agrees: “Traditionally, dairy products were associated with the nomadic people who lived on the fringes of China and who were regarded as fearful barbarians.” People of SE Asia famously found visiting westerners to smell of ‘rancid butter’ or sour milk (Liu Jilin 1995).
For a country who’s history has frequently been punctuated by starvation, it is remarkable that much of South East Asia appears to have largely spurned this rich protein source, until very recently. This is not the case in India or in the north of Asia, where Tibetan and Mongol peoples have always drunk yak and other animal milk products, often fermented. Orientals have pursued a different genetic expression than Caucasians, and this is reflected in blood genotype and therefore in enzyme production and the foods that are suited and those that are not.
Not just dairy, alcohol as well
The ‘Chinese’ appear better able to eat large quantities of simple carbohydrates in food such as white rice, but have a low tolerance to alcohol as well as dairy. Europeans have a generally lower tolerance for CHO, but many cope well with dairy and alcohol. Research has found that perception of a foods starchiness is at least partly determined by genetic influence, namely the salivary amylase gene (AMY1) activity (Mendel et al 2010).
The rejection of dairy
Choosing not to eat dairy for ethical or environmental reasons should not be confused with health choices. There are other reasons as well why some regard these as confused justifications: I have been unable to find references to archeological evidence for any long-term vegan societies anywhere on the planet; meat and milk production as a major contributor to global warming is disputed by some (Kieth 2010).
“Cheese is not a favourite food in China, to put it mildly. The Han Chinese, with a few notable exceptions, avoided eating dairy foods altogether: many were, and still are, lactose-intolerant. In recent years, influenced by western lifestyles, Chinese parents have begun to feed milk to their children… Cheese, however, is still generally regarded as beyond the pale. A few sophisticated Shanghainese might eat Stilton just as sophisticated Londoners eat tripe and chitterlings, but many people, especially in the provinces, have never tasted it”. (Dunlop).
On milk quality
Fifty years ago before WWII an average cow produced 2,000 pounds of milk per year – now that can be as much as 50,000 pounds (Kradjian). This massive increase in productivity has not been achieved through natural means, as you can imagine. Bovine Growth Hormone, massive antibiotic use (70% of UK antibiotics are for veterinary use (Gutierrez 2010), vaccinations, forced grain feeding lots and specialised breeding all contribute. Feeding ruminant animals on a grain-based diet is a massive and under recognised issue. Natural grass pasture feeders do not do well on grain, which is why cow’s produce the volume of methane they are notorious for. Dr Damien Downing of New Medicine Group notes that grain-fed meat and its milk are completely unbalanced in their omega 3 to 6 ratio, and it is most likely this, rather than meat itself, which causes statistical bias in long -term carnivore health outcomes (that too is a story for another day…).
According to Weston A Price, only pasture raised animals produce milk containing what he called the X Factor (nothing to do with feeding Simon Cowell grass, unfortunately), which is now regarded as referring to vitamin K2.
Breed of cow’s is also an issue, as traditional breeds, which produce milk with a healthier (i.e. higher) fat content have been passed over for higher yield animals. Fatty acid composition of milk varies depending on the breed of cow, time of year, quality of feed and lactation stage. Many dairy herds use the Holstein cows, which were bred for their high milk output and they need extra protein to maintain the production without losing weight.
Many people drink skimmed milk in the mistaken belief that it is better for them, despite the obvious fact that it is an unnatural and artificial food-like product. Powdered milk is made with skimmed milk and is then further denatured. Skimmed milk is really a triumph of marketing over common sense enabling producers to shift low quality milk. Butterfat in the cream is removed, along with the natural vitamin A and D (if grass fed). Without these calcium and protein are more difficult to assimilate.
In one study people who ate the most dairy fat were at the lowest risk for diabetes. Researchers found that patients who ate the most dairy fat, from things like cream, whole milk, and butter, had a 60% lower risk of developing diabetes than patients eating the least dairy fat.
“Raw milk shouldn’t be called raw milk, it should only be called milk. Nobody ever calls the broccoli that they buy in the store raw broccoli, or cauliflower, raw cauliflower. They just say broccoli and cauliflower, and if you cook it, you say it’s cooked.”
Robert M. Kradjian, MD
Mass produced milk
Industrial food production utilises intensive manufacturing principles and procedures to alter the constituents of it’s ingredients for a variety of commercial and marketing-based reasons. Typically, milk from several different sources will arrive by tanker at a processing facility. The cream is mechanically separated out to make skimmed milk and then some added back in to make whole and low fat milk. The milk is them homogenized, which is the process of squirting it at high speed through very small holes to create a uniform texture and prevent the cream from separating and rising to the top. It’s then pasteurised, or heated to at least up to 72 degrees C. Finally, synthetic vitamin A and D are added back in.
Is that so bad?
Mixing the milk from many different farms of herds may be an issue, and is at very least unnatural. Running the milk through an industrial cream separate is likely to cause molecular damage, and homogenisation certainly does so. The homogenisation process smashes the milk molecules and reduces the size of the fat globules, increasing the surface area massively and therefore exposing it to the effects of oxygen. The fats become oxidised as a result. Homogenisation is a purely commercial process, it in no way benefits the consumer. It achieves its objectives very efficiently – to break down cell membranes and reduce the diameter. Globule sizes are reduced to ~0.1 ?m in diameter by this process. After a few seconds, the casein micelles re-group around the new, smaller globules. The ratio of membrane to fat globule is much higher and this means that the specific gravity of the globules increases. Thus the new globules are less able to rise to the surface of the milk, where they could coalesce to form the cream layer.
Some people that believe that this releases a chemical called Xanthine Oxidase or XO which makes the homogenized milk more cancer causing. Due to endemic mastitis in industrial cattle, there is pus in the milk concealed with language such as “macrophages containing many vacuoles and phagocytosed particles”.
The pasteurisation process than again heats the milk, causing further oxidative damage and destroying bacteriostasis. Finally, in America and possibly in the UK, powdered milk solids are added back to thicken the milk and give it a better ‘mouth feel. Powdered milk is made from skimmed milk and referred to as Milk-solids-non-fat (MSNF), which is milk with the fat and water removed. This is added to many products that you may be unaware of such as ice cream, chocolate, bread, low-fat and fat-free yogurt and cheese, infant formula etc.
“Preservation is the opposite of digestion and assimilation. So anything that we do to a food to preserve it or make it last longer is diametrically opposite to what we need in our body, which is to be able to break it down easily and assimilate it”, says David Getoff, Vice President of Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. Note that milk can still be organic or free range and have passed through any or all of these processes, which all happen post production.
However you look at it, industrial milk is a heat transformed and damaged (Planck 2006). As well as causing oxidisation and damaging the fat proteins, heat destroys the beneficial bacteria in milk (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacter spp.), thus effectively elimination the two health benefits of milk and rendering it instead into just a denatured substance with a high sugar content and with a destabilising effect on cholesterol balance and the enteric immune system. The heat damage frequently involves irreversible crosslinking of proteins (Pickard 1989) turning them into a substance which is less digestible by the stomach.
“Most, if not all, animals coexist with a complement of prokaryotic symbionts that confer a variety of physiologic benefits. In humans, the interaction between animal and bacterial cells is especially important in the gastrointestinal tract.” (Neish 2009).
Summary of differences between real milk and industrial milk:
Selectively bred cattle
Routine use of antibiotics and hormones and poor conditions (unless organic)
Milk form many different herbs processed together
Milk solids added back in
So why is milk pasteurised?
Heat treatment of milk was first brought in as a method of eliminating TB and Q-fever in 1922. In the 1930s bovine TB affected around 40% of all cattle in the UK; now it is only about 0.07% (Background Information on bovine tuberculosis). Another organism, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP) has been inconclusively associated with Chron’s disease. It is also the case that this bacterium is found in the water supply and is immune to all water treatment methods currently available.
Pasteurisation causes substantial loss of activity superoxide dismutase (SOD – if SOD activity is diminished then this will result in rancidity.) In the last 100 years, the pasteurisation of milk has become routine and in some places is now a legal requirement. Homogenisation has been around for over 100 years, too, but really only became widespread in the UK about 25–30 years ago. (Porter 1997, p433.) Pasteurisation is not recommended for human breast milk in milk banks because of the damage to bacteriostatic mechanisms.
In the late 1920s through to the 1940s, several papers appeared on the effects of pasteurisation on the nutritional aspects of milk. These found that pasteurising milk:
• Affects the haematogenic and growth-promoting properties of milk (Krauss WE)
• Decreases resistance to pulmonary TB in children (Lancet 1937)
• Destroys or severely reduces natural ‘inhibins’ present in raw milk, which protect against the growth of Bacillus diphtheriae, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus coli, Bacillus prodigiosus, Bacillus procyaneus, Bacillus anthracis (causative agent of anthrax), Streptococci spp and unidentified wild yeast (Dold H)
• Contributes to scurvy in children who had no other potential source of vitamin C intake – pasteurisation has been shown to reduce milk content of vitamin C by 25-50% (Hess, Jordan, Overstreet, Woessner)
• Contributes to the susceptibility of infants to infection from other pathogens (Hess 1916)
• Contributes to the loss of vitamins A, B1, B6, B12 and folate from milk (Rose, Lewis)
• May destroy the milk protein carriers that facilitate the absorption of iron, zinc and vitamin B12 (Rose)
• Reduces solubility of calcium and may reduce its absorption by up to 50% (Banks, Kraus)
“In the UK dairy herds there is little risk of transmission of pathogenic bacteria so long as good hygiene practice is followed in the processes of milking, storage, transport and packaging. The number of cases of illness attributable to drinking unpasteurised milk in recent years is very small. Although there have been several cases of salmonellosis attributed to raw milk, quite often no alternative sources have been investigated and raw milk has been blamed without proof.”
(Woodriff Beirne 2011)
One of the things I have noticed since my conversion to real milk is that it does not go off, it just sours, or ‘clabbers’ into curds and whey (only unpasteurised milk does this). Performing low tech experiments that Little Miss Muffet would be proud of, I have left a half litre of raw milk out of the fridge for up to three weeks, and it simple separates into ricotta and golden liquid whey. The cheese we eat in an omelet, the whey goes into any vegetables I am fermenting naturally, such as sauerkraut or kvass as the agent for natural fermentation (but this is a story for another day…).
Science and academic referencing aside, this tell me something about raw milk – that it must contain a large volume of live bacteria that control the way in which the milk proteins and fats change and evolve, rather than simply going bad as industrial milk does. The bacteriostatic mechanisms in milk help to prevent the spoilage that occurs with pasteurised milk.
Pasteurisation causes the loss of:
• Water-soluble vitamins
• Mineral-carrying whey proteins that help absorb the minerals
• Other whey proteins, such as lactoferrin, that help to promote healthy gut bacteria in neonates
• Solubility of calcium, thus decreasing its absorption
• Potentially beneficial bacteria
• Bacteriostatic mechanisms that help to protect against infectious organisms.
Babies and raw milk
Research has shown that children who were brought up on raw milk had higher resistance to infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We have fed our baby real milk, butter and cream since he was 12 months. These days I would be quite happy personally to do so from a few weeks old, should breast milk be unavailable.
I am not suggesting that there is zero risk involved in the consumption of raw dairy, but if you can find anything that is zero risk I would be interested in hearing about it. Like any health or medical decision, its all about the risk:benefit ratio, and as far as I am concerned that equation comes down heavily in favour of real milk.
Despite the evidence, however, opinion against real milk is hard to change: “Although the epidemiological evidence consistently suggest a protective role of unprocessed cow’s milk consumption on the development of asthma, hay fever and atopic sensitisation the underlying mechanisms are not yet understood and the consumption of raw milk cannot be recommended as a preventive measure for allergic diseases.” (Braun-Fahrländer, von Mutius 2011).?
See www.realmilk.com for further information.
The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid
1. Krauss WE et al. Studies on the nutritive value of milk II. ‘The effect of pasteurisation on some of the nutritive properties of milk’, Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 1933;518:11.
Coming in part two:
Dairy in dietary therapy
What is mucous and is it a bad thing?
Are the channels ,in-fact, made of ‘mucous’?
What’s good about milk
Dairy alternatives, including soy
Real dairy suppliers
Background Information on bovine tuberculosis – a booklet produced by the Welsh Assembly.
BBC. Early man ‘couldn’t stomach milk’ 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6397001.stm
Braun-Fahrländer C, von Mutius E. Can farm milk consumption prevent allergic diseases? Clin Exp Allergy. 2011 Jan;41(1):29-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03665.x. http://tinyurl.com/64rcupa
D’Adamo P, Eat Right 4 Your Type, Century 1998
D’Adamo private correspondence Sept 2011
Dunlop F. Kicking up a stink, FT, May 20 2011
Copley MS et al. Direct chemical evidence for widespread dairying in prehistoric Britain. PNAS. February 18, 2003;100(4):1524–9.)
Tuula et al . Lactose Intolerance, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 19, No. 90002, 165S-175S (2000)
Healy M. Dairy component shows promise in cutting diabetes risk, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2010
Gutierrez D. 2010, http://www.naturalnews.com/028024_antibiotics_animals.html
Itan Y, Thomas M. The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe . PLoS Computational Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000491, 2009
Kieth L. The Vegetarian Myth. PM Press 2010
Kradjian R. The Milk Letter. http://www.notmilk.com/kradjian.html
Liu Jilin. Chinese Dietary Therapy. Churchill Livingstone 1995
Mandel AL, Peyrot des Gachons C, Plank KL, Alarcon S, Breslin PA. PLoS One. Individual differences in AMY1 gene copy number, salivary ?-amylase levels, and the perception of oral starch. 2010 Oct 13;5(10):e13352.
Neish A. Microbes in Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. GASTROENTEROLOGY Vol. 136, No. 1 2009
Pickard, BM. The Case for Untreated Milk; A Special Report from The Association of Unpasteurised Milk Producers & Consumers, Dept of Animal Physiology and Nutrition, University of Leeds. Originally published by The Soil Association, 1989
Planck N. Real Food, Bloomsbury 2006
Porter R. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind – A medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present, HarperCollins, London, 1997, p433.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Feb 2007
Starr B. Milk and the Modern Man, The rise of adult milk drinking http://www.thetech.org/genetics/news.php?id=45
Woodriff Beirne A. Caduceus, issue 80, 2011