Most of us grew up believing milk was essential for strong bones and healthy teeth.  This is partly true.  A mother’s milk is perfectly designed for baby humans.  Our pre-agricultural ancestors breastfed children to around three to four years of age, at which point the child could eat fruit and vegetables.

Cow’s milk is also perfect for babies – baby cows that is.  Human beings are the only mammal to drink milk after weaning, and indeed the only one to drink the milk or eat milk-based products of other species.  One key fact that shows we are not designed to consume cow’s milk is that 65% of humans are lactose intolerant (a decreased ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy).

Milk is neither natural nor healthy for human consumption for the following reasons:

Hormones galore

A typical glass of milk or portion of cheese contains 35 hormones and 11 growth factors, including IGF-1 (see below), oestrogen, and progesterone, adrenal, and pituitary.  This is because two-thirds of milk is taken from pregnant cows, and the rest is derived from those who have recently given birth.

Pus

Sorry to gross you out, but intensive dairy farming means around a third of British dairy cows have mastitis at any one time.  The pus which results from this painful infection often makes its way into the milk we drink.  Selling milk containing up to 400 million pus cells per litre is perfectly legal.

Weak bones

Yes, you read that right.  Countries that have the highest levels of dairy consumption, including New Zealand, the United States, and those in Northern Europe also have the highest rates of osteoporosis.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) says:

“The paradox clearly calls for an explanation.  To date, the accumulated data indicates that the adverse effect of protein, in particular animal (but not vegetable) protein, might outweigh the positive effect of calcium intake on calcium balance”.

The best way to protect your bones is to partake in impact exercise such as running and lift weights.  Nutritional sources of calcium include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and nuts.  To aid absorption, take a vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months.

Increased IGF-1

High consumption of dairy products is linked with raised levels of IGF-1.  This stands for Insulin Growth Factor – 1 and controls the growth and development of both cows and people.  It may be that the compounds in cow’s milk lead to an increase in the production of our own IGF-1, which in turn can increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer in Westernised countries.

Final words

Increasing evidence shows that dairy consumption is not only unnecessary, but it may also harm human health.  A well-balanced vegan diet, along with B12 and vitamin D supplements provides all the nutrition adults and children need for health and wellbeing.  And ditching dairy has never been easier, with supermarkets and other suppliers providing a range of plant-based alternatives to dairy, such as almond and oat milk, vegan cheese, and dairy free butter.