Could Drinking Milk Shorten Your Life?

milk

A big new Swedish study on milk consumption has gained some attention. It suggests that people who drink a lot of milk live shorter lives on average, and perhaps in addition have an increased risk of bone fractures:

BBC: High milk diet “may not cut risk of bone fractures”

Again, this is only based on statistics from questionnaires – i.e. an observational study. Thus it’s by no means proof that milk shortens life. To know for sure, the theory has to be tested in intervention studies, which is much harder and vastly more expensive.

But the statistics from the study are still worth pondering. My conclusion is that it’s wise to only drink milk regularly in larger quantities only as a child, not as an adult. Milk is very insulin stimulating, both through lactose, and through a special milk protein, which stimulates desirable growth in young children.

As an adult, it may be wiser to drink water on a regular basis and wine for festive occasions. As well as tea or coffee at your convenience.

Reducing milk consumption may also help to maintain a stable weight, by keeping insulin levels down. In particular, low-fat milk should be avoided. It could also be called white soda.

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45 comments

  1. Dr. Jason Fung
    This study was also unique in that it differentiated milk from other fermented dairy products (yogurt). The authors hypothesize that the D-galactose in milk is the offending agent that increases oxidative stress. This is lower in fermented milk products and cheese.

    Other studies, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11451723, show that there are also glycemic and insulinemic differences between milk and dairy products. Most association studies simply lump milk in with cheese and yogurt, but this may be inappropriate.

  2. gallier2
    The interesting part of the study is the conclusion of the researchers. Their hypothesis is that it is the galactose which is the problematic ingredient of milk as fermented diary do not show the correlation. So as always "it's the card, stupid".

    http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015

  3. JimmyJames
    It would be helpful to know how much of the milk drunk was low-fat or no-fat. The conclusions could be very different depending on this information.
  4. Murray
    With yoghurt and cheese there is both reduction of lactose and some denaturing of protein. Cheese has much less whey than yoghurt, but in this study yoghurt apparently did not have the same effect as milk, so it is not likely the whey, unless the de-naturating of fermentation affects the whey in yoghurt in a way that makes it biologically different than the whey in milk. This leaves lactose as the likely culprit (unless the fermentation affects other milk constituents). It is unclear to me from the study whether it is the lactose or the constituent parts that are the issue. Given that many people are to some degree lactose intolerant, it would not surprise me it is the lactose per se and not necessarily the sugar components of lactose (glucose and galactose) that are the cause of the inflammation and correlating issues. The lactose may cause proliferation of inappropriate bacteria (without ingestion of yoghurt probiotics to provide "good" bacteria that could dominate in the battle of the bacteria).
    Reply: #5
  5. erdoke
    I made an interesting observation about carb/sugar content of dairy products. There is always the same amount of 3-4 % shown on labels, regardless of the fermentation performed on milk. How can sugar (lactose) content be the same in unfermented milk, whipping cream and in very sour tasting yoghurts?
    When it comes to the reaction of my own body, as a long time diagnosed lactose intolerant, I'm still sensitive to pasteurized milk, not really sensitive to whipping cream and not at all sensitive to cheeses, yoghurts and butter.
  6. alan
    I read a paper this month in which the authors--Wu et al. (2014)--tested astaxanthin's ability to attenuate galactose toxicity (interesting toxin--one of the monosaccharides in lactose) on brain aging and oxidative stress.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24326685

  7. Suzanne
    "Milk is very insulin stimulating, both through lactose, and through a special milk protein, which stimulates desirable growth in young children."

    I started LCHF in June, and stopped drinking anything but water and unsweetened iced tea. Recently I decided to have a glass of whole milk. About an hour later I was ravenously hungry! I hadn't been hungry since starting LCHF and it was pretty shocking. I won't be trying that again.

  8. Sarah
    I assume all the milk in the research is pasteurized and homogenized - if most supermarket milk in Sweden is like in the United States? I drink raw milk and cream, and it doesn't have a hunger-inducing effect (anecdotal, n=1). Feels like very good, satisfying food. I know raw milk is not commonly available, so this may be sort of nit-picky, but I think it is worth making the distinction because raw milk and processed milk are such different substances with such different values for human health. Dr. Eenfeldt, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this! While I wouldn't bother ingesting processed dairy, I think raw dairy might have a perfectly healthy place in the diet of an adult, in to-satiety portions. I find it fits right in with my overall low-carb/high-fat way of eating.
  9. Andrew
    What about nuts and seeds?
  10. JMQ
    It's obvious we shouldn't be drinking milk - you don't need a study to tell you that, just common sense! Now, where's the study showing high meat consumption is also bad!
    Reply: #11
  11. erdoke
    I'm not sure it's that obvious. At least when checking what Weston A. Price found during his travels in the 20-30's. One example is the Masaai, doing extremely well on (raw and full) milk, meat and blood.
    If you refer to (semi-)skimmed pasteurized milk, that's probably correct.
    High processed meat consumption is indeed bad, especially if sodium-nitrite containing meats are heated.
  12. Armin
    What do you consider low fat milk? In Germany I'd estimates that more than 95% of all consumed milk is either 3 or 1.5 % fat, but I know that in Scandinavia lower values are quite common.
    Reply: #13
  13. erdoke
    Full fat milk is between 3.5-4.5 % fat. Anything below 3.5 % therefore qualifies for low fat.
  14. FrankG
    It's funny that when I was a child all we had was "milk"... not "whole milk", definitely no 1%, 2% etc..! There was skimmed but that was simply the mechanical process of "skimming" the cream off the top. Different types of cow and different times of the year woud have an effect on the taste and the cream. Cream which was allowed to rise to the top of the reuseable glass bottles we had... not "homogenised", and in winter the small birds (Blue Tits) had figured out that they could peck through the thin foil caps, to get at the cream; when the milk-man left the bottles each day, near the door.

    Where did we go wrong?

  15. Tyrannocaster
    I have to agree with Sarah and erdoke; if you read Weston Price the very first example he gives is the healthy Swiss villagers who ingested large amounts of dairy, and at that time I doubt it was pasteurized. I see a very big distinction between milk I can buy in the store and real milk, which I can't. For me it's a moot point, as store-bought milk is obesogenic for me although I don't have any other overt adverse reaction to it, and I am not able to buy raw milk in my state thanks to the laws we have here. We have destroyed milk, it's that simple.
  16. Murray
    The lactose-tolerance gene on chromosome two is the most strongly selected human specific gene yet identified in the human genome set. The archeological evidence indicates dairy consumption started with yoghurt and cheese and widened to milk with the genetic adaptation.

    Given the uniquely strong adaptive advantage to milk consumption, one would expect the observation that milk and not yoghurt or cheese has a deleterious effect has to do more with modern processing. Like Tyrannocaster, I find I doidwell with raw milk from grass fed guernsey. (The government harassed the farmer out of it, misapplying other regulations to bury him in red tape. So he quit the dairy.) By coincidence, the farm is located within a mile of the farm where Weston Price was raised. However, much better than the raw milk was the raw cream. Drinking that was the most stomach soothing food I have experienced. I note that when starting with unprocessed milk, some time is need to adjust the gut flora. But after that, the milk is just fine. On the other hand, I don't enjoy much pasteurized milk. A dairy woman I know raises ewes and notes her lambs that are fed pasteurized milk "don't thrive" as much as those who nurse with raw milk. Subjective, but consistent with experience. Something changes when you mess with the original bacteria and denature some enzymes with heat. Recent research indicates in humans that the mother transfers probiotics into the infant through breastfeeding, so the evolved composition of milk may presume certain probiotic presence. Perhaps the sugar in milk is designed for the bacteria in native milk and killing those bacteria results in proliferation of bad bacteria instead.

    In my own case, I avoid pasteurized milk. Yoghurt and kefir are okay for me. For cheeses, I avoid industrial cheeses and choose raw milk cheese whenever I can. The butter I get is cultured, but I have not noticed any weight, gut or other difference from uncultured butter. Doing this, I eat a lot of dairy and have no weight issues with dairy whatsoever.

    Reply: #17
  17. erdoke
    I am glad to see that my personal experience is confirmed by others. Or to put it in a more polite way, my experience confirms yours.
    Maybe it can be concluded now that industrial milk should be avoided by most people while raw milk and fermented/matured dairy is probably fine with the majority, given that some time for gut flora adaptation is provided. As a diagnosed lactose intolerant I found it truly amazing how I could thrive on a lot of high fat dairy – now including industrial whipping cream! – after making the move to LCHF. I bet it is due to gut flora adaptation.
  18. Zepp
    I dont give a shit for this study!

    Even as a lactose intollerant I can read.. and moste studies on dairys finds that dairy fat is protective and rather suport longevity!

    Then how about swedisch milk consumtion.. its mostly semi skim milk.. other cald it white sodas.. whitout the fizz!

    Heres the agricultural statistics!

    https://jordbruketisiffror.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/var-konsumtion-av...

    Other studies find that those whit higer levels of CLA in there blood,, perticaly children, are healtyer, not obese, have better healt markers!

    Its the fat in dairys thats healty.. whit its vitamines and other fat soluble nutrients!

    If one take away the fat one take away the healty components!

    But I can say this.. drinking milk is not for adults.. its a special nutrient solution for mamal childs to grow and put on weight!

  19. FrankG
    In terms of "industrial milk" it is not simply a case of the potential for "de-naturing" that pasteurisation and homogenisation cause to the raw milk but also a recognition that much of what is bought these days has been significantly processed beyond these two steps... 1%, 2% etc... is not simply a case of removing milk fat down to that level (as I previously presumed) but instead they break down the structure of the milk into it's component parts and then reconstiute it into whatever form they like.. coud we get even further away from "as nature intended"?

    This is without even considering that milk is processed in vast centralised factories (can scarely call them "dairies" anymore), with huge catchment areas, covering hundreds of farms, umpteen herds, in lawd knows what state of health but all being mixed togther into what people drink.

    Even what started as farners co-operatives have become "big milk" with lobbyists dictating government policy such that small, local operations, find themselves tied up in red-tape.

    I am fortunate to have a local, single-herd dairy farm, that produces high quality milk, yoghurt and cheese. I can visit the farm, meet the "girls" in the pasture, chat with the farmer about where my milk comes from and how it is produced. Canadian law requires it to be pasteurised but they use a slower, lower heat method, which promises less destruction of proteins, and it is NOT homogenised, so the cream rises to the top... what a treat! Plus it comes in glass bottles, which are cleaned and reused.

  20. robert
    I will try feeding my bird-visitors with cream. If they dig it, I should get a few nice photographs out of this experiment. I fancy 'organic' real cream without carrageen. It costs twice as much, but all the good stuff rises to the top. Delicious. Some time ago I pulled the lid off of a cup of cream, the fat had risen and formed a smilie-face on it! A bit of imagination is required :-)

    http://www.ipernity.com/doc/madworm/25362461/in/album/447563

    The ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, carrageenan-ized 'cream' now tastes strange to me. Somehow the smell and mouth-feel are wrong.

  21. Eric Anderson
    Butter (like Kerry Gold) mixed with warm water has the fat minus the lactose and most dairy proteins. Ghee is a step closer to pure fat.

    Over half my calories come from BUTTER!
    For me it has great taste and satisfaction

    Look at both insulin and glucose response!
    Butter and or Ghee derived from butter is an option!

  22. Mike
    "It suggests that people who drink a lot of milk live shorter lives on average, and perhaps in addition have an increased risk of bone fractures"

    Personally, I'm not going to go running around like a headless chicken changing my eating habits every time some new "study" comes out.

    As always -- correlation is not causation. You just don't know what the researchers may have failed to control for. If those who happened to drink more milk also happened, on average, to be doing something else that the researchers didn't think to ask about, that may be what's relevant. This is why we keep getting these stories about "studies" that "show" that red meat "causes cancer". See Gary Taubes' excellent article on the subject.

    I don't drink much milk, although I do enjoy cheese and yoghurt. But I'm simply not going to go running scared, on the basis of this, or any other, latest bit of sloppy research and thinking.

    We don't, in any case, know whether this milk is low- or high-fat. Nor do we know whether it is raw or not. One would also need to take into account other sources of evidence, such as ethnographic evidence. For example: were herding peoples, like the Nuer and Maasai, back in the time when they were still on their traditional diets, particularly liable to fracture. I doubt it. Certainly, the archaeological record shows that the bones of ancient Scythians are far heavier and more robust than those of modern populations.

    Just more junk science. it's getting embarrassing. Imagine if real scientists -- physicists, for example -- went on the way dietary "researchers" do, jumping to conclusions, working without context, failing to look at other sources of evidence, and so on.

    Besides, one can just as easily find stories indicating that milk -- raw milk, at any rate -- has positive health benefits. There's one that's dropped into my RSS reader at just the same time as this post turned up -- ironic, isn't it? Here it is:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/uncategorized/raw-milk-and-allergies/

    As I say, I'm just not going to change my eating habits one way or the other on the basis of whatever latest piece of headline-grabbing dietary news comes down the pike.

  23. erdoke
    I did some reading yesterday evening. My impression is that it is not pasteurization that does the big harm to industrially processed milk, but rather homogenization. If anything, homogenized milk and dairy products should be avoided.
    Reply: #24
  24. robert
    It is a very violent process. The milk is forced through tiny nozzles at pressures of several 1000 atmospheres. Any macroscopic object gets ripped apart.

    http://web.utk.edu/~fede/high%20pressure%20homogenization.html

    The size of the resulting fat droplets is way below what occurs naturally. If that is a problem, I cannot say. But it stands to reason that digestive systems may not like this. Due to the way smaller size of the droplets, the total surface area increases manifold. More surface area equals more potential for undesirable interaction with the environment (e.g. oxidation).

    Reply: #25
  25. erdoke
    I found some compelling arguments and also some convincing references in this article:
    http://suppversity.blogspot.de/2012/08/mutant-milk-new-research-fuels...
  26. Sarah
    Cate Shanahan explains the harms of homogenization very well in her book Deep Nutrition.
    Reply: #27
  27. JimmyJames
    Good point. There are many people who talk this through but Dr Kate Shanahan is one of the best.
  28. DonnaE
    I have not noticed this in my local Whole Foods store, but I definitely will look for it after reading these comments: http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/milk/grassmilk/
    Reply: #31
  29. Sandy
    Many years ago when I first became interested in healthy eating, I read a study that talked about cats where half were given raw, unpasteurised, unhomogenised milk and the others pasteurised and homogenised milk.

    Within a couple of generations, those on the pasteurised and homogenised milk had bone deformities and suffered fractures easily, plus experienced catarrhal problems and their coats were dull and rough. Those fed raw milk had glossy coats, no catarrhal problems, no bone deformities and no fractures.

    Reply: #35
  30. dbv
    Do you think this extends to half and half (I recognize it's higher in fat than milk)?

    One of my great joys in adopting LCHF is cream in my coffee and I don't believe it has had any negative impact on my overall weight loss (222 pounds to 189 pounds in about 16 mos)...or is the recommendation to go with heavy cream? It's seems to me based on a quick web search, that the carrageenan isn't all that great for you, it's very hard to find whole cream without it since americans generally use heavy cream to make whip cream.

  31. bill
    Yes, organic valley puts carrageenan in their cream.
    It is difficult to find cream without carrageenan, but
    Trader Joes has heavy whipping cream without it.
    Reply: #32
  32. Galina L.
    Light cream doesn't have a carragenon in US and a heavy cream in a Starbucks (but you have to ask for it).
  33. Mauricio Trambaioli
    Deans' stroke musings: Dairy products and the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study - http://oc1dean.blogspot.com.br/2014/11/dairy-products-and-risk-of-str...(deans%27+stroke+musings)&m=1

    Still, epidemiological studies with HH <<< 2, not even a student of statistics 101 would give attention to it.
    Mauricio

  34. fred t
    Interesting commentaries on a well worn theme with credible advocates on both sides of the dairy pro or con argument. What does anyone think about super-vegan Colin Campbell's contention that some (unelucidated) antigen in cow's milk leads to the autoimmune process responsible for type 1 diabetes........If we are looking for reasons to dump the milk from kid's diets.
    Reply: #38
  35. rawmilkmike
    Raw milk is available in most states and has none of theses problems. In fact it is a super-food with a negative risk factor.
  36. Fran
    I have been drinking milk all of my life - in excess of 1 pint per day - I am now nearly 60 years old and have never had a broken bone in my life. My sister who drinks very little milk has osteoporosis - forgive the spelling - I am a good weight and have a figure that females half my age would die for ...............I look great in a swimming costume - minus the head ! lol so take this with a pinch of salt............I was very poor as a child and if I had not had the milk at school I would have suffered badly from malnutrition.
    Reply: #44
  37. LK
    On a different tack altogether I discovered from my new partner that I was a really heavy snorer. Tried various advertised aids without success. Then read that one cause of snoring could be a reaction to milk (Dr. John Briffa) which I drank daily in 7/8 cups of tea/ coffee.
    Changed to drinking coffee with single or whipping cream and snoring stopped immediately. If I do drink milk even once in tea during the day I snore the following night.
    Love the coffee with cream and I believe this has also helped remove my hunger cravings and contributed to my 11lb weight-loss (179-168 lbs) in 4 months. I eat full fat Greek yoghurt, butter and most cheeses freely. I'm 66 and feel great.
  38. sten
    Why not?
    It could also be that cows nowadays are fed more grains to increase milk yield... Although their lives shorten as they cease to produce, or get sick or become mad cows (if they live too long on too much grains? Disease claimed to stop when cows returned to grass!)

    Note that mad cow disease never hits cattle for slughter when grain fed, but they are typically slaughtered 20 months old. And age matters for regulators: No bones from cattle over 30 months is allowed to be sold in Europe!)
    And of course the grain is not a natural food for grazers. And most of the grain we have today is hybridized, and hybridization (not GMO!) produces new gluten proteins, some in every new hybrid step. When the process of hybridization took place (See Willima Davis book Wheat Belly) the focus was on yield, yield, yield. In Mexico to speed up with two harvests per year.
    Nobody dared to even think that something bad could happen during or after the process. And the commander in chief for the operation also got the nobel price, for saving/feeding the world. Yet the whole thing was untested in regard of health outcomes! And the high yield and change of build up -much more protein- may have started to backfire big time already, since the 10-fold yield of the wheat may hardly keep up with a population that -since its introduction- increases quickly in weight, and hence food intake... That the new wheat (dwarf wheat) increase blood sugar dramatically quicker is another thing that Davis found out, or tested out. Hence our metabolic systems are not tuned for it. Follows a diabetes epidemic with much such food?.
    But the point I want to do regarding disease causing is the explosion of celiac disease. As if one part of those who can't handle the new wheat become ceilac while other parts seem to be able to digest it fine cannot handle its metabolic effects (without a well tuned insulin pump? ), get the same effects that beef cattle fed with it display: they grow twice as fast with unlimited intake!
    And really, maybe 90% of our bread is made from the new wheat, worldwide!

    But to return to the milk. Some of those gluten proteins, especially new that fewer are used to, fed to milking cows will naturally have a hard time to not end up in the milk proteins.

    Even Kerrygold admits to "maybe 10% grain feed" for their milk producing cows.
    Yet no need to go vegan like Campbell, but milk, cream and butter only from 99% grass fed cows is the answer. The right answer for me I mean.
    Still very hard to get. Since ghee from the butter gets rid of 99.9% of the milk proteins, it could be a solution not having access to grass fed. It should at least be better. Interesting I found about ghee is that once well prepared it lasts in room temperature at least a year! So a great conservation method, also in an emergency situation.

  39. Juls
    I understand that most dairy milk is not recommended due to the sugars it contains, but what about farm fresh (literally fresh and direct from the farm) Nubian goats milk which is known to have one of the highest fat contents. Would this be allowed as a suitable beverage in minimal quantities, say 1 cup a day?
    Reply: #40
  40. erdoke
    I believe that's not an issue even if 10 cups a day is consumed...
  41. Juls
    Thank you! I wish I knew how many carbs to count for it.
    Reply: #42
  42. Zepp
    Its moste about that you shall eat proper meals and dont drink your calories!

    Eat/drink full fat dairys to your proper meals.

    Its about 3-4/100 in milk, less in cream, almoste non i butter!

    http://www.fineli.fi/food.php?foodid=689&lang=en

  43. Maria
    The same story here - there was either milk or water, or sour milk to drink.. I drunk ca 1 liter per day until I came across this diet, three weeks ago. Because I want to lose ca 3-4 kg, I thought I'll try, as some recipes are delicious anyway.. I cut down milk drastically - now just under 1 liter in whole week.

    During last few days I burp more and more, and feel discomfort around my liver or gall bladder.. I am thinking that, I'll start drinking milk again. My body needs it!

  44. Gabriel
    Hi, I was wondering what does scientific literature currently say about vegan milk alternatives (like the ones from Alpro, who claim that their products are 100% natural) in relation to LCHF? They all have unsweetened versions too, like unsweetened Almond milk, with 0% carbohydrates. Are there any reasons to be worried about consuming them?

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