By Paige Arden
“Our deeply-rooted beliefs about the wholesomeness of milk and dairy products should be re-considered under careful, scientific evaluation.” -Bodo Melnik
While many abstain from a dairy-inclusive diet due to their intolerance of lactose, there are increasing numbers of people who are making the decision to eliminate dairy products from their life. This is usually due to concerns with animal rights, environmental awareness, or health reasons. One thing that milk-drinkers or cheese-eaters do not always realize is just how many health hazards come from keeping dairy in a diet.
Cow’s milk is low in calories and high in many nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin D, and protein. This seems okay for the body to handle. The problem is the lactase needed to break down the lactose in the milk. Almost 70% of the global population stop making lactase as soon as we finish breastfeeding. Milk has always been made to be suitable for children- it is why, biologically, the mother will produce it to give to them. It has never been something meant for adult consumption, and yet it has evolved over the years into just that.
Moreover, if someone were to continue breastfeeding until they were a child of 5 or 6, social stigma would frown upon that. However, if a kindergarten-aged kid drank cow’s milk, it would be considered perfectly normal and even necessary by some. Why is it that stealing the milk that another species is supposed to feed their offspring with is okay, even after the time has long since passed for a human to stop drinking their mother’s milk?
Every glass of milk that a person drinks has been shown to do just the slightest bit of harm on a person’s bones. There are proteins found in milk that will rob calcium from bone stores. This is why medical studies, such as the one done by Harvard School of Public Health, show that it is those who drink the most milk daily that are at the highest risk for bone fractures. This is particularly significant in females, where the risk is higher due to concentration.
Additionally, the same Harvard study proved just how high in saturated fats many dairy products are. This high saturated fat intake in dairy-inclusive diets leads to an increased risk of heart disease. While many dairy products now include some sort of non-fat option, the average ice cream, butter, milkshake, omelette, or devilled egg could very well be detrimental to a person’s health.
When looking at the statistics, there does seem to be hope for the potential of a future that is dairy-free. On average, a person will ingest 144 pints of cow’s milk every year. An estimated 40% of that will be poured onto cereal, and 60% of all milk-drinkers are children. Records show that Americans drink 37% less milk than they did 50 years ago. British dairy consumption, in the past 20 alone, has reduced by a third of what it was. This is encouraging. With so many alternatives out there- from lactose-free to almond to soy milk- there is no reason to exploit cattle in the same numbers that they currently are.
For your health as well as the health of the animals, plant-based options when it comes to dairy are the better and more sustainable option for any calcium, nutrients, or good taste that has been previously sought through animal products.