By: Scott E. LePor, D.O.

The perspective of dairy and how it impacts our diet and health has gone through some transitions over the last few decades. Dairy has gone from traditionally being considered to being foundational to our overall health to now being questioned whether it is necessary at all for our diet and even more concerning that dairy may actually be unhealthy for us contributing to or even causing many medical problems.

A Question of Health

Questions about dairy started to arise in the 1970’s when medical journals started to publish data suggesting a link between dairy and prostate cancer with one study done in the 1990’s finding that frequent dairy consumption could increase prostate cancer risk by two and one-half times. (1) Since then, more and more data has been and is currently being published showing not only links to cancer but to other health problems as well. These health issues are not only from the effects of a human having problems digesting cow milk, but also the contamination dairy receives in it’s production and processing.

Western diets are known to be highly inflammatory and dairy is now known to be one of the most inflammatory foods in our diet. (2) Many medical problems that are prevalent in Western society are inflammatory based and are wreaking havoc on our health as well as our quality of life. (3) Not only is dairy a strong contributor to our inflammatory disease epidemic but the amount of hormones and antibiotics and pesticides that are introduced into the production process of dairy is causing its own area of concern with disease. (4) These added chemicals end up being unknowingly ingested by the consumer and contributing to metabolic disruption and metabolic imbalance many times leading to significant health problems including those related to the immune and reproductive systems as well as to the central nervous system. Dairy products have actually been shown to be responsible for ¼ to ½ of total dietary dioxin intake and the EPA reports dairy as the third leading food source for dioxin intake. (5) (6)

Dioxin Key Facts

  • Dioxins are called persistent organic pollutants (POPs), meaning they take a long time to break down once they are in the environment.

  • Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones.

  • Dioxins are found throughout the world in the environment and they accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals.

  • More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish. (7)

As many people today are assessing a transition away from dairy, concerns with many are arising with previous beliefs that dairy is necessary for bone health. Culturally we have been lead to believe that we cannot have good bone health without eating or drinking our dairy. (8) However, recent studies have shown that consuming dairy had no benefit with bone integrity with children and other studies have shown that consuming dairy may actually increase the risk of osteoporosis as populations with the greatest dairy consumption have the highest rates of hip fractures. (8) The British Medical Journal reported that women who drink more than three glasses of milk per day have a 60% increased risk for developing a hip fracture. Drinking three or more glasses of milk a day also increases mortality risk by 93% and for each glass of cow milk drank per day, one’s risk of dying from all causes increases by 15%. (9)

As many people are looking to improve their health and especially with more and more data pointing to our diet as foundational for not only improving our health but also in preventing disease, people are having to relearn how and what to eat. Successful transitions to healthier diets and lifestyles are becoming easier as more and more production of plant-based foods are entering the market. This article has been contributed by Scott E. LePor, D.O., a whole food plant-based physician by practice and in his life. References: World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 322. Outwater JL, Nicholson A, Barnard N. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF- 1, estrogen, and bGH hypothesis. Med Hypothesis. 1997;48:453– 461. Bhandari SD, Schmidt RH, Rodrick GE. Hazards resulting from environmental, industrial, and agricultural contaminants. In: Schmidt RH, Rodrick GE, eds. Food Safety Handbook. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2005:291–321. Lanou AJ, Berkow SE, Barnard ND. Calcium, dairy products, and bone health in children and young adults: a reevaluation of the evidence. Pediatrics. 2005;115:736–743. BMJ 2014;349:g6015

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