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The Myth of Milk
I recently came across Sunwheel Natural Notes Sheet No.7 from 1978. Controversial and beautifully written, I am reproducing it here in full:

‘According to the advertisements, milk is a wonder food, perhaps even the perfect food, nutritious, cheap, versatile and essential to good health. Only neglectful parents would fail to provide their children with their daily pinta. On the other hand, doctors and nutritionists are now warning that milk, butter and cheese are contributing factors in the development of heart disease and other degenerative diseases. In fact the much publicised benefits of milk are a myth, perpetuated because modern agriculture has created a rigid system dependent on the production of milk and dairy foods, and built up a ‘mountain’ of excess products which has to be reduced. This myth is dangerous to our health.

Milk is for Baby Mammals
Milk is a food secreted by female mammals to ensure that their offspring adjust from the womb to the outside world. The milk of each species of mammal is nutritionally tailored to its particular developmental needs. The early development of cows and humans is quite different. When a calf is born it must quickly build a strong bone structure in order to be able to stand and move about. Cow’s milk richer in protein, minerals, and fats than human milk, is designed to promote this. The greater early development in humans, however, is not in bone and muscle but in the nervous system. Human milk is therefore rich in easily digestible fats intended to build up the nervous system. It contains lighter, more digestible protein than cow’s milk, and is sweeter and more alkaline. Although cow’s milk may build strong bones, no one ever makes claims for what it does to intelligence. Human milk varies in composition during the first few weeks of infancy according to the baby’s changing needs. It also transfers from the mother to the baby a degree of immunity to disease. Cow’s milk, because it lacks all these properties, is not suitable for human infants.

Cow’s Milk Consumption: Yesterday and Today
Cow’s milk (and goat’s milk) were traditionally consumed where people were nomadic and had no fixed crops to live on, and where the weather was cold and saturated fats were therefore needed in the diet. In both these instances the amounts of milk and especially butter and cheese consumed were small in comparison today. Also, since one of our popular images of health is the rosy-cheeked dairy maid, we imagine that the diets of the provincial peasant must traditionally have been rich in dairy foods. However, the consumption of dairy foods in our society has roughly doubled in the last fifty years alone.

The quantity consumed is in fact an important consideration. Fats tend to be stored in the body for future use; excessive amounts begin to be stored in areas where they are harmful to health. Most of the current concern of doctors and nutritionists about the overconsumption of milk and its products is with the storage of these excess fats in the circulatory system, the joints and the organs. These fats can eventually line the interior of the blood vessels, decreasing the efficiency of the circulation and in extreme cases completely blocking the flow of blood. Hard physical labour or living in a cold climate help to burn off excess fat, but for most people living in today’s urbanised environment even a little saturated fat can be too much.

The quality of our dairy products today is considerably different from that of the past. Cattle are not allowed to live a natural existence but are manipulated to cut down costs for the farmer. The residues of chemical sprays and pesticides and the hormones that are fed to cattle to fatten them and stimulate milk production are all passed on to the milk of the cow in a more concentrated form. Also, the restricted diet and lack of exercise of modern cows have changed the balance of fats in their milk and meat. Those fats which are essential for the development of the nervous system and the repair of cells have decreased, and now in abundance are those fats which are stored and tend to become a health hazard.

Nutritional Alternatives to Milk
Advertisers often claim that milk is an excellent foods because it contains large quantities of essential nutrients, particularly protein and calcium. In fact milk contains only about 3% protein by weight, compared with about 10% for grains, 20-25% for beans, and about 50%for some soyabean products. Moreover the protein of cow’s milk is the insoluble substance caseinogen, which forms a dense curd in the stomach that is difficult to digest. Milk is also by no means as high in calcium as we are led to believe. Sunflower seeds contain at least twice as much, kale leaves more than twice as much, sesame seeds about eleven times as much, and wakame and hijiki sea vegetables over thirteen times as much calcium as milk. A good balanced diet based on whole grains, beans, vegetables, seeds and sea vegetables therefore provides more protein and calcium, not to mention other nutrients, than dairy products. Such a diet can be health-giving, delicious and easy on the pocket book.’