Virtual Voices

Put down that glass of milk and eat your vegetables

Health

Most Americans have bought into the propaganda that we need milk for strong bones and teeth. I don't believe it anymore. Higher levels of calcium are found in many green vegetables per serving than one would find in a glass of milk. Moreover, the connection between strong bones and cow milk simply does not hold up to science and history. In America we have all been conditioned to believe that milk contributes to strong bones throughout a child's life. In the end, could this rhetoric be nothing more than the dairy lobby taking advantage of government intrusion into the world of business?

According to a New York Times article, the dairy industry is struggling. Dairy farmers are now using a technique to discard sperm with Y-chromosomes to produce more female cows for milk production. The problem today, however, is that demand is low and diary farmers are being paid to discard milk they produce as well as being compensated to send cows for slaughter. I am wondering, however, if demand is down in part because American families are "wising-up" to the fact that children and adults don't need to drink milk to stay healthy. Maybe it's time that we say "good-bye" to the government-supported dairy industry.

The dogs I've owned over the years had strong bones and they didn't drink cow's milk. Lions have strong bones and they don't drink cow's milk. Gorillas have strong bones and they don't drink cow's milk. Grizzly bears have strong bones and they don't need milk cow's milk. I am not saying it is forbidden as a beverage, but I'm not convinced that anyone ever needs to drink milk from a cow---ever.

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Walter Veith, former professor and chair of the Department of Zoology at the University of Western Cape, South Africa, has this to say:

Mother's milk is essential for infants, but then infants are specially designed to cope with this growth-promoting food. Prior to weaning, the necessary enzyme systems needed for the digestion and assimilation of milk components are active, but they are progressively deactivated with age. The milk of other mammals also differs in composition from human milk, and this, together with the potential danger from ingested antigens, makes cow's milk unsuitable for human consumption.

If we don't need a cow's milk then why is it in the government food pyramid? An interesting study published a few years ago in the medical journal Pediatrics titled "Adult Female Hip Bone Density Reflects Teenage Sports-Exercise Patterns but Not Teenage Calcium Intake" demonstrates that, for women, bone density has more to do with early exercise than calcium intake.

It's pretty well-known that many vegetables have higher levels of calcium than milk: for example, according to The George Mateljan Foundation, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and collard greens. Shredded cabbage, also common in many salad bars, is also a good source of calcium. If parents want to make sure their children intake good amounts of calcium perhaps it's better to stick with old saying, "Honey, eat your vegetables."

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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