The Mind of James Donahue

Slurping Cow's Milk

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Should Humans Be Drinking Cow's Milk?

By James Donahue

A few years back I remember reading an interesting theory by a progressive nutritionist who suggested that people should not be drinking cow's milk. His or her argument then was that all mammals are fed mother's milk when they are newborns. After that, only humans continued the consumption of milk and milk products. The author argued that it seemed unnatural that we were drinking food meant for baby calves.

It was an interesting thought, but it did little to deter me then from continuing to enjoy the cultivated taste I had for cheese, yogurt, ice cream and milk on my bowl of breakfast cereal.

I stopped consuming most milk products about a year or two ago after Mad Cow Disease showed signs of being passed from species to species through the consumption of meat. It occurred to me that milk products also might contain the deadly protein, or prion, now known to cause this frightening brain disorder. Because the prion is not a living organism, it appears to be indestructible. Cooking and pasteurization will not eliminate its deadly effects on the brain of any animal that consumes it. In my simple way of looking at things, it seems possible that such a prion, once in the cow, might be passed on through the milk as well as the meat.

That was my position as early as two years ago. But I seemed to be the only writer out here who thought that way.

Now a letter by T. Colin Campbell, nutritional biochemist at Cornell University, claims that milk is not only unnatural for human consumption, he believes it is outright dangerous.

After years of research, Campbell concludes that fats in dairy products not only can contribute to hardening of the arteries and heart disease, he warns that the cow's exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, dioxins and bovine growth hormones may be getting passed on to humans through milk and milk products.

A letter on Campbell's web site,
(, which he claims the New York Times refused to publish, states the following:

"There is compelling evidence, now published in top scientific journals, showing that cows' milk is associated, possibly even causally, with a wide variety of serious human ailments, including various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and an array of allergy related diseases. And, this food contains no nutrients that cannot be better obtained from other far more nutritious and tasty foods."

After years of study Campbell said he not only questioned the health claims about milk, but began to believe "cows' milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed, to say nothing of its other questionable effects on health. I am especially concerned about its effect on breast cancer and other cancers of the reproductive tract."

"Research in our own laboratory at Cornell University, supported by more than two decades of funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research, has produced findings to support this concern," the letter said.  "These extensive findings, published in the top scientific journals, show that cows' milk protein, for example, rather vigorously promotes tumor development in experimental animal studies at consumption levels equivalent to that of human consumption. And when considering the remaining nutrient composition of cows' milk, this observation on protein is made even more disturbing.

Surprisingly, Campbell said milk and milk products are popular only in North America and Northern Europe where people of European descent seem to possess a mutated gene that makes adults lactose tolerant. In other parts of the world, the enzyme that allows little children to drink and digest mother's milk is not produced in the body once the child is weaned from the breast.

Most adults in the rest of the world have trouble digesting lactose. Some suffer from bloating, cramps or diarrhea if they try.

The letter goes on to say that Campbell believes he "exercised over this issue because I spent many years doing research on this and closely related topics and have acquired and spent millions of precious American tax dollars to pursue these interests." He notes that he grew up on a dairy farm and clearly understands "the virtual religion surrounding this food" in the United States.

"The question is not whether we have air tight evidence on these disturbing observations. Rather, it is now time to begin taking seriously this disturbing evidence in respect to its consistency, its comprehensiveness, its plausibility, and its relevance for human health," Campbell wrote.

"Understandably, it is a difficult task to challenge such a popular food, especially when promoted by an industry with virtually unlimited funding to pedal their product. I know very well this difficulty, for I come from a background of dairy farming and graduate school training having indoctrinated me in the more traditional point of view," he said.

"Nonetheless, it is now time, both within and beyond the professions, to begin a serious dialogue to consider the worthiness of these observations.

"We must begin to seriously challenge, for example, the massive school lunch program that mandates the cows' milk option, only to risk compromising the health of so many children who are predisposed to allergenic and disease producing effects simply to satisfy a government subsidy. We can no longer afford to be so constrained within a research funding environment that seriously limits an honest exploration of this issue. And we can no longer tolerate a media that, for whatever reason, find it more acceptable to hide their own agenda at the expense of public health."


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