Milk is a mammal’s first food. Mother’s milk is the natural diet of infants. Breast feeding confers health benefits that last a lifetime (as long as the mother is herself healthy). Beyond infancy, and aside from mother’s milk, the bodily damage from milk exceeds its nutritional benefit.
Milk is a complex substance. Animal milk, notably cow’s milk, does not digest well. Its mucous-forming tendency is indicative of bodily unease. Dairy clogs the system.
In the East Indies, goat’s milk is made more digestible by watering it down, boiling it, drinking it hot, and sometimes adding pungent spices, such as ginger or pepper. Goat’s milk is more readily handled by the digestive system than cow’s milk and is less mucous forming.
Several of milk’s ingredients cause digestive difficulties, as well as discomforting and unsightly after-effects. Besides contributing to an upset stomach and other digestive tract disturbances, dairy consumption causes acne in youth and heartburn later in life. (The use of the term dairy herein is confined to milk products.)
Milk is loaded with saturated fat. On a per-serving basis, 2% milk has more saturated fat than French fries. The lactose in milk yields the same calorie load as soda pop.
The sugar in milk is lactose: typically, 2–8 % of milk by weight. When the small intestine does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to handle the onslaught, the body is lactose intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is common. It can cause bloating, cramps, gurgling in the stomach, gas, loose stool, and/or diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy, which delivers a distinct set of discomforts.
Peanut allergy is the most common allergy in the United States. Milk allergy is 2nd, affecting 2.5% (3 million) children in the US.
20 thousand years ago (TYA), during the last ice age, milk was toxic to adults. They lacked the lactase enzyme required to break down milk sugar (lactose).
Beginning 11 TYA, cattle herders in the Fertile Crescent learned to reduce the lactose in dairy products via fermentation. Microbes consumed much of the milk sugar, rendering an edible cheese or yogurt.
Continued consumption resulted in rapid adaptation. Within a few thousand years of beginning to consume dairy, Europeans were able to produce lactase, and thereby stomach milk products throughout their lives.
To this day, other human subspecies, including Asians, remain less tolerant of dairy. Some tribes in Africa adapted owing to their insistent habit of herding cattle and consuming milk.
The calcium in cow’s milk is barely absorbed. Like all animal protein, milk metabolizes acidically. This triggers a biological response. Calcium, an excellent deacidfier, is drawn from the body to neutralize milk’s acidifying effect. The net result is a loss of calcium from drinking milk. Adult consumption of dairy products, particularly milk, increases the risk of hip fracture in old age.
American nutritionist Amy Joy Lanou observed that “the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.”
Cow’s milk was adaptively designed for calves. It has 3 times the protein of human milk. Once a calf is weaned, it never drinks milk again. The same applies to every mammalian species except humans, who imprudently consume dairy products.
Milk cows in the United States and other countries are commonly given copious antibiotics and injected with bovine growth hormone. These chemicals invariably make their way into dairy products. Organic milk sidesteps this hazard.
The health risk of milk is compounded by its processing. Pasteurization and homogenization create additional problems with digestion and absorption, as well as lowering nutritional content. But raw milk readily risks food poisoning.
“There’s very little evidence that milk is doing adults much good,” concluded American physician Aaron Carroll.
Ishi Nobu, The Ecology of Humans, BookBaby (2019).