Milk has been used for human consumption for thousands and thousands of years, as proven by cave drawings showing cows being milked. Today, cow's milk is still one of the most popular animal milks consumed by humans. Around the world, people drink the milk from many other animals including camels, goats, llamas, reindeer, sheep, and water buffalo. We have all heard the popular saying, “Milk, it does a body good”, on TV or on the radio but is milk really good for us? Some people are beginning to think that milk is more harmful than beneficial. Opponents of consuming milk state that it causes obesity, cancer, heart disease, and allergies. Proponents of drinking milk say that all the calcium and vitamins in milk make milk a much needed staple in our diet and that milk can strengthen bones, help make your teeth strong and healthy, and prevent cancer. Well with that conflicting information, who is right? Let’s take a look at some history on milk before we make our decision.
Scientists believe that Neolithic farmers in Britain and Northern Europe may have been among the first to begin milking cattle for human consumption. The dairying activities of these European farmers may have begun as early as 6,000 years ago. According to scientists, the ability to digest milk was slowly gained some time between 5000-4000 B.C.E. by the spread of a genetic mutation called lactase persistence that allowed post-weaned humans to continue to digest milk. (http://milk.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000832) Archeological evidence also shows that the Ancient Sumerians drank cow's milk and also made cow's milk into cheeses and butters. The ancient Hebrews held milk in high favor; the earliest Hebrew Scriptures contain evidence of the widespread use of milk from very early times. The Old Testament refers to a 'land which floweth with milk and honey' some twenty times. The phrase describes Palestine as a land of extraordinary fertility, providing all the comforts and necessities of life. In all, the Bible contains some fifty references to milk and milk products. So there is strong evidence of people drinking milk throughout history. So why are people now questioning if we should be drinking milk?
When we are talking about milk, what we are talking about? The Britannica Encyclopedia offered the following description: Milk is "Liquid secreted by the mammary glands of female mammals to nourish their young. The milk of domesticated animals is also an important food source for humans. Most milk consumed in Western countries is from cows; other important sources include sheep, goats, water buffalo, and camels. Milk is essentially an emulsion of fat and protein in water, along with dissolved sugar, minerals (including calcium and phosphorous), and vitamins, particularly vitamin B complex. Commercially processed cow's milk is commonly enriched with vitamins A and D." So we are not just talking about cow’s milk, we are talking about any other animal milk. For the purpose of this essay, we are not talking about human milk.
There are people who oppose the drinking of milk for ethical reasons and also for health reasons. PETA for example, has an anti-milk drinking campaign at milksucks.com and is opposed to the drinking of milk due to their opinion that it’s animal cruelty to milk the cows. On their website they state that cows are mistreated from birth until death. The babies are ripped from their mothers and the mothers are forced to produce 10 times the amount of milk that they would normally produce with the help of injections of drugs. They claim this shortens the life span of these cattle and makes them lame when they are finally retired from milking just to be butchered. Painful inflammation of the mammary glands, or mastitis, is common among cows raised for their milk, and it is one of dairy farms' most frequently cited reasons for sending cows to slaughter. There are about 150 bacteria that can cause the disease, one of which is E. coli. Symptoms are not always visible, so milk's somatic cell count (SCC) is checked to determine whether the milk is infected. Somatic cells include white blood cells and skin cells that are normally shed from the lining of the udder. As in humans, white blood cells—also known as "pus"—are produced as a means of combating infection. The SCC of healthy milk is below 100,000 cells per milliliter; however, the dairy industry is allowed to combine milk from all the cows in a herd in order to arrive at a "bulk tank" somatic cell count (BTSCC). Milk with a maximum BTSCC of 750,000 cells per milliliter can be sold. A BTSCC of 700,000 or more generally indicates that two-thirds of the cows in the herd are suffering from udder infections. When you are picking the milk to drink, the skim milk has the least white blood cells in it with the whole milk having the most white blood cells. Some people think that dairy products contribute to a number of health problems. They claim they can impair a child's ability to absorb iron and in very small children can even cause subtle blood loss from the digestive tract. Combined with the fact that milk has virtually no iron of its own, the result is an increased risk of iron deficiency. Also several studies have been published showing a high positive correlation between milk consumption in different countries and rates of death a few years later from Coronary Heart Disease. Studies have suggested that some of the nutritional benefits of milk may be lost when a lactose intolerant individual consumes milk. Not only does this person fail to receive the calories normally supplied by the undigested carbohydrates, but the resulting diarrhea may lead to loss of protein as well. Some people also believe that drinking milk can cause cancer. One reason milk consumption may lead to a cancer risk is insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1. Milk contains IGF-1 for good reason: milk is designed for babies, and IGF-1 helps us grow. IGF-1 affects growth, as well as other functions, and is normally found in our blood. Higher levels of IGF-1, however, appear to stimulate cancer cells. Three, large, well-designed studies in which dietary intake was assessed among cancer-free women who were followed over time to see who developed ovarian cancer, showed an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women with high intakes of milk and lactose. If women took in a daily increase of 10 grams of lactose, about the amount in one glass of milk, their risk of ovarian cancer increased by 13 percent. Exactly how the dairy foods may boost risk isn't known, but lactose produces galactose and glucose, and galactose has been thought to increase the risk by direct toxicity to the ovarian germ cells. Some people also blame milk for causing early puberty. Girls in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are now reaching puberty at drastically earlier ages. Two factors proven responsible for precocious puberty are detached parenting and consumption of cow's milk. Cow's milk has a high fat content, high levels of hormones and growth factors, and other chemicals from highly medicated cows. There are also people who believe that drinking milk hinders your body’s ability to digest properly. Some people think it is odd that humans are the only mammals who continue to drink milk after we are weaned from our mothers. There is also a belief that pasteurized cow’s milk can be one of the biggest culprits of allergies in children, and may be one of the contributing factors in behavioral issues of some children.
On the other hand, there are people who believe that drinking milk is one of the best things we can do for our health. Milk is one-stop shopping for nutrition. It contains nearly all the basic nutrients that a growing child needs: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. While it is true that most of the nutrients in milk can be gotten easily from other sources, such as vegetables, legumes, and seafood, milk puts them all together in a convenient package. Realistically, children eat or drink dairy products in greater amounts and more consistently than other foods. While whole milk is not the only way to get calcium in a child's diet, it's the most practical way. Some people believe that milk can help build strong bones. Findings from ongoing studies indicate that four to five servings/day of calcium-rich foods such as milk and other dairy products are needed to optimize peak bone mass during adolescence. Osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. With low calcium intake levels during important bone growth periods, today's youth faces a serious public health problem in the future. Some people also believe that drinking more milk can aide in weight loss. Mounting research indicates that consuming more calcium in the diet - particularly from calcium-rich dairy foods - can speed up weight loss and reduce body fat, particularly abdominal fat. Consuming dairy products appears to help prevent body weight and fat gain in children and adults, Caucasians and African-Americans, males and females. In addition, dairy foods have proven to be more effective than calcium alone in moderating body weight/fat gain and accelerating weight/fat loss. The mix of essential nutrients in dairy foods, including calcium and protein, appears to speed up metabolism and improve the body's ability to burn fat. Milk is a very convenient way to include calcium in our diets. The largest source of dietary calcium for most persons is milk and other dairy products, which accounts for 72% of the calcium in the US food supply. Sixty-five percent of the dietary calcium intake in children in the United States is supplied by dairy products. Drinking three 8-oz glasses of milk per day will achieve the recommended adequate intake of calcium in children 4 to 8 years of age, and four 8- to 10-oz glasses of milk will provide the adequate calcium intake for adolescents. Most vegetables contain calcium, although at relatively low density. So, large servings are needed to equal the total intake achieved with typical servings of dairy products.
So should you drink animal milk or shouldn’t you? I think when it comes down to it, that has to be your personal choice. I have laid out the pros and the cons for both, now you get to decide. Works Cited
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