Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog and my Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse are now legacy sites, meaning that I am not updating them any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

My old website can be found at

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Anti-Milk Crowd Steps on Its Udders Again

If you've been reading this column for more than a few days, you knew that an article titled "Seven Good Reasons to Avoid Cow's Milk" was going to set me off. It was written by "Sheryl Walters, citizen journalist" - honest, that's what it says - and can be found on the site.

As always with these articles, the citizen journalist cherry picks negative studies and ignores all studies that reaches opposite conclusions. As I hope I've warned you often enough, single studies on any medical subject are rarely if ever to be taken as authoritative. Epidemiological studies, those that purport to show that a single food or nutrient has significant impact on health, are even more problematic. Isolating a single cause out of all the possible contributors toward health is extremely difficult and only the very best, largest, and longest studies have any meaningful results. This is true no matter what single factor is being studied or what conclusion is reached.

You can ignore most of what Walters writes just for this reason. It's clear she doesn't even know why what she says is wrong.

Most newspaper accounts of medical research ignore this basic fact, so your understanding of it may also be affected. A person writing an article should know better, though. And there are clues all through her seven reasons that her grasp on nutrition and diet is comical at best. Some of the best:

Milk is not the great source of calcium that most people believe it is. First of all, pasteurizing milk kills all of the nutrients, including calcium.

Pasteurizing milk does absolutely no such thing. There is as much calcium in pasteurized milk as any other. Calcium is a mineral. It can't be killed, since it was never alive.
Approximately 75 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant, which means that they are unable to fully digest dairy. Lactase is the enzyme needed to digest lactose, and most people stop producing it around the age of 5.

Probably 75% of the world's population does have the gene that stops lactase production, true. But the decline starts at all ages. In many populations the decline does not begin until adulthood. Even most people with lactose intolerance can drink some milk products without symptoms, as shown by the huge growth in dairy in various Asian countries where the genetic levels of LI are extremely high.
People with many different healthy complaints notice a significant improvement when they avoid dairy.

I wish I had healthy complaints. Unfortunately, mine are always the opposite.

My complaints about the anti-milk crowd? Always the same.

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Anonymous said...

Hmm, yes, she has some true points, but certainly some flawed ones ... in fact, I spotted one more ... just in case you needed more amo :)

"Second, spinach, tahini, kale and other green leafy vegetables are the best sources of calcium on the planet."

Last time I checked, absorption of calcium from spinach is very low due to the high level of oxalates, along with a couple other leafy greens. While it is a source of calcium, it certainly isn't "one of the best on the planet."

Steve Carper said...

The nitpicking could have gone on for days, indeed.

I cover the problems with oxalates in green leafy vegetables in my book. I should do a post on it some time to expand on what you wrote.