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Health Panel Decries Attacks on Milk

New York, NY, October, 1999. Scientists and physicians associated with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) reject charges that milk and dairy products, the most widely used source of dietary calcium in the United States, are not healthful components of the American diet. This allegation is particularly irresponsible in light of the inadequate intake of calcium by vulnerable segments of the population. In an updated report, Much Ado About Milk, ACSH reviews current scientific literature that supports the use of milk and dairy products to supply dietary calcium, as well as protein, magnesium and zinc.

Activist groups, particularly the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), have charged that cows' milk causes a wide variety of ailmentsólike anemia, allergies and type 1 diabetesóbut when such charges are thoroughly investigated, they are found to be without merit.

Unmodified cows' milk, when fed to young infants, can indeed cause some bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract which could lead to anemia. Such an occurrence should be rare, as no reputable authority advises feeding babies under one year of age anything but human breast milk or formula. And cows' milk-based formulas have been heat-treated to avoid the type of problem that can be caused by unmodified milk.

True milk allergy, typically to the proteins found in cows' milk, is quite rare, and is usually outgrown. Lactose intolerance, which is prevalent among some ethnic groups, is not an absolute contraindication to milk and dairy consumption. States Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH president, "Even people with lactose intolerance can consume 1 to 2 cups of milk per day. They should try to do so, since research has shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can help lower blood pressure."

The link between cows' milk consumption and diabetes in infants is tenuous at best. While some research has supported such a link, recent theory supports the view that the real issue is the immaturity of the young infant's gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Until the GI tract has matured, other proteins (even those from soy-based formulas) may increase the risk of diabetes. Research in this area is active, and more information will undoubtedly be available within the next few years.

"ACSH agrees with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which state that the most appropriate food for young infants is human breast milk or infant formula." stated Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH director of nutrition. "After the age of one year," she continued, "it is appropriate for children to drink unmodified cows' milk."

Other charges include one that calcium from milk and dairy products does not help prevent osteoporosis late in life. Many studies have found, however, that the calcium in milk is better absorbed than that of most other foods, and that ample dietary calcium is required for building and maintaining strong bones.

Dr. Gilbert Ross, ACSH medical director commented, "The attempts by extremist groups to rescind current recommendations for milk and dairy consumption are ill-advised and certainly not supported by the scientific data. Their suggestions would certainly not improve public health."

The American Council on Science and Health is a consortium of over 250 physicians and scientists.

For more information contact:
The American Council on Science and Health
1995 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10023-5860

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