Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Udder nonsense

"Beer is living proof that God loves us
and wants us to be happy."
Ben Franklin

I do a lot of things that may not be good for me--I sit in front of this monitor too many hours a day, I like to go fast on motorcycles, and I use the top step on ladders. One high risk activity I refrain from, however, is drinking milk.

Cow's milk is for calves. Breast milk is for young humans. Aside from some sort of fetish practiced in moderation, adults should never drink milk.

In the cafeteria, Josephine serves me lunch. I love her. She calls me "Pumpkin," and she knows exactly what I like.

Still, I suspect she might be trying to kill me. She can't resist pushing the milk. People love to be in line behind me because I give my milk away. (I can actually get veggies and a fruit for only 15 more cents if I also take a half-pint of milk.)

Beer in moderation, on the other hand, prolongs life. It lowers blood pressure, reduces my chances of developing Alzheimer's, and, well, tastes good. Really good.

Really, really good.
(Did I mention that I like beer?)

Guess which beverage gets the huge color poster on the cafeteria wall?

Now obviously I don't think the cafeteria walls should be covered with Guinness ads, nor do I condone drinking among the young (except maybe for those in my immediate clan).

Our love affair with cow's milk shows what a good PR campaign can do. We are willing to drink the milk from a four-legged critter while simultaneously repulsed by the idea of making ice cream from breast milk.

I'm not going to jump all over anyone for a bad milk habit--live and let live. But on St. Paddy's Day, when I carefully pour the cream over a spoon into my Irish coffee, it's not the whiskey I fear.

It's the cream.

Particularly the cream from the milk of another species.

My students continue to drink milk and Coke and Snapple and all kinds of other things that harm them, truly harm them. Diabetes is no joke.

In D.A.R.E., they learn that beer is a gateway drug.Too much of anything can be dangerous. Thankfully, too much thinking is not one of them anymore. Uncontrolled thinking could lead to all kinds of ruinous activities.

I'll drink to that.

I lifted the image of the beer in a carboy from Homebrew Underground
--at least until they complain or I find my own photo. Addendum: it's cool--thanks, Homebrew Underground!

The udder shot is from Genus Breeding.

Leslie points out, rightly, that cow's milk has not been linked to adult onset diabetes.
Milk has been associated with Type 1 diabetes, but correlation,
of course, does not mean causation.

Leslie also says stay away from BGH (bovine growth hormone).

To be fair, I'm a bit lactose intolerant, so I may be biased.


Anonymous said...

Right on. Alcohol, and the damage it does on society is so much less than milk.

I completely fear those 'drink milk and drive', whereas those that have a couple of beers don't over-estimate their abilities at all.

It's not like the health benefits of alcohol are consistently over-rated (http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20073110-16518-2.html) by a credulous public who wants to be told they can buzz their way to health, or that the health dangers rival that of smoking (http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/170/12/1778-a).

It's funny how the same people who think vaccines are dangerous also think milk is dangerous (http://www.doctorsaredangerous.com/articles/top20.htm). Too much of a good thing is obviously bad, but denying the obvious health benefits of milk in favour of alcohol? Because ignoring years of research is completely over-ruled by research showing that drinking too much fat is bad for you.

When you're in the same camp as the anti-vaxxers, & anti-fluorides, you know you must be on a side decided by a rational examination of the evidence.

doyle said...

Ah, my anonymous friend, you are tossing on words that do not appear in the post.

1) Alcohol is a very dangerous drug, and may indeed kill more than any other recreational drug (or maybe any drug out there when not used modestly).

Still, the health benefits of 1-2 oz/day for an adult male outweigh the risks--indeed, outweigh abstinence (so long as it's modest use).

2) Who mentioned anything about vaccines in the post?

Like any other board certified pediatrician who has seen devastation wrought by preventable illness, I recognize the benefits far outweigh the risks, when used appropriately.

3) I never said don't drink milk. I think human milk is a fine food for our infants and young children.

4) Your fluoride comment, as relevant as your vaccine comment, reminds me to post about that as well. I think you'll love to hear my thoughts on that.

Lumping "camps" together as you do suggests you may be in the "camp of folks who lump folks together by camps." I'm left-handed, which by your reasoning puts me in the Pol Pot, Hitler, Osama bin Laden camp.

[Yes, the previous paragraph was illogical and makes no sense, and does not follow from your arguments--which, of course, is my point.]

But I do thank you for the fluoride tip....

Louise Maine said...

I am concerned with issue about many of our foods, milk included. My students are starting today a persuasive essay about a food issue of their choice found here. I don't drink much either except to slightly drown my whole grain cereal (cereal being a vice for me.) I would love to grow food year round (hubby needs to work on a greenhouse). Love the cows here and sure they are more organic than big business farms. Growth hormones, antibiotics given to them cannot be good for us. I don't drink milk because we are not meant to drink the milk of other organisms, only our own (believe there has been some evidence that many of us are actually lactose intolerant to a degree but not sure if I can find that.)

Chris Chin said...

Do I see a science lesson in this?

Barry Bachenheimer said...

As person who loves chocolate milk, ice cream, and milk shakes...I come to a defense of dairy products here.

What exactly is your objection ot milk? Hormones? Mass production? Commercialism? Dr. Doyle, normally you are very cogent, but not so much in this post.

What about so called "organic" milk? Soy milk? Rice milk? Milk of magnesia?

doyle said...

Dear Barry,

You raise an excellent point--I was so busy dreaming about beer that I forgot to list my problems with milk.

1) Milk has been associated with Type 1 diabetes, enough reason alone for kids to avoid it. (Humans make a better brand of milk.)
2) Milk is rich in fat, a wonderful thing for infants and young children, no so wonderful for me.
3) Milk has been associated with weight problems in kids
4)There's an association (again, correlation does not prove causation) with ovarian cancer
5) Milk reeks havoc with allergies for many children and has been associated with ear infections
6) Milk cows are given bovine growth hormone. I have yet to see evidence that this is a major problem, but it does increase growth hormone (IGF-1) which has been associated with promotoing metastasis in some cancers.
7) Cows produce a bucketload of methane, a contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
8) Milk interferes with the absorption of iron in infants, leading to iron deficiency anemia, which can affect cognitive development

As I told anonymous above, live and let live--if you like milkshakes, by all means enjoy them.

Organic milk at least reduces exposure to pesticides and antibiotics.

Soy milk? Beats me--I know soy has phytoestrogens in it (plant proteins that mimic estrogen to throw off those pesky mammals that insist on eating them), but I am not sure how much effect they have on us.

That we even strive to produce fake (soy) milk says a lot about how much we have been trained to adore milk.

I know nothing about rice milk.

As far as milk of magnesia goes, if a child eats a reasonable diet (and not the one promoted by the "outside voices" who'd rather sell products than protect children), then no laxative would ever be needed. I realize your point was tongue in cheek, but childhood constipation is a sign of our capitulation to special interests regarding our children's health.

Cocoa Puffs? With BGH-enhanced antibiotic laced milk? Shoot, I can't even satirize this.

doyle said...

Dear Louise,

What a great assignment and what a wonderful blog!

I would love to focus more on food--I've used that video in the past--but we are under the gun to finish the curriculum in time for the state testing in May.

lucychili said...

I have a sage friend who is a midwife (Jenni) who describes this as humans not being weaned from a third party species. I can completely see the logic of this, but also love that she shares my fondness for runny Brie and Quince paste. =)

Ron said...

Dear Doyle,

I've subscribed to your blog in the last little while (enjoyed the oyster musings), but this is the first one I've had the urge to comment.

I appreciate the live and let live philosophy, but 'associated with' and 'correlated with' possibilities aside for the dangers, cow's milk is an excellent food for children, chock full of needed nutrients and calories, and cow's milk as a healthy part of a child's diet is well-supported by evidence (no need to hedge bets with 'associated with' in this case either). I'm totally with you about the methane though.

And to worry about diabetes with milk, and not with beer, seems a bit odd. I do know if I was forced to choose between moderate milk consumption or moderate beer consumption, milk would certainly be the safest choice. Although this may be a regional thing. Canadian beer actually has alcohol in it, unlike the stuff American's drink.

And an aside Louise Maine, to suggest "because we are not meant to drink the milk of other organisms" is to miss a fundamental point about biology. We're not 'meant' to do anything, however the fact that many people have mutated lactase genes that allows them to drink milk does say something about our evolutionary history. It suggests that the consumption of cow's milk was important enough to survival that those that could had more children than those that couldn't. By that standard you could say that we were 'meant' to drink milk.

Love the blog overall though.



doyle said...

Dear Ron,

Thanks for your warm words and taking the time to comment. I'll take your points in turn, but before I begin, I must confess that my batch of oyster stew Saturday night had a half-pint of heavy cream in it. I'd be hard pressed to give up either beer or milk.

Beer has no association with type 1 diabetes; milk does. Type 2 is a different beast altogether, and I'd have to go plunge into the literature before tackling that.

Milk consumption is associated with iron deficient anemia in children. If you prefer, too much milk consumption causes iron deficiency in children.

I agree that children need nutrients and calories--there are better ways to get them than cow's milk, and beer is not one of them.

I do know if I was forced to choose between moderate milk consumption or moderate beer consumption, milk would certainly be the safest choice.

If you're talking about a child, yep, I'd agree. If you're talking about an adult male, and if moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 1-2 oz/day, then (and this was actually the point), drinking beer is the safer choice.

Really. Not because I say so. Not because I like beer. And despite what the American Dairy Council has sold us here south of the border.

The evidence is available for anyone to read in the medical literature.

(As for beer, I'd match our local Flying Fish IPA with anything made in Canada, and the stuff sitting in my brew bucket waiting to be bottled beats anything Flying Fish brews.)

As for lactase, the enzyme that allows us to break down milk, well, we have it as infants--human milk has lactose (milk sugar) in it. Most of us lose it after early childhood--we are not genetically programmed to keep producing an enzyme we do not need.

If a culture depends on milk for calories, then those who maintain the lactase gene longer will gain calories more efficiently and do better than those who do not. Whether the mutation occurred first before the dairy/agriculutural pressure selected for the lactase persistent population, or whether the mutation allowed for dairy culture I'd have to go research (though I believe it is the former).

Northern Europeans, of course, used milk to help survive the cold winters, and many northern Europeans can tolerate milk beyond childhood. (This is not limited to Europeans--some African cultures also relied on dairy, and also have a persistence of lactase.)

And yes, I am biased--as I mentioned in the post, I am not blessed with full lactase persistence. I still love ice cream--just open the windows when I eat it. =)

Dear lucychili,

Ah, food and logic make strange pairs (pears?)--and I do not claim to know a thing about taste. This whole eat and be eaten thing is monstrous and glorious and, well, a good chunk of the story we call life.

And I, too, love runny Brie (and it's been years since I've had it--may need to change that). But then, I love motorcycles, too.

Brie and quince paste together sounds divine. I've had quince off the bush (not great), and quince jam (much better), but do not know exactly what quince paste is. Do tell.

momomom said...

To be fair, I'm a bit dairy industry intolerant, so I may be biased as well.

Bad enough that we drink milk as adults but to give it to babies?!?!?!?

doyle said...

Good morning, momomom!

Momomom may be too humble to mention this, but she is an RN, and a lactation specialist.

She teaches mothers how to breastfed their infants, even the tiny ones.

lucychili said...


It is a fine combination.
Jenni is one of the blessed of Roger the deity of Scrounge and so finds foundling quinces from venerable Quince trees in our country verges.

I am thinking of planting a Quince just to contribute to supply =).


John Spencer said...

I enjoyed this post. I'm not sure I'll give up milk, but I love your defense of beer.

momomom said...

This is funny (and I'm all for correlation).


We are planting quince this spring Lucy!

lucychili said...

/me celebrates global quincy karma

Charlie Roy said...

@ Doyle
An interesting post with some engaging comments. I'm drinking a pint of beer on a Saturday afternoon as I type away. I did come across a quote you might like at a recent local parish trivia night from St. Arnold of Metz the patron saint of brewers.

"From man's sweat and God' love, beer came into the world."

doyle said...

Dear momomom,

That's a great cartoon, and one I will need to borrow for science class--and I am happy to have facilitated an international quince society.

Dear Charlie,

Ah, another quote I will treasure--but where do the yeast get any credit? They do the work.

Kate T said...

Good morning (almost afternoon on this daylight saving switch morning) - I've been away at the 11th grade trip and now have a second to read and respond. This has been a busy post, but I still want to add my thoughts. I'm conflicted.
1) my beloved aunt Ethel - a nutritionist whose death at the age of 100 was precipitated when she tripped and broke her arm while hurrying to the dentist - worked for the Dairy Council and before that was one of the lead researchers with Lydia Roberts on the importance of nutrition for children to be able to learn and an early advocate for universal school lunch. She believed in moderation in all things eaten. Except broccoli. She hated broccoli. She would have argued with you that milk provides a high quality protein that might be difficult to obtain otherwise given the level of poverty that she saw in her graduate work in the NYC tenements in 1918 and in the coal mining towns of southern Illinois in the 1920s. It is a sad truth that we can not all afford to eat well.
2) I nursed twins to 22 months. I know something of breastfeeding. One twin does not like cows milk. The other does. I'm not worried about diabetes in either child.
2) I am at risk for osteoporosis. I cannot eat that much spinach or that many beans. So yogurt it is.

So, I see the risk in inculcating a reliance on cows milk, but for me serving milk is a calculated risk based on what I know. I have three daughters, all who will need calcium in their lives if they choose to bear children. And I trust they will enjoy a beer or two, as do I, when they are of an age to appreciate it.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

First, I wish everyone had an Aunt Ethel or an Auntie Beth--the world would be a better place.

If cow's milk is the only cheap, nutritious food available, then yes, cow's milk may be the best choice available.

I truly believe, however, that our land has sufficient resources to feed our children adequately without relying on foodstuffs we know are less than ideal. If children's bellies were followed as closely as the stock market by the Federal gov't, we'd have had a major government bailout of childhood poverty long ago. We, as a country, do not love children much.

Whether you worry about T1 diabetes mellitus in your children is a matter of risk tolerance--it's a tiny risk, and I don't worry about it either. Still, it's a real risk.

The studies on osteoporosis risk and milk ingestion do not make this a slam dunk for milk. And again, if you cannot tolerate other sources of calcium, well, you make your picks and takes your chances.

I do not condemn the practice of drinking cow's milk. I do frown, however, on our culture's inability to question the constant message we are fed by the American Dairy Council about the benefits of cow's milk.

Big money talks. And talks. And talks.

tspraul said...

1-2 oz/day!! Never in my life have I drank only 1-2 oz at a time. I agree with the milk thesis though. Thanks for the post!

doyle said...

Dear tspraul,

The 1-2 oz refers to ounces of ethanol, not beer.

12 oz of beer (4%), 5 oz of wine (10%), and 1 1/2 oz whiskey (40%) all contain about a half ounce of absolute alcohol.

Two 12 ounce beers a day is about 1 ounce of absolute alcohol.

Still, you raise an excellent point.

For the record, moderate alcohol consumption in terms of beers would be 1 or two 12 oz bottles of beer a day (or 1/2 to 1 oz of absolute alcohol).

More than two on a given day gets you into a higher risk category. More than 1 beer an hour also ups your risk.

And no, you cannot "save" beers for the weekend--a six pack on Saturday and another on Sunday while abstaining through the week is NOT healthy.

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