Updated: Mar 20
Growing up, we were told to drink our milk if we want strong bones, but this has since come back false. Actually, besides containing hormones and disgusting amounts of pus, consuming milk has been linked to quite a few risks.
With milk production equaling over 100 million metric tons here in the United States and over 530 million metric tons worldwide in 2020 (1), this may not be what some people want to read. Milk is considered an essential nutrient-packed “food“ since it’s packed with protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients the body needs (2), but do you know what else is in that glass of milk? Let’s learn the truth about a glass of mainstream cow’s milk.
The Purpose of Cow's Milk
Risks Associated With Cow's Milk
Milk Alternative Recommendations
The Purpose of Cow's Milk
For starters, humans are the only species that drink milk beyond infancy. Even better, humans are the only species that drinks milk from another species (3). A cow’s milk is designed to grow a baby calf into a strong cow in a matter of months. According to Dr. Michael Klaper:
“The purpose of cow’s milk is to turn a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cow’s milk IS baby calf growth fluid. No matter what you do to it, that is what the stuff is (4).”
Mind you, a baby cow weighs approximately 60-100 pounds at birth and is expected to gain 1.5 pounds per day and up to 2-3 pounds per day if they’re being raised for veal (5). Keep in mind that a cow also has four stomachs (6) and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds by the time they’re two years old (7). Now imagine the nutritional value needed to make this happen; why would humans need this nutritional value if it’s not designed for us?
Back to those essential nutrients found in milk, such as protein, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorous, vitamin A, B-12, potassium, magnesium, and zinc (8). These nutrients aren’t solely found in milk; you can get these same nutrients from plants. According to Dr. Andy Bellatti:
“Milk is simply not necessary in the diet. Every nutrient in milk can be found in whole plant foods, and some nutrients needed for healthy bones, like vitamin K and manganese, are not in milk, but are in whole plant foods. Current recommendations calling for three servings of dairy a day are more about politics and industry lobbying than they are about science. Considering that the average American’s fiber intake is paltry, I would suggest making more room for foods that offer both calcium and fiber, like almonds, chickpeas, chard, kale, broccoli, collard greens, and tempeh. Most plant-based milk alternatives are fortified with calcium and, just like dairy milk, fortified with vitamin D (9).”
Risks Associated with Cow's Milk
Now let’s talk about some of the risks associated with drinking a glass of cow’s milk and the studies to back these claims.
Increased Risk of Broken Bones
Remember the got milk commercials and constantly being told that you’ll have strong bones if you drink milk? Well, that’s a lie. A Harvard Nurses’ Study was conducted on more than 77,000 women ages 34-59. They found that the group who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass of milk or less per day (10).
Increased Risk of Diabetes
There is also an increased risk of diabetes when drinking cow’s milk. One study found that early childhood exposure to cow's milk increased the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. A randomized study found that participating infants were more likely to develop diabetes, likely due to nearly 50 percent of the milk calories coming from fat (11).
Increased Risk of Ovarian Cancer
Further, there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women that consume dairy products. In a Swedish Study done in 2004, they found women who drank four or more dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream) each day were twice as likely to develop serious ovarian cancer (12).
More Than 20% of the Daily Recommended Allowance of Saturated Fat
A single serving of milk contains 23% of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat (13). Heck, it even has 24 mg of cholesterol! Healthy fats are great, but too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries and lead to increased LDL (bad cholesterol), increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke (14).
A liter of milk can contain up to 400,000,000 somatic cells (pus cells) before it’s considered unfit for human consumption (15). There are 4.227 cups in a liter, so that’s nearly 100,000,000 somatic cells per cup! What causes this pus? Due to the overproduction of milk and the forceful lactation each day, despite their baby calves never seeing a drop of the milk, these cows end up with an udder infection, also known as mastitis. Since all milk is pooled together in large tanks, it’s safe to say virtually all dairy milk contains pus.
May Cause Antibiotic Resistance
Cows are pumped with antibiotics to lower the amount of pus in milk caused by mastitis, keep them alive, and overproduce milk in disgusting living conditions (16). The rule of thumb is to be 1.5-2 acres of land per cow (17). Yet they’re usually boxed up in a factory overproducing milk and living quite terribly. The rampant overuse of antibiotics causes a surge in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Then you drink their milk and end up with a decreased effectiveness of antibiotics and some completely resistant.
Some think they're safe because they drink organic or raw milk, but that isn't necessarily true. All milk contains hormones and even steroids; the only difference is that organic or raw doesn't have ADDED hormones or steroids, but it still has the natural hormones and steroids from the cow meant to feed a baby calf (18).
In an article published, Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health, they said:
“It is well known apart from dairy foods basic nutritional role many of them contain a number of hormones, which they have capability to mediate specific physiological and pathological functions. Moreover, the presence of hormones in dairy products that have the potential to disrupt the physiological function of endocrine systems has raised great concern worldwide. Any subtle changes in endocrine function may alter the growth, development, and reproduction in exposed animals and humans (19)”
Milk Alternative Recommendations
Some people will opt for raw milk, which is a much better alternative than the milk you'll find in the store, but I prefer plant-based alternatives. I do not recommend soy milk as soy has a lot of health concerns that I have previously explained in my article The Truth About Soy Products here. Milk alternatives I do recommend are:
Oat milk is an incredible source of many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Additionally, oat milk is an excellent source of B vitamins; it may lower cholesterol and is perfect for bone health. Furthermore, oat milk is naturally dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free and can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free rolled oats to make it at home. Make my Thick & Creamy Oat Milk.
Almond milk is an incredible source of many vitamins, minerals, and fiber while remaining low in calories and carbohydrates. Additionally, almond milk is an excellent source of vitamin E and calcium; it may help with weight management, promote healthy skin, and support a healthy heart. Furthermore, almond milk is naturally dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.
Hemp milk is an incredible source of many vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even healthy fats. Additionally, hemp milk is an excellent source of protein, iron, omega-3, and omega-6; it may promote skin health and protect against heart disease. Furthermore, hemp milk is naturally dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free.
Cashew milk is an incredible source of many vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. Additionally, cashew milk is an excellent source of protein, magnesium, iron, and potassium; it may boost heart health and eye health, assist in blood clotting, improve blood sugar, and so much more. Furthermore, cashew milk is naturally dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.
Flax milk is an incredible source of many vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. Additionally, flax milk is an excellent source of protein, fiber, and omega-3; it may benefit heart health, aid in weight loss, lower blood sugar, and more. Furthermore, flax milk is naturally dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free.