Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Madness in Milk

Reading Wiley and Allen reminded me that I don’t like milk. I have never found the taste to be appealing to my palate. Even as an infant, I refused to drink breast milk despite my mother’s infinite attempts. Finally succumbing to a degree of thirst and hunger, I would reluctantly have some, but in small amounts, my mother recalls. Growing up, I steered clear of plain milk at school lunches, family dinners, and dining halls (though I was perfectly content with chocolate milk) and received puzzled reactions from children and adults alike. “You don’t like milk?” “You know it’s good for you right? All that calcium!” “It’s so tasty and builds strong bones.” Yes, I ate my cereal plain.

The face of milk has certainly changed since I was a child. Milk used to be widely advertised as nutritious and good for your bones. As Wiley and Allen recalled, the “Got Milk?” commercials encouraged the consumption of milk in great amounts without the mention of any negative side effects. Though milk’s main pitching point was growth in height, Wiley and Allen concluded no profound growth in children consuming it (Wiley and Allen 125). Today, there is much suspicion surrounding milk and the potential effects that the overconsumption of dairy products in general has on human health. In an article written by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), the potential side effects of milk are analyzed, ranging from well-circulated links such as breast cancer to less commonly studied effects of milk such as acne: Health Concerns about Dairy Products. I was surprised to read that in multiple studies, the calcium in milk did not increase bone density or decrease one’s risk of osteoporosis. If milk can’t help it, what can? Certainly not my genetics as osteoporosis is common in women of the Asian population. What was noted was that “your risk of osteoporosis can be decreased by reducing sodium, increasing calcium intake from plants, exercising, and using calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and beverages” (Health Concerns about Dairy Products). I find that statement very hard to believe as “fortified” should be considered an addition to commercialized products rather than a substitute for naturally-derived minerals and nutrients. However, the article did mention the often targeted aspect of milk: hormones. Milk’s link to breast and prostate cancer is accounted for by its increased estrogen and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) concentration. Hormone level alterations also a play an effect in sexual maturity; thus, parents today may be concerned about their kids drinking too much milk.

What about the alternatives of milk for the worried individuals and those not fond of the taste? MSNBC has compiled a list of the pros and cons of milk and its substitutes: The skinny on milk nutrition: Cow, goat, rice or soy? As a fan of soy and almond milk, I soon too realized the potential risks associated with each. Soy milk contains high levels of estrogen as well whereas almond milk lacks adequate protein.  It looks like I am never going to escape the doom of dairy products so like my mom always says, “everything in moderation.”

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