Sandwiches and milk – the most nutritious things we can eat and drink?

This column is written by Stig Bengmark – Professor Emeritus, scientist, lecturer and writer. Read more of Stig Bengmark’s columns here.

The general rules for dairy products are that they:

  • Contains plenty of the sugars, lactose and D-galactose. Lactose and D-galactose both contribute greatly to increased inflammation in the body, which in turn contributes to a weakened immune system and ill health. In addition, in animal experiments, even in very low doses, D-galactose has been shown to cause tissue degradation (especially in the nervous system), impaired memory, premature ageing and shortened lifespan.
  • Contain large amounts of the protein, casein. Casein has strong inflammatory properties that counteract the growth/renewal of good gut flora.
  • Contain large amounts of long chain saturated fats. Long-chain fats give rise to high blood fat content and create precursors to atherosclerosis later in life. Only fats with a lower number of carbon atoms than 12 can be transported directly to the liver via the portal vein. Fats with longer chains, such as ‘tallow’, are forced to take the long journey to the liver via the lymphatic system and general blood circulation. The disadvantage of this is that they stay in the blood circulation for too long, often for several hours, which makes the blood thicker and heavier. If there are narrow passages in, for example, the blood vessels of the heart or brain, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In addition, one of the body’s most important immune organs, the ‘wallpaper’ on the inside of the blood vessels (the endothelium), becomes highly strained and the macrophages of the immune cells become especially vulnerable when they have to do everything they can to remove the fat from the blood.
  • Contain large amounts of heating toxins, such as acrylamide, especially abundant in milk powder. In 1912, the Frenchman, Louis Camille Maillard, showed that poisons from heated food gave rise to chronic diseases – for this he was given the highest award from the French Academy, but then everything possible was done to forget about it. With the development of modern technologies such as molecular biology, however, at the end of the 20th century, it was possible to prove that he was actually correct. Pasteurisation of milk leads to the formation of over 100 new toxic and inflammatory and disease-causing substances – collectively called A.G.E. and A.L.E. – among them acrylamide.
  • Contain far too many hormones and growth boosters, intended to make the calf grow up and reach sexual maturity within a year. Several types of cancer are strongly dependent on hormones for their origin and growth – at least those in the testes, breasts, prostate, ovaries, uterus and large intestine. Modern production technology, with early insemination, means that 80% of milk comes from pregnant cows. This milk contains large amounts of hormones, everything from brain and pituitary hormones to hormones from the thyroid gland and gastrointestinal peptides, and above all steroids such as oestrogens, progesterone and in fact also testosterone. It’s estimated that upwards of 80% of the steroids that humans receive from outside come from dairy products. Hormones largely follow fat when the milk is separated into different fractions and the content is therefore greatest in butter and cheese (however, even whole milk contains twice as much as skimmed milk). In girls, this contributes to early breast development, earlier menstrual onset and puberty. The large amounts of added hormones also negatively affect the development of both mothers and boys, contributing to obesity and increasing birth weights.

Professor Spock was, at one time, a world-famous paediatrician and a trend-setter in child rearing. His book – ‘The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care’ – could be found in every home during the 40s and 50s, including Stig’s.

In 2007, the Institute for Risk Assessment, at Utrecht University, studied the provision of oestrogens via milk. It was found to be averaging 372 ng per person per day, which the authors reported as ‘dramatically more than currently recognized’. During my follow-up conversation with the head of the Institute a few months later, it emerged that the industry reacted to this with total silence in order to silence the results of the study.

The relationship between dairy products and breast and prostate cancers

As early as 40 years ago, Canadian researchers pointed out a clear link between the intake of dairy products and the incidence of breast cancer. The observation was that breast cancer was largely concentrated in countries with high consumption of dairy products, and was almost completely absent in countries with low consumption. But the time wasn’t right, no one took it seriously – the industry did everything it could to preserve the image that milk is beneficial. It would take several decades and hundreds of thousands more people to die of breast cancer before the world was ready to start looking seriously at the problem.

In Japan, between 1948 and 1998, the frequency of prostate cancer increased 25 times, in parallel with the intake of dairy products in the country increasing by 2000% (compared with Sweden, however, the intake of dairy products is still much lower). Now it’s the turn of the Chinese. They lived for millennia with little or no intake of dairy products at all, but now they’re doing everything they can for a western lifestyle and milk consumption is rising sharply, especially in the big cities. This worries my Chinese colleagues, who now see that the incidence of breast and prostate cancer doubles every ten years.

A recently published Icelandic study of more than 9,000 men who were followed for almost 25 years and where more than 2,000 of them suffered from prostate cancer, shows that men who drank a lot of milk in their youth were about 320% more likely to develop prostate cancer than those who drank just a little milk .

Milk gives strong bones

A recently published solid Swedish survey tracked about 61,000 women and 45,000 men from Uppsala, Västmanland, and Örebro for more than 20 years. Those who consumed a lot of dairy products (milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt) had a statistically-proven higher proportion of premature death and, not surprisingly, also a larger proportion of bone fractures – signs of osteoporosis. After more than 20 years, in fact, 15,000 of the women had died, and just over 17,000 had suffered some type of fracture. Among the men, who were followed up after eleven years, 10,000 of about 45,000 had died, and 5,000 had suffered a fracture.

Misleading marketing

Despite all theses scary figures, the dairy industry can still feel safe – its products have been ‘canonised’ for centuries and must not be questioned. It would have been different if this industry had been as closely monitored as the tobacco industry in the United States, which to a very large extent has been sentenced to pay multi-billion damages (in dollars) for ‘misleading marketing’.

The hand of protection is still hovering over the dairy industry. Last week, the Swedish National Food Administration declared that they don’t intend to change their recommendations, not even after the most recently published studies.


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