In February and June of 2013, two very interesting pro-dairy articles were published respectively in the European Journal of Nutrition and in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care. They concluded that high-fat dairy consumption does not contribute to cardiovascular or other metabolic disease and actually lowers the risk of obesity. This was compared to men who rarely or moderately ate these foods, after adjusting for intake of fruit and vegetables, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, age, education, and profession.
What, you say? I thought that milk was fattening and caused heart disease? So we have been led to believe.
THE RAW MILK CONTROVERSY
The FDA claims, “raw milk is inherently dangerous and may harbor a host of pathogens.” Rather than address the terrible hygiene and conditions in which the cattle are raised, this has led to the current standard of pasteurization. However, there is ample suggestion that the tampering of dairy products via ultra-pasteurization as well as homogenization and removing the fat are the actual contributors to illness, especially heart disease. In his 1998 Alternative Medicine Review article, William B. Grant notes “consumption of non-fat milk may contribute to calcification of the arteries.” Because heat oxidizes cholesterol and an enzyme known as xanthine oxidase (XO) is made more absorbable in homogenized milk, these factors accelerate plaque formation. It is also high levels of XO that cause the pain and inflammation associated with gout. Thankfully, high-fat dairy products contain a significant amount of folic acid, which is one of the most potent inhibitors of XO.
In contrast, the evidence generally points to raw milk as a highly beneficial food. As quoted from the excellent Weston A. Price Foundation website, raw milk contains “bio-diverse bacteria, active enzymes, active proteins, amino-acids, special purpose oligosaccharide sugars, and other whole intact vital living elements.” Raw milk also has been shown to decrease the incidence of asthma and allergies in children while benefiting the immune system of pregnant women.
Please keep in mind that some people, such those of Asian descent, cannot tolerate dairy products because their ancestors never ate these foods. This partially explains why Nordic descendants for example, often enjoy such creamy goodness while others cannot handle even small amounts of casein, whey (milk proteins) or lactose (a milk sugar).
Dairy-intolerant folks aside, I generally recommend full-fat dairy that is as organic, local and raw as possible. Of course you would ideally raise your own cattle or have a “cow share,” but for most of us buying non-homogenized, low-temperature pasteurized milk like Vitamin Cottage’s Kalona SuperNatural brand or going with our local Graff dairy will suffice. Graff not only has out-of-this-world milkshakes and hard ice creams, but they also do not use Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) or antibiotics. A full organic standard also takes care of pesticides, which shows evidence of increasing LDL cholesterol. This better explains the link to heart disease than the fallacy that saturated fat is dangerous to your health, as dairy and coconut oil are both rich in saturated fat and have been shown to promote weight loss.
Give me the whole milk, please.
Christopher Lepisto, a GJ Free Press health columnist, graduated as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.