Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Milk: It (Still) Does a Body Good

With its ideological ties to the radical animal rights movement and ne'er-do-well status among the medical mainstream, the PETA-affiliated Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has repeatedly embarrassed itself publicly with its unsurprisingly science-lite "public health" campaigns. The group's anti-milk crusade stands out as a particularly offensive example of this trend. And, as reported in today's Wall Street Journal, yet another well-regarded medical charity has released dietary advice about dairy that directly contradicts the spook stories and hyperbole propagated by PCRM's activists-cum-nutritionists.

According to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "children who are lactose-intolerant should consume some dairy products to ensure that they get enough calcium and vitamin D." As a member of the AAP's committee on nutrition, Melvin Heymann, told the WSJ, "It's OK to take some dairy if you're intolerant. Most people do tolerate some degree of lactose-containing products." Winston Price, a co-author of a report commissioned by the National Medical Association on dairy in the diet of African-Americans, hopes that the AAP recommendations will encourage parents of intolerant children not to unnecessarily "turn away from dairy."

Contrast that with PCRM's stance on milk in children's diets. Neal Barnard, PCRM's founder and president, has written that feeding kids milk is a "form of child abuse." Its annual school-nutrition report cards mark down cafeterias that offer dairy products. And just this year, the group unsuccessfully sued Washington, DC supermarkets in an attempt to mandate lactose-intolerance warnings everywhere milk is sold. But as the AAP recommendations make clear:

Staying away from dairy, which is the richest source of calcium in a traditional Western diet, could be having long-term effects on U.S. children's health. Most older children and teenagers fail to meet their daily calcium requirements, according to a previous AAP study. Calcium intake in childhood and adolescence helps to build bone mass and is thought to protect against osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium is linked with a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and other problems.

It's clear that PCRM is misguided about dairy and always has been. Their track record on this issue should call into question their advice on beef, chicken, bacon, or any other non-vegan-friendly food they decide to talk to about.

Don't expect findings like these to stand in the way of PCRM's anti-dairy propaganda. Its members are part of a movement that sees no moral distinction between human beings and cows, pigs, and sheep. A campaign that jeopardizes children's health for the sake of a few cows is the practical extension of its philosophy.



The popular press is going cow-wild over research that supposedly proves `organic' milk is healthier than `conventional' milk. Not quite. Just as two cents might be twice as much as a penny, neither amounts to wealth. The issue is omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in oily fish (such as salmon, herring and cod), fish oil, walnut and flaxseed oil. Omega-3s have been thought to protect against cancer and heart disease, though the scientific evidence for these benefits has been thin and somewhat elusive.

Now a group of researchers - funded by the organic industry - is claiming that milk from 19 `conventional' farms only contains 60 per cent as much omega-3s as milk from 17 `organic' farms. They claim the finding is `significant', and the press believed it. One newspaper headline in the UK declared: `Organic milk: it looks good, it tastes good and by golly they've proved it does you good.'

The researchers found no other differences, but the increased omega-3 levels were enough for the British organic industry to lobby the government to allow it to claim that its milk is `healthier'. The British Food Standards Agency says it will review the matter but has yet to be convinced that organic milk is any more nutritious. The FSA is right to be wary. The organic food industry has been claiming superior nutrition without evidence for nearly 100 years, and there is little in the new research to change that conclusion.

First, the study really compared pasture-fed cows to cows fed hay and grain. British organic rules mandate that at least 60 per cent of a cow's feed over the course of a full year come from pastures or stored pasture hay produced on the farm. This limits the amount of grain and feed rations the animals can consume. Conventionally raised cows given a primarily pasture-based diet would have the same minor omega-3 levels as organic cows. In contrast to the UK, where the climate allows for pasture-based dairying for much of the year, the majority of organic milk in the US and Canada is from cows fed grain, soy and hay. Many conventional dairies in both countries pasture their cows when they can, but feed during the cold and dry months.

Second, omega-3 levels varied widely, both by season and between farms, including the organic ones. You really have no way of knowing if you're getting the higher omega-3 levels that the organic marketers seem to promise.

Third, milk simply isn't a major source of omega-3 in our diets no matter how it is produced. A modest four ounce serving of salmon provides 60 to 90 times more omega-3s than the difference between an eight ounce glass of UK organic and conventional whole milk.

`Healthy' reduced- and low-fat milk have even less omega-3s because those are removed with the other fats. You'd have to drink six to nine gallons of expensive UK organic low-fat milk to equal the amount of omega-3 in a 2 pounds stg. salmon fillet. And remember, US and Canadian organic milk has even less omega-3 because most is from cows fed grain and hay.

Feed manufacturers are aware of the consumer allure of omega-3s and are adding omega-enhancing oils to animal feeds. They are also researching ways to breed or bioengineer new crop varieties to produce omega-rich feeds at lower cost and with far fewer natural resources than organic farming.

A far more important question, however, is whether omega-3s even have the health benefits claimed for them. The most recent research indicates they don't. An extensive review of past research published early this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association says consuming more omega-3s isn't likely to reduce your cancer risk. The researchers concluded, `A large body of literature...does not provide evidence to suggest a significant association between omega-3 fatty acids and cancer incidence.' Another review of studies from 2002 to 2006 published in April in the British Medical Journal concludes that, `Long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fats' - such as those found in milk - `do not have a clear effect on total mortality, combined cardiovascular events, or cancer.'

So the research funded by the organic industry doesn't add up to any meaningful health benefits whatsoever. Empty nutritional superiority claims are the norm in the multi-billion dollar organic food industry and have been for over 50 years. The bottom line is that milk is milk. If you're really concerned about getting enough omega-3s in your diet, save the organic price premiums and buy your family a good salmon dinner instead.



Steinbeck said fighting obesity was not simply a matter of people eating less and exercising more, but discovering environmental and genetic contributors to obesity. "We know this is not about gluttony -- it is the interaction of heredity and environment," said Steinbeck

New obesity research has found that too little sleep and fats from fast food can alter a person's biology, making them more susceptible to overeating and less active, said the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "Research into obesity should be given top priority to have any hope of combating the global pandemic," said Arne Vernon, president of the association. Vernon said millions of obese people were being discriminated against and stigmatized, and often denied access to medical services. "A growing proportion of morbidly obese people are at the extreme end of the spectrum but are stigmatized and ignored," he said.


Dietary supplements and alternative treatments promising weight loss have minimal or no effect because they cannot match evolutionary influences that cause the body to conserve energy in times of famine, Dr Anne-Thea McGill told the conference. McGill, senior lecturer in Population Health at the University of Auckland, said humans were designed to maximize their energy intake because their large brains used about one-quarter of their total energy expenditure. "Early humans sought energy-dense food with high levels of fats, starches and sugars. We are genetically programmed to find foods with these qualities appealing," said McGill. However, highly energy-dense Western diets have had many of the flavor and micronutrients processed out of them. The artificial replacements in starchy, fatty and sugary foods make them over-palatable and easy to eat quickly."

But too much processed food results in an excess energy intake deficient in micronutrients, producing a state of "malnutrition", which in turn sees the body react to a "famine stress" by storing fat around the upper body, said McGill. "Many over-the-counter remedies such as concentrated herbal preparations, food extracts, minerals and vitamins are promoted as helping to decrease body weight," she said. "However, they do not redress the nutrient imbalance from poor diets that produce obesity."

More here


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.


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