Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World School Milk Day

Guess what today is? World School Milk Day! Bob and Toby the Girl came home with stickers on their shirts pronouncing "Fuel up with milk."  Of course I had to do some research, and find out what this is all about.

Today is the 11th annual World School Milk Day, an international event that celebrates the importance of school milk in children's diets.  Their website announces that this event is a way to focus on children making healthy beverage choices.

While it is true that milk provides calcium and other nutrients that growing children need, my fear is that The World School Milk Day, as well as other well-known milk advertisements ("Got Milk" and "It does a body good") are misleading.  Did you know that there are vegetables that provide more calcium than milk?  And the calcium in milk is not well absorbed by the body because of animal proteins.  That raises the question whether milk is really the "super food" advertisers claim.  Here are some other lesser know facts about milk:

    • Milk doesn't benefit sports performance. • There's no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis -- in fact, the animal protein it contains may help cause bone loss! • Dairy is linked to prostate cancer. • It's full of saturated fat and is linked to heart disease. • Dairy causes digestive problems people with lactose intolerance. • Dairy aggravates irritable bowel syndrome. 
    So here's the truth about dairy:
    According to Dr. Willett, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on this topic, there are many reasons to pass up milk, including:

    1. Milk doesn't reduce fractures. Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk.
    2. Less dairy, better bones. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
    3. Calcium isn't as bone-protective as we thought. Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.
    4. Calcium may raise cancer risk. Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man's risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent.
    5. Calcium has benefits that dairy doesn't. Calcium supplements, but not dairy products, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
    6. Not everyone can stomach dairy. About 75 percent of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products -- a problem called lactose intolerance.

    (source)

    Mr. Kummerow is lactose-intolerant, a fact that was a large contributor in choosing to go vegan.  When you think about it, we are the only species that drinks another mammal's milk.  And certainly the only species that drinks milk after weaning.  It seems to me, if 75 percent of the world's population cannot tolerate dairy, perhaps we are missing a large clue.  Maybe we shouldn't be drinking milk if  it is so intolerable!

    The World School Milk Day website also tells us: research shows children who drink milk at school are more likely to meet their daily nutrient needs.  We can offset this fact if parents at home were more concerned with their child's dietary needs.  I get it, it is difficult to prepare well-balanced nutritious meals at home for your children when you are busy.  I am struggling with the same issues as a nanny and trying to feed two very picky eaters, while holding down 2 jobs and still cooking for my own family.  But health and wellness needs to be a focus!  Forget working so hard to make enough money to give your kids all the extras in life...without their health, those extras won't mean a thing. 

    I hate to take a complete anti-milk stand, but it just seems that it isn't quite the "super food."  I think I would feel better serving my kids spinach knowing that they were getting their recommended calcium requirements and then I would not have to worry about the side-effects.  If you choose to drink milk, stick to organic milk.  Conventional milk is laced with hormones and antibiotics...things your 8 year old does not need!

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