Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: Don't Drink Your Milk!

Author: Dr Frank A Oski
Publisher: TEACH Services Inc
Pages: 123
Price: Rs 508

Reviewed by Eisha Sarkar
Posted On Times Wellness on Tuesday, April 12, 2011  

It’s white and precious, healthy and nutritious. Rich in calcium, it makes your bones and teeth strong. It contains proteins and fat-soluble vitamins that your body needs. You know that milk is good for you. So when you see a book that screams “Don’t Drink Your Milk”, you pull it off the rack and take a closer look.

Leafing through the pages of former Director of Paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Dr Frank A Oski’s book, you go back to the days when you mother would coax you to finish a glass of milk before rushing to school. She may have been wrong. For every reason she gave you to make you take another sip, Dr Oski offers you a dozen more on why you shouldn’t have bothered.

But these “frightening medical facts about the world’s most overrated nutrient” that he presents are more the truths you already know. “In general, most animals are exclusively breast fed until they have tripled their birth weight, which in human infants occurs around the age of one year. In no mammalian species, except for the human (and the domestic cat), is milk consumption continued after the weaning period. Calves thrive on cow's milk. Cow’s milk is for calves,” he writes. Of course!

Now that you know cow’s milk is for calves, Dr Oski tells you why adults shouldn’t drink milk. You can’t digest the lactose or the sugar that is present in the milk. The small intestine in an adult does not produce the same amount of the lactase enzyme as in an infant. The deficiency is high (70-90 per cent) in certain populations such as Bantu, African American, Thai, Japanese and Arab communities, is about 50 per cent in Indians and is low (two to eight per cent) in the Swiss, Danes and white American population groups. In short, more people in the world are lactose intolerant than those who are not. Why haven’t you heard this before? Because the health department’s advertising campaigns kept telling you that “Everybody needs milk” and “Milk has something for everybody”.

Sure it has something for everybody for the author tells you that besides the so-called nutritional benefits it offers, the proteins, hormones and bacteria present in cow’s milk can also cause allergies, iron deficiency and gastrointestinal problems in children and the 60 per cent saturated fat it contains can increase cholesterol levels and the risk of atherosclerosis in adults.

So if you don’t have cow’s milk what should you drink? You do need calcium in your diet, right? Dr Oski suggests infants be breast-fed instead of being administered baby formulas and diluted cow milk. Adults may opt for the healthier soya milk. If you do have to have cow’s milk, have it in the form of the more nutritious and less hazardous curd and whey. As for the calcium, he notes, “Fortunately, there are a variety of foods that are rich in this mineral. For example, three ounces of sardines, one ounce of Swiss cheese, one cup of cooked collards, one cup of turnips, or four ounces of flour, all provide more than 250 milligrams of calcium. More than 200 milligrams of calcium can be obtained from a cup oysters, a cup of cooked rhubarb, a cup of cottage cheese, or a four-ounce serving of salmon; in addition, kidney beans, broccoli, soybeans, almonds, a variety of fish...” So if you don’t drink milk, nothing will happen to you, he reiterates.

The verdict

Dr Oski’s crusade against cow milk consumption is passionate and daring. He takes on the multibillion dairy industry and millennia of tradition. It’s hard to believe that something that has been used for so long can actually be harmful. But, penicillin was also discovered only 83 years ago and gave rise to a whole range of antibiotics that helped reduce drastically the fatalities caused by some of the most infectious diseases, such as plague, cholera, tuberculosis and leprosy, which for generations were described as ‘incurable’. While you may not agree with Dr Oski’s point-of-view and give up dairy products altogether, you will no longer be able to look at a glass of milk the same way as before.

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