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Isn’t dairy nutritious?

For baby cows, yes. For humans, it’s detrimental. Over recent decades, numerous studies have linked dairy consumption to cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases.

Over a dozen studies show a link between dairy and prostate cancer. For example, Harvard’s Physicians’ Health study followed almost 21,000 men and found that having two and a half servings of dairy per day boosted prostate cancer risk by 34 percent compared to having less than one-half serving per day.3 Note that pro-dairy organizations frequently recommend three servings of dairy per day. Two new studies–Italian scholarship published in July, 2010, and earlier Canadian research–tie milk consumption to prostate cancer.2

Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) is a growth hormone found in very high levels in dairy products and in beef products made from the flesh of dairy cows. A study in the British Journal of Cancer links increased levels of serum IGF-1 with prostate cancer.5 Conversely, a study in the journal Science shows that a vegan diet is associated with lower IGF-1 levels.6 A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that diets rich in animal protein may depress levels of vitamin D, which subsequently makes IGF-1 more active, and the combination of these two effects creates a 9.5 times increased risk of advanced stage prostate cancer.7

A study of 60,000 women found that drinking more than two glasses of milk a day doubled the risk of the most serious and most common form of ovarian cancer.8

An early nineties study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that proteins in milk upset the production of insulin, raising the risk of diabetes.

Even if milk were safe and beneficial for human consumption, the sheer quantity of healthy vegans demonstrates that not only is there no need to consume the milk of another species long into and throughout adulthood, but that we actually thrive on plant-based diets. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegans have lower low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than non-vegans. Vegans also tend to have lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.

Eliminating dairy from the diet is easy and it is beneficial – for you, for the cows, and for the environment. In today’s grocery stores, one can choose from among abundant ethical, cruelty-free, and delicious plant-based alternatives which mimic what most Americans grew up with to satisfy a variety of tastes. Any recipe can easily be “veganized,” and with a wealth of great vegan chefs and vegan support communities leading the way, it’s easier than you think!


1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 322.

2. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Ajani U, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Presentation, American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, April 2000.

3. Cohen P. Serum insulin-like growth factor-I levels and prostate cancer risk—interpreting the evidence. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:876-9.

4. Cadogan J, Eastell R, Jones N, Barker ME. Milk intake and bone mineral acquisition in adolescent girls: randomised, controlled intervention trial. BMJ 1997;315:1255-60.

5. British Journal of Cancer 83 (1) pp.95-97.

6. Science 279 (1998), pp. 563-6.

7. Journal of National Cancer Institute 94 (2002), pp. 1099-1109

8. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (Vol. 80, No. 5, pp. 1353-1357, November 2004)
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Don’t we need dairy for strong bones?

Countries with the highest per-capita dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis.

One of the chief findings of the long-running Harvard University Nurses Health Study, with over 120,000 volunteers, is that dairy consumption does not seem to offer any bone health protection. In fact, those who drank the most milk had a slightly higher bone fracture rate than those who drank the least.

A National Institutes of Health study at the University of California, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2001, found that women who got most of their protein from animal sources-had three times the rate of bone loss and 3.7 times the rate of hip fractures as women who got most of their protein from vegetable sources. The researchers adjusted “for everything we could think of that might otherwise explain the relationship—it didn’t change the result.” The study concluded that “increases in vegetable protein intake and a decrease in animal protein intake may decrease bone loss and the risk of hip fracture.”

Another study pubished in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 examined all aspects of diet and bone health and found that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables positively affected bone health and that dairy consumption did not.

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What about vitamin D?

Dairy and nondairy milks are both fortified with approximately the same amount of vitamin D.

So how do I get strong bones and lower my risk for osteoporosis?

Research shows that following actions help build and maintain strong bones:

— Get plenty of exercise.
— Get enough vitamin D, through sunlight exposure, fortified foods, and/or supplements.
— Get sufficient calcium, from leafy greens, legumes, fortified foods, and/or supplements.
— Limit salt intake.
— Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
— Don’t smoke.

What about protein?

If you eat a balanced diet and take in enough calories, with or without animal products, you’re almost sure to get enough protein. protein deficiencies in the US are exceedingly rare. In contrast, hospital wards are filled with patients who have heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – diseases which have been linked in many studies to high levels of animal product consumption and dairy specifically.

The average protein requirement for humans is 0.4 grams per pound of healthy body weight. If you consume a variety of plant based foods, you should meet or exceed this amount. For an extra measure of confidence, include some high-protein legumes, seeds, and/or whole grains in your diet.

Recent clinical and epidemiological studies show that animal protein specifically is linked to certain cancers as well as other negative conditions.

More to follow…

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