People love their milk and dairy! Americans guzzle up about 64.9 million gallons a year. The mere mention of taking cheese away from some people gives them serious anxiety. I drank milk by the gallon as a little kid. Good old fashioned whole milk.
Why wouldn’t I? We were told that we needed it to grow and thrive. Everyone craved a milk mustache because it was sexy and strong. We saw pictures of cows grazing in meadows and happily walking over to be gently milked by a nice farmer. Milk was wholesome and necessary.
Fortunately for me, by my early teens, milk was making me very sick. Yes, I did say fortunately, because what I now know about dairy makes me extremely happy that for most of my life I have avoided it. I often wondered what I would become without dairy. How would I have bones that didn’t break and teeth that were strong and white?
In short, I was brainwashed. Learning what I now know about cow’s milk and it’s most prevalent protein casein, has me thrilled that my kids have never had it either. They have always drunk almond, hemp, and soy milks… or as they are called: plant milks.
What is casein?
Casein and whey are the proteins found in all types of animal milks. It differs in concentrations in different types of milk and is the highest in cow’s milk (87%). People like to compare breast milk to cow’s milk and point out that we drink milk when we come out of the womb, so it is great for us. The two really don’t compare.
As a point of reference, there are 2.5 gms of protein in a cup of breast milk, and 8.2 gms of protein in a cup of cow’s milk and the casein to whey ratio in cow’s milk is 80/20 and breast milk is 40/60. As we can see, there is considerably more casein in cow’s milk than in the perfect first food, breast milk.
This is also the time that we grow the most in a short period of time - from the average birth weight of 7 pounds to 20 pounds in just a year. That means the baby has almost tripled!
When we compare this to a cow who weighs around 1000 pounds at one year whose birth weight was just 60 pounds… that’s not just a 300% but a 1566% increase in weight! This is why calves do need more casein and protein than humans. It’s also the only time mammals grow that much - after that, we don’t need as much protein anymore and can even keep it at 10% or less of our daily calories.
3 Phases of Cancer
It helps to know a bit about how cancer works and what the different phases of this disease mean to understand how dairy and animal protein enter the picture.
It is safe to say that cancer is probably lurking in most of our bodies. We have all, as we get into adulthood, been exposed to at least one carcinogen (found in our environment, or our food supply) that was absorbed into the blood and then transported into various cells. This exposure is where the initiation phase of cancer begins.
The promotion phase happens when cancerous cells cluster and form detectable tumors. This is the slow process that takes months or years and is the process that casein effects. It is the process that furthers cancer along (unless it is halted) until it is detected.
Progression is the final phase when cancer is discovered and often further metastasizes. Metastasize means that cells from the initial cancerous tumor from a specific organ (like the breast), have spread out and taken over the neighboring organs and tissues (bones or liver for example.)
Studies done on Animal Protein and Cancer
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who grew up living on a dairy farm, decided to pursue his education in nutrition, biochemistry, and toxicology. He was trained at Cornell University (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) and has devoted his life to educating the public about nutrition, as well as sharing research results from his over 300 research papers.
He is a beyond credible source. One of his first research projects as a student involved feeding children in the Philippines. They were trying to come up with how to feed too many starving children. He took note of the fact that many of the wealthy children in the country were being diagnosed with a rare type of liver cancer.
He started looking into why the fact was that the wealthier children were getting this type of cancer, while the poorer ones generally weren't. Upon looking at their diets, it was revealed that the wealthier kids ate a lot more animal protein, as they had more access to it, than the poorer children. He wondered if animal protein intake could be the answer.
Indian Casein Cancer Study
He started researching this connection and came upon a study conducted by Indian researchers where rats were exposed to something very carcinogenic to them called aflatoxin (the same toxin that the Philippine kids were exposed to).
The Indian researchers showed that, in the rats, decreasing protein (casein was the protein used in their study) intake from the usual level of consumption of 20% to 5% completely prevented this very powerful carcinogen from causing cancer. Keeping levels at 20% caused cancer in the animals.
Dr. Campbell’s Studies
Dr. Campbell conducted a similar study himself and the results were astounding. By adjusting the amount of dietary protein (he used casein as the protein source in his studies) he could control cancer growth.
He also varied the amount of protein between 5% and 20% in another experiment, with other animal proteins (from fish and livestock) and with plant proteins (for instance, gluten and soy) and none of the rats in the 10-20% plant based protein diet groups developed cancer even when they were given higher aflatoxin doses! Only the animal proteins promoted cancer.
Confusing the public
So why, you may ask yourself, have we not all heard about these connections between casein and cancer, and animal protein and cancer? Why are we still drinking milk by the gallons? Have you heard of a little known 20 billion dollar business called the dairy industry?
If you have, then you have your answer. They are experts at promoting lies and unfounded research. They influence government and have great ad campaigns. They convince us that without milk our bones will crumble and our bodies wither away.
Keep in mind that we are not supposed to drink giraffe’s milk or dog’s milk, not even chimpanzee's milk (though this would make a lot more sense) - no, we supposedly need to drink the milk of a 2,000 pounds mammal. And what’s more, we are the only species that drinks the milk from another species!
How much sense does that make, especially when we keep in mind that we don’t possess the enzyme to break down lactose, milk sugar, properly after infancy? No wonder 75% of the world’s population cannot handle dairy. But are they really lactose intolerant or just not a cow?
Take a look at this short video to get a grasp of the milk industry's astounding public influence:
Dropping Dairy From your Diet
So how can we go about cutting out dairy from our diet? Some common concerns about dropping dairy include...
Where will I get my calcium from?
How will my kids grow up to be big and strong?
Where will I get my milk mustache from?
More and more studies are showing that calcium is better absorbed by plant sources. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. Many studies have proven the same in adults trying to avoid osteoporosis.
Dairy consumption sets up an acidic environment in which calcium is absorbed less optimally in our bodies. When we cut dairy from our diets, we need to include other sources like calcium fortified plant milks, orange juice, beans, greens, tofu, broccoli, and almonds. Calcium is an important mineral so we do need to take care to get enough of it. Read more about the calcium myth and good plant calcium sources in this article and in the infographic at the bottom of this article.
Some older studies suggest that the growth of vegetarian and vegan children is more gradual than that of omnivorous—in other words, veggie children grow a bit more slowly at first, but they catch up later on. Final heights and weights for vegan children are comparable to those of meat-eating children.
This is due to getting less growth-stimulating hormones from their diet but at the same time, it means a decreased risk for cancer. Veggie kids might hit puberty a little later but once again, that’s a good thing and they end up just as tall as others. No newer study suggests that children might have any disadvantages by skipping dairy.
The “protein deficiencies” that our parents stressed about were occurring in impoverished countries and were the result of starvation or diets restricted to very few food items. A well-rounded diet without dairy is sure to reach calcium and protein levels.
Finally, plant milks produce one heck of a frothy, cancer free milk mustache. To re-coin an old phrase, “Hemp milk. Does a body good.” Has a nice ring to it.
Chrissy Roth is a physical therapist, mom of two teenage boys and wife of a husband who only liked to eat meat. She has certificate in plant-based nutrition and both her and her husband have been fully plant-based for over two years - the boys have come around nicely. They all have boundless energy and haven't been sick in years. She loves to share what she's learned so other families can feel great, aid the environment, and protect animals too. You can follow her work here.