Is Milk Healthy?

By: Ron Lagerquist

“Throughout our schools children are taught that milk products are an essential part of a balanced diet.”

Is Milk HealthyOn this website, milk will have an identity crisis. After all, milk is accustomed to preferential treatment, given its own food group by the Food Guide; so, out of respect, I will devote some time talking about the huge place milk has in the North American diet.

Throughout our schools children are taught that milk products are an essential part of a balanced diet. Walk into any school and you will find posters, cow balloons, giant milk cartons and sports celebrities donning tall white glasses of frothy milk, all generously supplied by the Dairy Board. There is even a National Dairy Awareness Week to celebrate how much milk is a part of our North American culture. In my little country school, chocolate milk is sold every day by students, the proceeds going toward the grade eight graduation trip. Kids line up with cash in hand, believing this thick brown drink is healthy, promoting strong bones and teeth. Milk is like Grandma’s apple pie: Milk, the most perfect food.—Or is it?


When accompanied by phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins A, C and D, calcium is the mortar the body uses for constructing and maintaining bones and teeth. It is a vital mineral in regulating heartbeat, developing muscles, preventing muscle cramps, protecting against blood clotting, defending against colon cancer, helping in the transmission of nerve impulses, and contributing to enzyme function. It inhibits the absorption of lead into bones and teeth, eases restless sleep and regulates the passage of nutrients through the cell wall. But don’t forget this last point; calcium is used in balancing pH in the body.

Calcium is in all whole foods. There are actually foods that are higher in calcium than our beloved milk. Little sesame seeds do not have the backing of a massive Dairy Board to advertise their nutritional quality yet a cup of these seeds contains 2,200 mg. of calcium compared with the 280 mg. of calcium in a cup of milk. All green leafy vegetables, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, collards, brewer’s yeast, dulse, figs, oats, prunes, soy products, blackstrap molasses and Sucanat, to mention only a few, contain generous amounts of this essential mineral. All life on earth contains calcium.

Considering that there is such an intense fear of calcium deficiency in North America, you would think that it is a difficult mineral to find. You would pity generations before us that have not had the luxury of the abundant dairy products we enjoy in our North American diet, picturing peoples and cultures with rotting teeth and brittle bones—yet nothing is further from the truth.

On Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, people tried unsuccessfully to introduce the dairy cow. The attempt failed because of the Island’s rough terrain. You might wonder if the lack of dairy had any impact on health; if they were sick or weak from the missing nutrients in milk. A visiting physician declared that it would be difficult to find a comparable population anywhere in the world as healthy, robust, and physically fit as these people.

How can this be true? The message children hear all through school is to drink their milk for strong bones and teeth, yet there is a significant piece of information missing in understanding calcium needs in the human diet.

Calcium is used in balancing pH in the body. Determining your calcium need is like trying to figure out how much water it takes to fill a five-gallon pail with holes. Our acid-forming North American diet is the holes in the pail. Coffee, tea, table salt, meat, eggs, milk, cheese, pop, bread, and junk food all force the body to produce copious amounts of digestive acid. Calcium is then needed to neutralize strong stomach acids. It is the active ingredient used in antacid pills to relieve stomach pain caused by acid indigestion. Our blood can function only at a specific pH level. If the blood acid level moves up or down, the body goes into an alarmed state. Calcium is secreted to alkalize strong digestive acids when they enter the bloodstream.

Here is the key. Strong stomach acids are needed to break down animal foods like beef, chicken and pork. The liver turns excess protein into urea, which stimulates a diuretic action in the kidney, leaching minerals, including calcium, out through the urine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a long-term study observing a diet consisting of 75 grams of protein per day, along with 1,400 mg. of calcium. It was discovered that a greater amount of calcium was lost through urine than was being absorbed into the body, creating a negative calcium balance. This study confirmed what many health specialists suspected. Over-consumption of protein has the greatest impact on calcium depletion of the bones, even greater than the level of calcium intake through diet. Drinking more milk is not the answer, but increasing whole foods like green vegetables and reducing animal foods will plug the holes in the bucket, something our children are not being taught.


 Osteoporosis has been a rising concern, especially for women. As the disease progresses, calcium leaches from the bones. They become brittle, breaking or cracking with even the slightest impact. One in three women will have serious bone loss in their lifetime, causing an annual death rate of 200,000 in the U.S. At present, the National Dairy Council proposes eating and drinking more dairy products to increase dietary calcium as the solution to osteoporosis. The theory is seriously flawed. In one study, conducted by the Dairy Council, women who drank three eight-ounce glasses of low-fat milk daily for a year showed no improvement in their calcium balance. Resistance training while reducing acid-forming foods like meat can actually reverse bone loss.

Calcium Deficiency

 While we are being told of the dangers of not getting enough calcium, the rest of the world is living healthily on one half of the amount that we are told we need. Countries consuming the greatest amount of calcium through milk products are suffering the most from calcium deficiencies, and have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. How can this be?

Milk’s available calcium is cut in half through the process of pasteurization. Low-fat milk makes calcium less absorbable because fat is an essential part of the transportation and absorption of calcium. Refined sugar increases the amount of calcium lost through urine. The absorption of calcium in the intestine is diminished with the presence of sugar. Salt has been shown to increase calcium levels in the urine. The countries that are drinking the most milk are also eating acid-forming foods like meat and processed foods and the less alkaline type foods like vegetables and fruits. Wealthy countries eat richer foods and are paying the price in premature aging.

Related Article: Milk Allergies

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Thanks for this information; it was great, but honestly I have only seen it on vegan and vegetarian sites, and we know about this! How do we do what the dairy industry has done and plaster this message all over the school walls???? Come on, we have to be a catalyst in this! How do we get the word out to the masses about how terrible this product is? (Not to mention the horrible suffering that goes into one glass of milk!) Thank you for putting it out! Now, everyone who reads this, it's OUR job to get this information out to the masses!
Thanks a lot for this article! It helped med a lot and I try everything I read here. Great article and good fact! I have only been drinking soy milk with calcium added for more than 15 years. I seldom drink cow milk. Thanks for sharing this article! :)
I believe all foods in moderation are healthy, including milk. My husband is 61 and drinks at least 4 cups of milk daily. He has no health problems. Our kids ranging from 19-36 years old tell my husband that their friends say he looks younger than their parents and he is in fact older. Maybe genetics needs to be considered?
I gave up milk and dairy (along with all other products of animal origin) for ethical reasons but have noticed many unexpected health benefits, like a massive reduction of my asthma/rhinitis symptoms, better digestion and great skin. Milk production and consumption harms animals, the environment and our bodies!
And to the person who said, "You are wrong, milk is healthy," I would say you are simply regurgitating what the media and doctors are telling you. Take a look at the facts and see for yourself.
What God put on this earth is perfect. Man cannot improve upon anything God gave us. And when man tries to make things "better," i.e., more convenient, more tasty, quicker to prepare, etc., he diminishes the value of what God gave us. Doctors only know what they are taught. It is impossible for doctors to know all the ramifications of overly processed foods on the body. This article is just one showing the benefits of eating one-ingredient foods, that are not processed in any way. Here's to Vegetables, Fruits, Beans, Nuts, Grains and Fish.
Im having trouble finding the study in the Am J Clin Nutr. Could you please cite the original study? Looking through the scientific literature, there doesn't seem to be much support for your arguement that high protein diets cause calcium loss. For example: Protein intake, calcium balance and health consequences. AuthorsCalvez J, et al. Show all Journal Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;66(3):281-95. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.196. Epub 2011 Nov 30. Affiliation AgroParisTech, CRNH-IdF, UMR914 Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France. Abstract High-protein (HP) diets exert a hypercalciuric effect at constant levels of calcium intake, even though the effect may depend on the nature of the dietary protein. Lower urinary pH is also consistently observed for subjects consuming HP diets. The combination of these two effects was suspected to be associated with a dietary environment favorable for demineralization of the skeleton. However, increased calcium excretion due to HP diet does not seem to be linked to impaired calcium balance. In contrast, some data indicate that HP intakes induce an increase of intestinal calcium absorption. Moreover, no clinical data support the hypothesis of a detrimental effect of HP diet on bone health, except in a context of inadequate calcium supply. In addition, HP intake promotes bone growth and retards bone loss and low-protein diet is associated with higher risk of hip fractures. The increase of acid and calcium excretion due to HP diet is also accused of constituting a favorable environment for kidney stones and renal diseases. However, in healthy subjects, no damaging effect of HP diets on kidney has been found in either observational or interventional studies and it seems that HP diets might be deleterious only in patients with preexisting metabolic renal dysfunction. Thus, HP diet does not seem to lead to calcium bone loss, and the role of protein seems to be complex and probably dependent on other dietary factors and the presence of other nutrients in the diet. PMID 22127335 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Full text: Nature Publishing Group
What little kid is going to sit down and eat a whole cup of sesame seeds vs a cup of milk? Some things are just more plain edible for children's pallets than other foods.
Great information. People need to know that Milk is not at all essential and dairy products don't give us all the benefits that the dairy industry would has us believe.
I liked your article!!!! I am again milk and think its very bad for you
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