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The Skinny On Drinking Milk

I frequently get questions about my opinion of drinking milk. This is one of those areas where you’ll find a lot of controversy even from the so called experts.

There’s always going to be people who take a hard stand on the polar opposites of any issue and this is to be understood. However, like most people I like to simply evaluate everything and make my own personal choices.

Here’s where I come down on the issue of drinking milk…

For starters, I think it’s an unfair claim to state that milk is flat out “bad” for everyone. Your decision on whether or not to drink milk really comes down to what you decide is best after examining the information and evaluating your personal health.

One thing I don’t think gets discussed enough is the variance of lactose intolerance in different ethnicity’s. Basically, some people seem to do ok with milk and others not so much.

The reason for this I believe has to do with how we’ve evolved. The human body has a remarkable ability to adjust and adapt according to its surroundings. People have adapted to survive in the roughest of conditions including in the desert, the frozen tundra, the jungle, mountains, etc.

It’s funny to me for example how some people can take a hard line stand that everyone should eat nothing but plants and that animal fats are “bad” for you. Yet these same individuals will mumble and stumble trying to explain how the Alaskan Eskimo has thrived for centuries on a diet of almost 90% animal fats with extremely low incidence of degenerative diseases.

Not that I’m trying to start a debate here, I’m just saying. The issues are far more complex than a lot of these people will admit.

It makes logical sense to me that our ancestors probably adapted to different environments as they spread out to settle on the various continents. If you look at lactose intolerance there seems to be evidence to support this.

In certain environments and climates where dairy was a primary food source, people developed a tolerance to lactose. If your ancestors are from a part of the world where dairy wasn’t a common food source then you’re likely to have more intolerance to lactose. This isn’t a concrete rule for every individual but it gives us some pretty good clues.

Check out the following:

Percentage of individuals with lactose intolerance according to ethnicity / geographic region.

East Asian: 90-100%
North American Indian: 80-100%
African: 70-90%
Austrian: 15-20%
German: 15-20%
British: 5-15%

Overall about one-fourth of the US population is lactose intolerant with approximately 90% or greater of Asian Americans, 80-100% of Native Americans, 80% of African Americans, 50% of Latino/Hispanic Americans, and 15% of Caucasian Americans.

It appears if your ancestors were from the colder, northern parts of Europe you’re much less likely to have a problem with lactose compared to if your ancestors were from other parts of the world. Coincidence? I would have to believe not.

Having said that, I don’t believe that even if you have decent lactose tolerance it’s in your best interest to drink a lot of milk as an adult.

While milk can provide valuable vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D, you certainly don’t need to drink it just for that. Eating plenty of leafy green vegetables and getting some regular sunshine will do just fine.

Step back for a minute and take a look at what milk is designed to do in nature. Every mammal that produces milk does so for the benefit of a newborn. Humans are the only mammals that drink milk past infancy. Doesn’t make it necessarily “right or wrong” that we do, just and interesting observance in my book.

From where I stand milk is for one thing…growth! Perfect if you’re a baby, but not so much if you’re someone looking to lose weight for example.

If you’re in good overall health, have a lean bodyweight, and want to drink milk…who in the world do I think I am, or anybody else for that matter, to tell you not to?

But if you’re looking to lose weight I’d have to make a case that it might not be in your best interest.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who wants to gain weight and in essence “grow” then milk can definitely help you get it done.

There’s been a workout routine floating around for years called “Super Squats” that has the lifter doing heavy sets of 20 reps with barbell squats and drinking a gallon of milk on workout days. All I can tell you is it works!

Ok, that’s far removed from most people though. Let’s talk about the typical individual who just wants to stay trim and healthy. Regardless of lactose tolerance, I’d have to lean on the side of just leaving milk out of your diet.

Today’s milk found in the grocery store is not the way nature intended it to be. Pick up a gallon of typical homogenized and pasteurized milk and you’re getting something far different than what comes out of the utter.

Milk that has been homogenized and pasteurized is certainly free of dangerous bacteria (aka “safe for consumption”) but it’s also devoid of beneficial bacteria and enzymes lost in the heating process.

We don’t even need to get into the not so friendly pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones (especially rBGH – recombinant bovine growth hormone) that are likely to be tagging along in today’s conventional milk. Raw milk would be a different story but good luck finding it.

Now before we go any further, I should mention this isn’t an indictment on all dairy. Raw fermented dairy like natural yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, etc are in a different category (and can be beneficial) because they contain helpful probiotics and live cultures.

Probiotics are living, healthy bacteria that can provide benefits to the GI tract such as enhancing immune function and restoring balances for improved nutrient assimilation.

Hard cheeses are also a different story as the lactose gets converted in the aging process to lactic acid. Hence why lactose intolerant people can often eat cheese without any problems.

I personally like to eat some hard cheese in my diet now and then but I guess if I was going to detox and really rejuvenate the cells I’d definitely pull it out.

Anyways, back to the milk. If you’re going to drink it regardless of what anybody says just do yourself a favor and look to purchase organic, hormone, and antibiotic free dairy.

Just FYI, skim milk is really not any better for you than 1%, 2%, or whole as many people mistakenly think. Vitamin D, one of the main reasons people claim they drink milk, is a fat soluble vitamin. This means you need fat to absorb it in your body.

That makes fortified skim milk the biggest sham of all. What good does it to do to fortify milk with a bunch of vitamins if the body won’t assimilate them very well? Fat in our diet has never really been the problem anyways, but I won’t even get started on that rant.

While there are plenty of non-dairy milk products like rice milk, soy milk, hemp milk and others the only one I really like is unsweetened almond milk. You may have a favorite and if so we’d love to hear about it.

Bottom line is the majority of milk products are sugar, whether they come from a cow or a plant. Individuals that have poor insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, very common for those who are overweight, will probably just want to leave it out of their diet.

You don’t need it much in a Primal Blueprint diet anyways. Lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, and the occasional tuber we’re the staples for our Paleolithic ancestors (going way back) and they did real well without it, so can you.

The choice is yours…

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE consultation and n0-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training program so you can experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Nutrition.