Showing posts with label dairy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dairy. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What To Drink Part 3: What's Right With Milk? (Part B)

Milk churns awaiting collection near to Chastleton, Oxfordshire, Great Britain.
© Copyright David Luther Thomas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

This is our fifth installment in the What To Drink series and the deluge is not stopping anytime soon!

Here are the previous posts if you need to catch up:
What's Wrong With Milk? (Part B)
What's Right With Milk?  (Part A)

In my last post, we discussed how you can be healthy with raw milk (NOT to be confused with that pasteurized, homogenized, dead bacteria and detrimental bacteria infested, watery, white liquid even if it's organic).  

Raw milk brings up a lot of questions.  Most notably: Is it safe?  The dairy industry wants you to believe that it isn't, but don't forget they have an agenda to keep themselves in business.  They don't want to and probably financially can't substitute their feed grains for grass to raise healthy cows that produce healthy raw milk.   Instead, you get unhealthy cows and milk that has to be processed to be safe, if even then.  According to raw milk producer Organic Pastures, that's what started milk pasteurization in the first place.  People were getting sick off of unclean milk from unhealthy cows.  It was either clean up the processing and distribution or clean up the cows and dairy industry.  And, unfortunately, we know which road they chose to take.    

But Isn't Raw Milk Dangerous?

Milk from a healthy, properly fed and cared for cow is not dangerous, nor is its meat, unless you expose it to bacterial contamination by unclean handling.  Same goes for most foods.  Just like any other product, milk is vulnerable to contamination.  If you read (Part B), it probably won't come as a surprise, but there is debate over which milk is more dangerous: pasteurized or raw.  According to Organic Pastures's FAQ, pasteurized milk is NOT completely safe and raw milk actually has stricter standards on its safety: 
Current (PMO) Federal standards for pasteurized milk permit 100,000 bacteria per ml for milk going to be pasteurized with as many as 20,000 injured or living bacteria to be alive after pasteurization, and this may include pathogens (this is arguably the reason why milk is pasteurized). California standards for human consumption raw milk require that milk sold for raw consumption have fewer than 10 coliforms and fewer than 15,000 live bacteria per ml and no pathogens. OPDC [Organic Pastures Dairy Company] averages about 1500 beneficial living bacteria per ml and no test has ever detected a human pathogen in our “raw milk samples.” 
The whole FAQ is well worth the read, but here is another important tidbit about why raw milk (from certified sources like Organic Pastures) is safe:
It is possible, but highly unlikely, that pathogens may be transmitted in raw milk just as they may be transmitted in all other foods. OPDC has demonstrated that even when high levels of pathogens were introduced into raw milk, they die off and do not grow (BSK tests). In fact, pathogen killing safety systems are hard at work, keeping raw milk safe even if it has been contaminated. OPDC products are highly pathogen resistant. 
For more on the safety of raw milk, read this article at Raw-Milk-Facts and another written by Organic Pastures founder Mark McAfee at A Campaign for Real Milk sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation.  Need a nice graphic to put all this together?  Here is Organic Pastures's colorful chart comparing conventional, organic, and certified raw products and practices.  All I can say is WOW. 

Quality Not Quantity

Despite these arguments, Real Raw Milk Facts offers a counterpoint.  
Statistics from the CDC and State Health Departments comparing raw and pasteurized dairy products linked to reported foodborne disease outbreaks (1973-2006) show that raw milk and Mexican-style queso fresco soft cheeses (usually made from raw milk) caused almost 70% of the reported outbreaks even though only 1-3% of the population consumes raw dairy products.  If raw and pasteurized milk were equally risky, it would be expected that there would be far more pasteurized outbreaks since the number of people drinking conventional milk is so much higher.
Is it just me or does it scare you a little that over 30% of reported outbreaks come from pasteurized milk?  It scares me even more than the raw milk figures.  Why?  Because I thought pastueization allowed me to trust their santized product.  Guess not.  Whereas the raw milk dangers are a common sense "duh."  I am sure there are plenty of behind-the-counter exchanges of not-so-kosher raw milk because it is freakin' illegal in most states to sell it.  There's NO chance of federal regulation and quality standards if it is illegal!  Luckily in California I can drink raw milk when I want to.  And since it is legal, it is highly regulated and I can trust it more than I can ever trust pasteurized milk.  Why?  Raw milk producers have their reputation on the line and don't dare add ammunition for the "ban raw milk" lobbyists. 

Organic Pastures provides another reason for the reports.  Basically, you need thriving gut flora (beneficial bacteria) to break down your food in your intestines.  The problem is that most people don't, so they get sick more easily when foreign bacteria are ingested.  Most people live off of a processed diet that has killed off all of the bacteria, both good and bad.  Their guts are sensitive to strangers, so they act out and cause of person to get sick when exposed to something foreign.  That's one reason why most of us can't drink the water in third world countries without getting sick, but yet the people who live there can drink their water and don't get sick.  That is another reason to drink raw milk and other pro-biotic foods.  According to Organic Pastures's FAQ
It has been estimated that about 70% of the strength of a healthy immune system is made up of the diversity of living bacteria found in the intestines.
Bottom line: Don't drink milk you can't trust.  

How do you do this?  According to Dr. Mercola, you need to find out if:
  • [The milk has a] Low pathogenic bacteria count (ie does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?)
  • The milk is quickly chilled after milking
  • The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons
  • The cows are mainly grass-fed
  • The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production
  • Cows are well cared for
Is all of this a little impersonal, a facts and figures sort of thing?  Well,  A Tale of Two Milks is a heart-wrenching personal story illustrating just how important quality can be.  A dairy farmer and grandfather adds to our list of quality control measures:

  1. Never use milk from a sick cow.
  2. Never let anything dirty get into the milk. 
  3. Keep everything clean. 
  4. Keep it cold. 
  5. Keep the cows on the pasture so they could eat the living grass and plants. 

You also want to make sure the milk is intended to be consumed raw, which is a completely different product than raw milk intended to be pasteurized.   The milk intended to be pasteurized is likely from cows fed an unhealthy diet of grains and pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive.  It's no wonder people get sick from drinking raw milk from those cows!

Unfortunately, the clout of the mega-corp dairy producers keeps independent raw dairy producers struggling to gain a foothold.  Raids are quite common in states where the sale of raw milk is illegal, which is the majority of US states.  Why is it illegal?  Raw milk is a threat to the dairy industry.  It would take an astronomical amount of money for the dairy industry to feed and care for their cattle in a humane way that led to nutritious milk.  So they have no choice but to pasteurize their contaminated product and try their damnedest to quell the excitement over their competitor: raw milk. 

Bottom line: If you are going to drink milk, choose raw, organic, full-fat grass-fed, dairy, otherwise known as Real Milk.  

Keep reading the series for more on the flavored milk controversy in schools and for more on other popular beverages!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What To Drink Part 3: What is Right with Milk? (Part A)

Picture courtesy of Flickr

This is our fourth installment in the What To Drink series.  We already tackled juice: 
and the detriments of milk:
What's Wrong With Milk? (Part A)

We've already made a strong argument NOT to drink pasteurized milk if at all possible.  And I think Dr. Cordain (author of The Paleo Diet) makes a good argument to NOT include ANY dairy in your diet.  You'll be fine without it as long as you eat your vegetables as part of a healthy paleo-style diet.  

But let's play devil's advocate and say you want to drink milk.  I know I do on occasion, may the paleo gods smite me for it.  There is nothing in this world like a breve latte (it's a bowlful!) from Santa Cruz's finest: Verve.  Seriously chill place.  And a life devoid of cheese?  Not.  Worth.  Living.  So without a bona-fide dairy allergy making it impossible to partake, I do perchance partake.  Is that okay?  

Today, let's turn the milk debate around and ask:

Can You Be Healthy WITH Milk?

Although the Paleo Diet (as Dr. Cordain envisioned) doesn't advocate milk or any other dairy, many paleo dieters categorize themselves as paleo + dairy or Lacto Paleo.  Mark's Daily Apple's Primal Diet doesn't promote, but isn't against including dairy.  The Weston A. Price Foundation definitely advocates raw dairy.  There is a kaleidoscope of possibilities for inclusion or exclusion of dairy in your diet, such as only raw, grass-fed, organic or from only certain animals (cow, goat, sheet, etc.), or certain forms like butter and/or cream but not milk.  Take your pick. 

The best answer to this question comes from YOU.  My suggestion: give up ALL dairy for at least two weeks.  Then, introduce it back in slowly, one type at a time and see what happens.  If you get all phlegmy and symptomatic, then guess what?  You are sensitive to dairy!  So maybe it doesn't make you as healthy as you can be.  You might find that you digest certain forms of dairy better than others.  Congratulations, now you have choices!  You can't say it makes YOU healthy or not unless YOU give it the old N=1 self experimentation.  Believe me, it is eye-opening! 

Why Drink Milk?

If you read our last installment, What's Wrong With Milk? (Part A) and (Part B), you may question whether or not anyone really needs milk in their diet.  Well, here is one reason: putting on the poundage.  Weightlifters know the benefits of milk for mass gaining and many practice GOMAD: gallon of milk a day.  According to them, it is ideal for putting on weight.  That is something to keep in mind if you are an adult who drinks milk daily and might be watching your weight.  If you are trying to lose weight, milk is definitely NOT what you want to be drinking.  

But what if you just want to drink milk and aren't on a weight loss plan?  Is milk healthy?  The answer is: it depends on whether or not it's pasteurized (heated to kill bacteria) and homogenized (squeezed through a fine strainer to break up fat and eliminate separation).  Hint the more processing, the less nutrition.  That is true of everything.  It also matters whether or not the milk comes from grass-fed or grain-fed cows, just like beef.  Grain-fed cows are NOT healthy, so guess how healthy their milk is?  It isn't all that surprising that if we feed cows and other milk animals what they evolved to eat, we get a superior product.  And that product is a real food on its OWN.  It doesn't need any enriching or processing to make it better than it already is.  

Conclusion: If you choose to partake, raw milk is the way to go!

What are the Potential Benefits of Raw Milk?

Dairy proponents like the Weston Price Foundation and raw milk producer Organic Pastures extol the benefits of raw milk to your digestive system and health.   Dr. Mercola interviewed Organic Pastures founder Mark McAffee and describes the benefits of raw milk, including:
  • Valuable enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurization. Without them, milk is very difficult to digest. So if you have lactose intolerance, it may very well disappear once you start consuming raw dairy products.
    • It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats.
    • Enzymes are deactivated when you get above 120 degrees. By the time you get to 150, 160 degrees, almost all of them are completely inactivated, which is why you will not get ANY of these benefits from pasteurized milk.
  • Natural butterfat, which is homogenized or removed in pasteurized milk. Without butterfat, it becomes very difficult for your body to absorb and utilize the vitamins and minerals in the water fraction of the milk. Butterfat is also your best source of preformed vitamin A, and contains re-arranged acids with strong anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Healthy unoxidized cholesterol
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and may help reduce your body fat.
  • High omega-3 and low omega-6 ratios, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats

The website Raw Milk Facts adds to that list:
  • Proteins, including all 8 essential amino acids and heat-sensitive whey (interesting factoid: denatured whey is what turns milk white, which is why raw milk isn't bone white)
  • Carbohydrate in the form of lactose which becomes lactic acid at the end of its digestion, an antibacterial substance that improves absorption of minerals and proteins  
  • Fats, including CLA, saturated fat, and butyric acid (find out more about this important fat at the Whole Health Source--the article that prompted me to add butter back into my diet again!)
  • Vitamins: A, C, D, K, E, B1, B2, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, B12, biotin, and folic acid
  • Minerals:
    • Calcium
    • Phosphorus
    • Magnesium
    • Potassium
    • Sodium
    • Zinc
    • Chlorine
    • Iron
    • Copper
    • Sulfates
    • Bicarbonates
    • Trace Elements

Fat is listed by both sources, so don't be afraid of full-fat dairy.  Fat is NOT what makes you fat.  That fat in milk helps you absorb the fat soluble vitamins in milk.  And milk has the beneficial fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which fights cancer and has been linked to weight loss.  Since grass-fed cattle have 3-5 times as much CLA as feedlot cows, here is just one more reason quality matters.  For more on CLA and grass-fed animals (as well as where to buy grass-fed meat and dairy and pastured eggs) check out Eat Wild. 

Can pasteurized, even organic pasteurized milk compare with the nutritional bounty of raw milk?  Check out Organic Pastures's Why Raw chart comparing Conventional, USDA Certified Organic, and Raw USA Certified.  Still not convinced?  Check back for our next installment on the safety of raw milk.  It'll be eye-opening!

In the meantime: At least do your body a favor and buy organic, full-fat, grass-fed dairy.  And open your mind to at least TRY raw dairy.  What does it taste like?  Milk.  Real milk.  The milkiest milk you've ever tasted.  For me, I'll exchange watery, conventional milk for rich, creme anglaise raw milk any day!   

Bottom line: If you are going to drink milk, choose raw, organic, full-fat grass-fed, dairy, otherwise known as Real Milk.  

Keep reading the series for more on raw milk and questions about its safety!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What To Drink Part 2: What's Wrong With Milk? (Part B)

Awesome pic off a milk carton by:

Sorry for the vacation-related hiatus, but back to more on what (and what not) to drink following a paleo-style approach.  If you missed the first parts of the series, check them out here:

Today, let's talk more about what is wrong with milk.  (Don't worry, we'll get to the benefits next time, I promise!)

Why Pasteurization and Homogenization is NOT Healthy

With all processing, nutrition is lost, BUT the product now has a longer shelf life and is more uniform even though its constituent parts may vary.  The same goes for milk.  Pasteurization involves rapidly heating milk to kill off ALL of its bacteria, beneficial probiotics and any detrimental bacteria alike.  Pasteurization heats milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 seconds while "ultra" pasteurization heats to 275 degrees Fahrenheit for a fraction of a second, resulting in an even longer shelf life.  

This is a great quality control mechanism for producers of conventional milk.  They can make their fortunes from confined cows eating pesticide-sprayed and genetically-modified grains they were not designed to eat (they evolved to eat grass) and that make them sick.  To keep their cows alive, producers (a more fitting term than farmers) pump the sick cows full of antibiotics and add growth hormones to increase their milk production.  

And where do you think all those chemicals go?  That's right: into the milk.  Mothers provide their offspring with nutrients and toxins (pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc.) alike.  But don't worry, pasteurization is an equalizing step designed to make a safe product even though the input might be quite less than.  Or is it?  

With the advent of pasteurization, it doesn't matter if the cows are sick because the pooled product is (supposedly) sanitized, uniform, and ready to ship.  Unfortunately, all the nutrient potential of real milk fresh from a healthy cow is lost in this process.  Not only is the milk toxic from inhumane farming practices, but it is heated literally to death.  The final product is less nutritious, not more.  With pasteurization, outbreaks of disease are now distributed rapidly from large processing facilities and people forget that milk comes from cows, not from a store. 

Is Conventional Milk Even Safe for Calves?

Here is a rather disturbing publication out of New Mexico State University on feeding "waste" milk to dairy calves.  According to them, "waste milk" is milk not fit for human consumption because it comes from cows fed antibiotics (NOTE: from other sources, it looks like antibiotics ARE still present in conventional milk because they have a heck of a time trying to prevent their residues).  Never wanting to waste money, waste milk is fed to calves, who thereby inherit the antibiotic load.  The article cautions to not feed waste milk to meat animals because the toxins will store in their tissues.  But this is safe for young dairy cows who will give us their milk in the future?  How does that make sense?  Here is their telling precaution about pasteurizing waste milk:
Although pasteurization reduces the microbial load of waste milk, pasteurization is not sterilization. A heavy bacterial load in waste milk will not be eliminated completely by pasteurization. Also, pasteurization does not remove potential contamination from antibiotics in waste milk.
That really sounds like "an economical and nutritious source of liquid feed for young dairy calves" doesn't it?  And don't forget that this warning applies to our OWN pasteurized milk, especially from non-organic sources.  Quality matters!

Laundry List of Problems with Pasteurized Milk

Unfortunately, despite the extended shelf life, pasteurized milk is already on the out.  It's virgin soil to pathogens and without the protection of the beneficial bacteria that were killed right alongside any detrimental strands, pathogens are free to invade and have a field day.  The heat also denatures the whey proteins, turning pasteurized milk its characteristic white hue.  And the dead bacteria?  Still in there.  Yum!  

And NO, ultra pasteurization is NOT better than regular pasteurization despite the cool "ultra" tag.  In fact, the higher heat effects the amino acids, thereby diminishing some nutrient value.  Here is a great rundown of the nutrient costs of pasteurization (bullets added for emphasis):
  • Pasteurization also cuts the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. 50% of the Vitamin C is lost. High heat affects water soluble vitamins and less effective. How much less? Anywhere for 35-80%. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization.
  • Pasteurization also kills numerous beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. This is why the milk is fortified with vitamin D. It is also why Americans in the 20th century experienced high cholesterol like never before. 
  • Milk is a wonderful source of calcium, but pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals harder to absorb. One method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized is to test to make sure that phosphates have been completely removed. Phosphates are essential for the absorption of calcium. Uh oh.
Back in 2003, Dr. Mercola pulled together a sizable list of published studies finding fault with pasteurized milk.  Compared to raw milk, pasteurized milk led to a loss of vitamins, increased incidence of tooth decay, less benefit to growth and development, less resistance to disease, and less calcium availability.  How exactly is this beneficial?

Pathogen Playground

And don't think that pasteurization actually kills ALL the pathogens.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case.  Take Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.  Although there is no definitive cause or cure yet, a pathogen from cattle (and other ruminants) called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) creates a very similar condition in cattle as it might also create in humans.  In cattle, it's called Johne's Disease.  Johne's Disease is a fatal gastrointestinal disease that is contagious and may lie dormant in cattle without symptoms for months to years after infection.  The signs of infection are rapid weight loss and diarrhea, which sounds a lot like Crohn's Disease in humans.  Similarly, both have intestinal inflammation.  Since symptoms may be delayed after Johne's infection, the best prevention for dairy farmers is testing and only adding clean animals to the herd.  Plus, proper care of young animals when infection rate is highest is equally important and that means clean milk (NOT "waste" milk!) and a clean environment.  While Johne's looks a lot like Crohn's, MAP have not been found in all Crohn's patients and there is contention over whether or not the presence of MAP is just a side effect of an intestinal tract that is already out of microbial balance.  The current research shows many similarities between the two diseases, but no definitive link yet.  Still, the similarities are pretty obvious enough to take precautions if you have Crohn's.  One would be to limit your exposure to more MAP, which would benefit those suffering from Crohn's and healthy folks alike.  How do people get MAP?  Here are the primary sources:
  • Raw milk from MAP-infected dairy herds.
  • Ground beef originating from MAP-infected dairy cattle sold for slaughter.
  • Domestic water originating from surface sources vulnerable to runoff from MAP-infected farms.
  • Cuts of beef originating from MAP-infected beef cattle.
  • HTST pasteurized milk.
Yes, unfortunately MAP can survive pasteurization.  So how does this add to our discussion of pasteurization?  Well, for one: pasteurization doesn't protect you against everything, and two: conventional dairy relies on pasteurization instead of proper care and feeding of its animals to produce quality milk, so it's cows are more likely to have MAP infection than those producers who believe that healthy cows produce healthy milk.

How do you avoid your exposure to MAP?  Know the source of your meat and dairy and make sure it is clean.  This isn't so difficult if you buy grass-fed beef directly from a farmer (like Morris Grassfed in CA) who can answer questions about it's quality.  Same goes for dairy.  Good luck tracking down the purity of conventional milk, but if you find small suppliers, it's possible.  For example, despite the raw milk warning, raw milk producers like Organic Pastures can attest to the quality of their milk and work hard to keep it clean and pathogen free because there is so much backlash against raw milk.  Find more quality, local sources for meat and dairy at Eat Wild's extensive database.

What's Wrong with Homogenization?

Homogenization squeezes the milk through a fine filter to break down fat and keep it from separating out like the cream that rises to the top of raw milk.  Homogenization makes fat molecules smaller and smaller, which allows them to pass through the lining of your gut, transporting substances that shouldn't leave your digestive tract into your bloodstream superhighway.  Not cool.   One of those substances that shouldn't leave the digestive tract is an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, which plays a role in heart disease.  It's carried by homogenized milk fat into the bloodstream.  What other nasties sneak in this backdoor?

How Does Pasteurized and Homogenized Milk Compare with Raw Milk?

If you check out this colorful chart from Organic Pastures's website, you can plainly see the differences between raw milk and pasteurized, homogenized (to be concise, let's call it PH for pasteurized and homogenized) conventional and organic milk.  With conventional PH milk, there are additives and preservatives, in addition to the hormones, antibiotics, and genetically-modified, pesticide-sprayed grain feeds (whew! that's a mouthful!).  Even in organic PH milk the butterfat, vitamins, and protein need to be added back in and anything goes with the feed as long as it's organic (like the chart says, remember there are organic donuts, so "organic" does NOT mean healthy!).  Organic grains are just as unhealthy for cows as non-organic.  Cows evolved to eat grass.  Period.

The processing involved in producing PH milk leads to lactose intolerance among it's drinkers even in the organic milk because the enzyme to digest lactose has been destroyed through processing.  Hence, more people are allergic to conventional and organic PH milk than raw milk.

Finally, PH milk is NOT safer.  According to the chart, 31% of the time human pathogens are still found in PH milk!  Compare that to Organic Pastures's assertion that human pathogens "have never been found in RAW USA samples."

So do you really want to drink a processed, nutrient-poor, watery, white liquid potentially filled with pathogens, and definitely filled with dead bacteria, denatured proteins, and altered fat molecules?  Really sounds like it "does a body good" doesn't it?

What other choice do you have if you want to drink milk?  Go RAW!

Check back for our next installment about raw milk.  Hope this was an educational and eye-opening journey for you today!  I know it definitely was for me!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What To Drink Part 2: What's Wrong with Milk?

Here is our second installment in the series: What To Drink
Read the first part here: What's Wrong With Juice?

Milk has been the norm for a child's meal-time beverage for quite some time.  I know in my family we ALL drank milk with dinner.  And since fatphobia was (and still is for the misinformed) still the rage, our milk was the lowest percentage of fat still palatable.  For me, that was 1%.  I always looked upon skim milk with disgust as being cloudy water, but respected those who could sacrifice their sense of taste to drink it.  Skim milk was hardcore.  But do adults really need milk?  Do kids really need milk?

This is a highly debated topic amongst the paleo/primal community.  For many, nutrition is like religion and dairy is one of the saints.  Personal stories take either side of the debate: some being healed by dairy (notice it is raw dairy), others eliminating it from their diets for even better health.  

Let's dive in. 

Can You Be Healthy WITHOUT Milk?

Since milk is a given for most families, let's play devil's advocate.  Does anyone really need milk?  The common argument is over calcium.  If I don't drink milk, can I get enough calcium?  Paleo dieters, the lactose intolerant, and others who withhold dairy from their diets need to get their calcium from other food sources (fish, shellfish, and leafy greens).  It also helps if they and don't muck up their digestive tract's absorption by consuming grains or legumes, which contain phytates that bind to minerals like calcium and which carry an acidic load that leads to calcium loss.  

Can you be healthy without milk?  Yes, even kids can be healthy without milk, following a paleo diet.  Here is Robb Wolf's analysis of the paleo diet for kids.  His conclusion?  It is definitely more healthy than following the USDA guidelines AND you get enough nutrients that it looks like you are taking a nutritional supplement; the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) are blown out of the water!  

However, you might have noticed that calcium is below the RDA.  Before this alarms you, read how Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, explains that here.  Basically, your absorption of calcium is improved when you have a healthy gut, so no worries and no need to drink milk.   Leafy greens like brassica plants (ex. kale) have calcium we can absorb better than milk, and a paleo diet keeps the acids and bases in balance so you aren't leaching calcium from your bones.  In fact, the high protein in a paleo diet increases calcium absorption and builds bone rather than breaking it down.  Finally, as a low glycemic diet, the paleo diet controls insulin levels thereby avoiding hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin), which leads to urinary calcium loss.  

Cordain doesn't include dairy in his diet for numerous reasons, like the proteins most are allergic to, the inflammatory effect, the autoimmune disease risk, etc.  Here are the specifics from his blog's question and answer section:
  • Milk is a source of estrogens and dihydrotestosterone precursors, which can increase the risk of certain cancers and acne.
  • Milk increases IGF-1, and the IGF-1/IGFBP-3 ratio, and this increases the risk of certain cancers and acne--among other diseases--as explained by Dr. Cordain in his 2003 paper “Hyperinsulinemic diseases of civilization: more than just syndrome X” 
  • Milk contains insulin, and bovine insulin differs in only 3 amino acids from human insulin. This feature can increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes in genetically susceptible persons.
  • Betacellulin: is a hormone belonging to the EGF family of hormones. If it is confirmed that Betacellulin is able to enter circulation, then there is a very good possibility that it may increase the susceptibility of certain epithelial cancers.
  • Milk elevates insulin as much as white bread. Constantly elevating plasma insulin levels may lead to insulin resistance, which is at the root of several metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes or hypertension.
  • High calcium intake adversely affects zinc absorption, a key mineral in more than 300 enzymatic reactions.
  • Milk contains several allergenic proteins.
  • Dairy products, especially hard cheeses, yield a very high net acidic load which might lead to calcium and muscle loss and decrease growth hormone.
There's even more explanation here, also on his Paleo Diet Blog.  Here are the main points (see site for citations and much more depth):
1) Milk and fermented milk (yoghurt, for instance), despite having a low Glycemic Index and Load, elicit a very high insulin response and this has been shown repeatedly in intervention studies.   
2) Cow’s milk appears to be involved in certain Autoimmune diseases (AD):
  •  Type 1 Diabetes 
  • Multiple Sclerosis  
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 
  • Crohn's disease 
  • Sjögren's syndrome 
  • IgA nephropathy 
  • Behçet's disease 
  • Celiac Disease. 
3) Hormones in Milk:  
Here’s a short list of some hormones present in cow’s milk that could be problematic for humans:
  • Insulin
  • IGF-1
  • Betacellulin (BTC)
  • Estrogens (particularly Estrone Sulfate)
  • Precursors of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
4) Milk has a very high calcium/magnesium ratio and may contribute to some micronutrient imbalances. 
Unfortunately, there is no comparison of Cordain's list of traits between raw milk and conventional pasteurized milk, so we don't know how much of a difference raw milk can make.  As you will read in our next installment, raw milk makes all the difference in the quality and potential nutrition of the milk. 

So now you know the argument against dairy.  Personally, I play with dairy in my diet, adding in quality sources and indulgences now and then, and I routinely use raw, grass-fed butter.  But I have tried the N=1 dose and response test after eliminating dairy from my diet, so I know my limitations and that I definitely do have a reaction to dairy, some forms more than others.  We'll talk more about that in our next installment, which answers the question: Can You Be Healthy WITH Milk?

Bottom line: You don't NEED milk to be healthy, even as a kid AS LONG AS you are eating your vegetables and a healthy, balanced diet of meat (and fat) and veggies (and some fruit).  How counter-culture is that?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunshine of Your Love Part 3: What is e-D-ible?

This is the third installment in our series about the sun.  For context, please read 
Sunshine of Your Love Part 1: Safely Getting What You Need and 
Sunshine of Your Love Part 2: The D Factor.  

After our last discussion of the inherent problems with getting your vitamin D from the sun alone, we were left with the question: So where can we get the vitamin D we need?  Today, let's talk food.  

Getting Your Vitamin D From Food

The vitamin D humans (and all animals) produce from a chemical reaction in our skin under UVB rays is D3, in the form of cholecalciferol, the most readily usable form by our bodies.  If we eat animals, we get the same form of vitamin D that we make ourselves.  Another form, vitamin D2, is produced by plants and fungi, but you're unlikely to ingest much of it when you eat the plant or fungus.  Special treatment of plants and fungus can extract the vitamin D for use in fortified foods and supplementation.  However,  since plants and animals are vastly different creatures down to the cellular level, their form of vitamin D isn't an equivalent to ours.  That is why if you are outsourcing your vitamin D needs, you must choose vitamin D from animal sources.  We'll discuss this more below under Fortified Foods: The Right Stuff.  Thus, our sources for vitamin D from food are: animals or fortified foods.

Fortified Foods: Frankenfoods

You've seen them before.  Cartons of milk and orange juice, containers of yogurt and margarine, and boxes of breakfast cereal all telling us they are a source of vitamin D.  On the surface, the game plan seems solid.  These are foods built from the ground up, combining numerous distilled ingredients to craft a whole new food novel to any creature in existence.  In theory, you would think the builders have your best interests in mind: they have the power to create super-nutritious super-foods.

For example, Total Cereal tells us they offer "100% Nutrition" by giving us 100% of the Daily Value of 12 vitamins and minerals.  How responsible of them!  One hitch: sugar is their number two ingredient and corn syrup, number three.  In each 3/4 cup serving, I repeat: 3/4 cup serving, there are 5 grams of sugar, or just over one teaspoon or sugar packet.  Exactly how does that contribute to total nutrition?

Unfortunately, the arms race in the processed food industry isn't to create a more nutritious product giving lasting health benefits; it's for profit and convenience (which leads to more profit).  The old saying rings true once more: 'You can have it cheap, you can have it good, or you can have it fast.  Choose two.'  Unfortunately, high quality, nutritional "goodness" has been sacrificed for cheap, fast food.

Just browsing through your average supermarket would make our ancestors weep.  Where the hell is the real food?  Oh yeah, tucked away on the periphery are the meats, fruit, and veggies, outliers of the industrial complex.  Even these aren't immune to commodification as we reconfigure and patent genetic codes creating genetically modified organisms, industrialize even "organic" farming, and feed waste products and surplus into animal "products" through CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, also known as factory farms) producing meat instead of raising animals.  Food is being redefined away from its biological roots and into products that can be produced, refined, and commodified.    

Processed foods, a multitude of refined parts compressed into one whole, are less than ideal for many reasons.  One, they're made to sell.  Profit comes before any altruistic desires for the betterment of human health.  Perhaps this isn't true for every product out there, but certainly most.  Tell me how these products were created to nourish us: pancake batter in an aerosol can, fruit-flavored products without any real fruit, or meat substitutes with ingredient lists longer and more unpronounceable than those of beauty products, just to name a few.  To show just how abhorrent the whole creation of a food marketed as "healthy" really is, take the following passage from The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Let's play, What Am I?
...four cents' worth of commodity corn (or some other equally cheap grain) transformed into four dollars' worth of processed food.  What an alchemy!  Yet it is performed straightforwardly enough: by taking several of the output streams issuing from a wet mill (corn meal, corn starch, corn sweetener, as well as a handful of tinier chemical fractions) and then assembling them into an attractively novel form.  Further value is added in the form of color and taste, then branding and packaging.  Oh yes, and vitamins and minerals, which are added to give the product a sheen of healthfulness and to replace the nutrients that are lost whenever whole foods are processed.
So, what am I?  See the answer at the end of this post.  And even if you are okay with the whole frankenfood thing, there are other pitfalls to fortified foods.  Does it even give you what you need?  Is it even worth it?  Let's explore dairy, next.    

Fortified Foods: Does Milk Really Do a Body Good?

What about dairy products?  Although processed, they are closer to the source--their ingredient lists are short.  Can't I get my vitamin D from milk like the ads tell me?  No, because:
1.  Milk and dairy products aren't for everyone.  You can be healthy without them in your diet.
2.  Milk alone doesn't have the amount of vitamin D you need even when it's fortified.
3.  Skim milk doesn't have the fat you need to absorb vitamin D.  
4.  The trans fat in margarine totally gunks up the process of utilizing vitamin D.    

One, dairy may not "do a body good," at least not for every body.  There is definitely some debate about the healthiness of milk.  See Mark's Daily Apple for a good summary.  We'll hit that one another day, but for now, read up on why The Paleo Diet doesn't like dairy.  For more depth, check out founder Dr. Loren Cordain's argument at his website.  For as many opponents, there are just as many proponents of full-fat dairy like PaNu, The Weston A. Price Foundation,  The Heart Scan Blog, and Whole Health Source, to only name a few.  For me, I'll probably continue to partake in high fat dairy like butter and cream and try to mininmize my dairy that isn't full fat, raw, and grassfed.  Although I know dairy has many benefits, it also has some detriments I've seen firsthand in my N=1 experiments: I get plegmy, wake up congested, get a runny nose, and sometimes get a sore throat.  And that is dairy alone--no grains to confound these results.  The severity depends on the quantity, source, and form of dairy.  Definitely something is at work here.  And remember, on a paleo-style diet you are absorbing your calcium from your veggies (because a clean digestive system is an efficient one) and your vitamin D from other sources we'll discuss below.  So no one NEEDS milk to survive, except breastfeeding babies.  Just saying.

Okay, dairy is a personal choice, but as our second problem can it even provide the vitamin D you need?  This discussion of Vitamin D and Milk from a UC Riverside professor that we cited in our first installment is a good resource to answer this question.
Milk from all lactating animals, including humans, contains vitamin D3 that has been produced photochemically from 7-dehydrocholesterol present in the skin. In cow's milk it has been determined that the concentration of vitamin D3 in milk provided by the cow is roughly 35-70 International Units per quart as determined via biological assay and approximately 50-80 International Units as determined by modern chemical mass spectrometric procedures. However these are rather low levels of vitamin D3 from the perspective of providing the 200-400 IU per day as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. 
And remember, that 200-400 IU recommendation is way below that suggested by The Vitamin D Council to achieve 50-80 ng/mL blood levels.  They say to take 5k daily and recheck in 2-3 months.  Since milk isn't a great source for vitamin D naturally, it's fortified.  According to the article cited above, every quart is fortified with 400 IU of vitamin D.  So to drink your 5K a day, that would be 12 and a half quarts a day.  Even a more conservative dosage of 1k a day would be two and a half quarts.  Thirsty?  

Another problem, we've been told fat is bad for us, so we switched to heart-healthy skim.  But on this blog we've time and again taken skim milk to task for not containing the healthiest part: the fat!  Fat is where the vitamin D and other vitamins, essential fatty acids, and important constituents reside.  Fat is necessary for absorption of fat soluble vitamins like...say it with me now...Vitamin D!  And other forms of commercial milk aren't off the hook even if they DO contain fat because they are pasteurized and homogenized.  There is a LOT to say about these processes and how they destroy everything sacred about milk, so read the Weston Price Foundation's treatise: Milk: It Does a Body Good?  

Does that mean our precious, fortified, non-butter, saving-us-from-the-evils-of-saturated-fat spread (also known as margarine) is out too?  Um, YES.  Besides being a processed product made from an array of chemicals, margarine is mostly trans fat (trans fatty acids are made from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils and there is little argument about them NOT being the least bit healthy).  And why is trans fat a problem specifically with vitamin D fortification?  It interferes with the conversion of vitamin D into calcidiol in the liver.  Maybe the producers know it screws up the process, so they are just hedging their bets and dumping more vitamin D in there to hopefully balance it all out.  And you would think that with all the effort we put into refining and producing products based on their constituent parts that we could actually craft healthy products.  Silly me, it's a sci-fi pipe dream to think that food production is out to meet our nutritional needs.  Guess I'll have to wait for Asimov's yeast products and Star Trek's replicators.... Sigh.  

Fortified Foods: The Right Stuff

But other foods are fortified besides dairy, you say?  How about heart-healthy OJ fortified with calcium and vitamin D?  Even if everything seems "right" with vitamin D-fortified foods, other problems emerge.  Take that fortified OJ.  According to Minute Maid, it's just juice, calcium sources, and vitamin D3 (good for them!).  What's the problem?  The juice.  What's wrong with juice?  The fact that in 250ml or ONE cup there are 120 calories, 28g of carbohydrate (25 of which is sugar), and NO satiating fiber.  That's three Zone blocks right there and it's certainly NOT a low glycemic food.  One cup of orange juice is over 50 times the calories of an orange.  While it is difficult to overeat fruit because of their fibrous bulk, it's effortless to down a big glass of OJ and feel like you are doing your body good.  And good luck feeling full; without significant protein, any fat, or any fiber, you're just fanning the flames.  The worst part?  That sugar load, calories and all, isn't so different from soda.  In fact, 240ml of Coca-Cola Classic is only 96 calories and 27g of carbohydrate/sugar.  Are those vitamins and minerals in fortified OJ really enough to make it healthier?  For more on why juice is a no-go, please read my article: Just Say Juice?

Another pitfall?  Fortification with vitamin D often involves the form vitamin D2, which comes from plants or fungi.  One catch, plants/fungi are entirely different beings than animals.  Our bodies are wired very differently, down to the cellular level (cell walls in plants and cell membranes in animals are quite different).  Plant vitamin D, D2, is not the same as our vitamin D, D3, so it is much less efficient to use the plant form to get what we need.  This study calls for an end to vitamin D2 fortification and supplementation because it is NOT an equivalent to D3.  The authors state that vitamin D2 is NOT as effective at raising vitamin D levels, has a shorter shelf life, may lead to incorrect circulating vitamin D measurements, and is metabolized differently, thereby it doesn't assume the same functions as vitamin D3.  Dr. Davis from The Heart Scan Blog concurs.  He discusses how D2 is a cheaper supplement than D3, but it pales in comparison to the effectiveness of D3 in the body.  

Insult to injury?  Even if producers fortify foods with the most bioavailable form of vitamin D, D3, the source is up for grabs.  Just because they are fortifying cow's milk, doesn't mean that added D3 is from a cow.  It could be from any animal used to make that source.  There are NO requirements to identify the source of ingredients like vitamin D.  Isn't that a little disturbing?

Animal Sources of Vitamin D

So where can you get natural animal sources of vitamin D?  Fish, for one.  Salmon, sardines, and shrimp are very good to excellent sources according to The World's Healthiest Foods (a nutritional database) and eggs follow close behind (and yes, you have to eat the yolk, which contains all the nutritional goodness like the vitamin D!).  That website also lists vitamin D-fortified cow's milk as a very good source, but we are going for whole foods, not processed, and I already discussed it's detriments above.  

Meat quality matters.  Wild-caught fish has significantly more vitamin D than non-organic farm-raised, which lends more evidence to support our preference for sustainable wild-caught, grass-fed, and pasture-raised sources of meat.  For more information on sustainable fish, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list.  The Weston Price Foundation article further elaborates that the plankton and other fish in the diets of the fish we eat provide their vitamin D (that they cannot synthesize it from the sun themselves).  Thus, farm-raised fish on a processed (usually grain-based) diet are not getting the dietary vitamin D to become as rich a source as their wild brethren.  Unless, of course, we fortify their grain-based diet, which leads us back around to the argument above: we CANNOT make better foods than those found in nature.  The Weston Price Foundation article also mentions that we aren't even exploiting the real WHOLE foods that contain the most vitamin D, like the organ meats, skin, fat, and insects that are uncommon modern foods. 

Unfortunately, getting the vitamin D you need is NOT as simple as just eating your fill of fish.  The quantity of vitamin D in different foods varies.  It even varies for the SAME foods!  Argh!  For instance, mackerel cooked 3 to 3.5oz is 388 IU here (for 3oz) and 345 IU here (for 3.5oz).  Either way, even the best food sources (one 3-4 oz serving of salmon with up to 794 IU, although most charts have it closer to 400 IU) are a drop in the bucket for what you need.  And if what I have read is right, we do NOT want to listen to the daily recommended values given on those sites (400 IU a day, are you serious?).  Remember, we are shooting for 5000 IU a day according to The Vitamin D Council.  But the real number you need depends entirely upon your own vitamin D level, so get checked!  The Vitamin D Council recommends 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.  Taking the average 400IU in 4oz of the best food source (salmon), that would take 12 and half servings a day.  Hungry?

Additionally, there is also a whole can of worms to explore with vitamin D's cofactors (read more about them at the Vitamin D Council): those vitamins and minerals necessary for it to do it's many jobs.  Any deficiencies and you're screwed.  This is more detail than we can handle today, so it suffices to say that you should eat REAL FOOD and make sure your diet is full of variety and rich sources of vitamins and minerals, including sustainable wild-caught fish, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, grass-fed meat, and local and seasonal vegetables, fruit, and nuts.  

And what about getting the vitamin D you need?  Well, that question has not been answered yet.  I guess it's to be continued:

Sunshine of Your Love Part 4: Supplementation

General references used extensively (in addition to those cited above):
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The World's Healthiest Foods: Vitamin D
Weston Price Foundation's article: The Miracle of Vitamin D and Milk: It Does a Body Good?

Answer to What Am I: breakfast cereal.  Still think it's a healthy start to your day?