Dairy & Your Health

Dairy & Your Health

Jump to: Kids | Weight Gain | Environmental Impact | Contaminants

We all grew up drinking milk and were told how important it was to our good health. However, when one looks closely at the scientific literature, it becomes clear that milk is nothing like the perfect food it’s been marketed as. Not only is the research supporting the relationship between milk and bone health sketchy, a surprising number of additional health concerns are associated with milk consumption. Moreover, unbeknownst to most people, the production of milk has serious environmental and animal welfare impacts worthy of closer examination.

Listed below are a few highlights from the book. Visit the Resources section for additional information on these topics.


“Cow’s milk allergy is the most common food sensitivity issue confronting pediatricians today.”
– Pediatric Annals

Infants and children fed cow’s milk are more likely to suffer from colic, constipation, intestinal bleeding, iron deficiency anemia, ear infections, and weight problems, and are at greater risk of developing Type I diabetes.

Weight Gain

The largest study of its kind, published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reviewed more than 12,000 children aged nine to fourteen from every state in America. It found that the more milk the children drank, the fatter they became — even if they followed the current federal recommendation of three daily servings.

Environmental Impact

The California Farm Bureau Federation reported that when all dairy farming and milk processing water needs are taken into consideration, 48.3 gallons of water are used to produce one eight-ounce glass of milk.

Methane Gas
Many people will be surprised to learn methane gas is twenty-three times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Methane is the gas released by the flatulence and belches of beef and dairy cattle.

According to Michael Abberton of the British Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, an average dairy cow will release between one and two hundred liters of methane a day.

Cows in the United States produce an estimated hundred million tons of methane gas annually, which represents about 20 percent of the country’s total annual emissions of the gas.

The average dairy cow produces 120 pounds of manure every day. A small dairy farm of two hundred cows can produce as much waste as a city of ten thousand people.

According to a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry study, the quantity of urine and manure that California’s dairy herds produce annually is equivalent to the waste produced by a city of twenty-one million people.

An EPA study estimated that in total, US dairy cows produce 54 billion pounds of manure annually. That’s over two-and-a half times the amount produced by humans.

Contaminants in Milk

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in routine samplings milk is shown to be contaminated with a variety of pesticide residues including carcinogens, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxicants, and suspected hormone disruptors.

For a comprehensive list of detected pesticides and their effects, please visit this What’s On My Food.

Perchlorate is the explosive ingredient in the fuel that propels missiles, rockets, and fireworks. Exposure to perchlorate may contribute to motor-skill defects, I.Q. deficit, and mental retardation in children, and may cause cancer.

The FDA reports that perchlorate has been detected in 217 of 232 samples of milk derived from supermarkets in fifteen states, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state.

Dioxin is a byproduct released into the environment during certain manufacturing processes including the production of certain pesticides, chlorine-containing chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and the chlorine bleaching of wood pulp to make paper products. Other major sources of dioxin are waste incinerators that burn plastic, paper, and chlorine-containing medical waste.

Dr. Arnold Schecter, a medical expert on dioxin and an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), has said even tiny amounts of dioxin have been shown to result in nervous system and liver damage. Dietary exposure to dioxin from milk is second only to that from beef consumption.