Is Milk Bad For You? A Frightening Look

milk splash on blue background

The power of suggestion through marketing materials for the dairy industry is one fit for case studies at business schools. Do you believe that milk is the best source of calcium? Do you believe that your arms might randomly tear from your body if you do not drink enough milk? Is milk bad for you and reversing your diabetes? Are you under the impression that low-fat milk is healthier for you and will help you lose weight? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you have been successfully manipulated that dairy is good for you, courtesy of the Dairy Management, Inc and the dairy lobby to our federal government. Eliminating all dairy from your diet can help you lose weight. Our meal plan uses minimal amounts of dairy. Dropping several pounds from your body weight greatly reduces the effects of diabetes and can lead to a reversal of this metabolic syndrome.


binary data representing studies on the topic is milk bad for you.

The Dairy Management Inc has weak data on the importance of drinking milk. Their strong and clever advertising campaigns are just to promote the sales of milk.



The claims that the dairy industry make through clever advertising are rarely backed up by any scientific studies. The industry funded studies that occasionally surface on nutritional benefits have biases heavily in their favor. This makes sense since the dairy industry is strongly concerned with selling as much of its product as possible. The “Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI) is funded by America’s nearly 47000 dairy farmers, as well as dairy importers” and was “created to help increase sales and demand for dairy products.” The above verbiage was taken directly from their website. DMI has an approximate annual budget of $140 million and that much money buys a lot of catchy prime-time advertising. They are not an independent agency for conducting nutritional research for the betterment of humanity, nor milk nutrition, but rather an organization driven by its capitalistic endeavors of increasing sales through marketing.

On the federal government level, our nutritional guidelines are heavily influenced by special interest lobbyists. Sadly, this is the case for many topics in Washington DC. The dairy lobby spends over $6 million annually to influence public policy. This behavior presents a clear conflict of interest when the companies looking to profit the most from dairy sales get to write our nation’s nutritional guidelines. They are in no way qualified to tell us is milk bad for you. Dr Walter Willett, the Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, had some choice words to say about the USDA’s revised nutritional guidelines:

Also, the recommendation for three servings of milk per day is not justified and is likely to cause harm to some people. The primary justification is bone health and reduction of fractures. However, prospective studies and randomized trials have consistently shown no relation between milk intake and risk of fractures. On the other hand, many studies have shown a relation between high milk intake and risk of fatal or metastatic prostate cancer, and this can be explained by the fact that milk intake increases blood levels of IGF-1, a growth-promoting hormone. The justification for drinking three glasses of milk per day on the basis of increasing potassium intake is also not valid as the extra calories, even with low-fat milk, would easily counterbalance the benefit of the extra potassium. Also, the recommendation for people of all ages to drink three servings of milk per day is very radical and would double dairy production if adopted; this would have huge environmental impacts that would need to be considered. –Dr Walter Willett, the Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, at Harvard University’s School of Public Health

To get an unbiased perspective on milk and dairy it’s helpful to dig into some past research studies. One study on adolescents found that children who drank the most milk, put on the most weight. They continue to conclude “contrary to our hypotheses, dietary calcium and skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” Oops. The “conventional” wisdom on drinking low-fat milk is wronger than wrong. Dr Ludwig and Dr Walter Willett expressed a similar recommendation in this article. The belief that milk is good for strong bones does not stand up either. This study found no overall association between milk intake and bone fractures. Another study found the same conclusion. Do not believe everything that you hear on the television without conclusive evidence.


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Industrial Cow Milking Machine at Fair Oaks Farms

An Industrial Cow Milking Machine



Dairy has a clearly defined place in our culture. It is part of our nutritional status quo, so it goes against the grain to question its necessity for our species. Stepping back a bit from the gallons of low-fat milk on the shelves, it’s useful to think about this liquid in the scope of our mammalian world. Google defines milk as “an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.” All mammals use this dense energy source when their digestive tracts are too immature to chew or process solid foods. Once mammals are old enough, they are all weaned from their mothers’ milk and the activity of the enzyme to digest lactose is dramatically reduced. Humans are no different, in this sense, from whales or dogs or meerkats. So, why are we as a society drinking milk into our adulthood? And why are we drinking milk from a different mammal? No other mammals in the world show such confounding behavior as we do and we should question it as we ask is milk bad for you?

Numerous cultures in Asia and Africa barely consume milk. It’s simply not part of their culture’s diet. Their status quo is one without dairy farms and gallons of milk. China, Laos, Ghana, Togo, Cambodia, etc. consume less than 13 lbs per person per year. The US consumes about 160 lbs per person per year! That’s a lot of dairy and a lot of cows. It is completely possible to eat a healthy meal plan without drinking a drop of milk.

Another interesting subset of our population to look at are bodybuilders. They are usually the proverbial guinea pigs for health and diet, to varied results. For most male bodybuilders they are constantly trying to find affordable and effective ways to gain weight. One popular and effective tactic is GOMAD. It stands for Gallon Of Milk A Day. I get phlegm-y just thinking about it. For the same reason that body builders love to down milk, you should not. Milk encourages weight gain with low-fat, skim or full-fat types. Ditch the dairy to ditch some pounds.

Dairy is one of the main allergens that is actively avoided on this diabetic meal plan. In addition to dairy promoting weight gain, it comes with some potential side effects, too. Dairy can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, hives, runny nose, eczema, and many other non-pleasant conditions.

Dr Hyman has an excellent short video on milk:



The modern milk on our grocery store shelves has not escaped the pitfalls of large-scale food manufacturing. A while ago, ranchers and dairy farmers realized that their cattle would grow larger quicker if they fed grains to their animals instead of their normal diet of grass. Grains are much cheaper as feed when compared to pastures of healthy grass. Most of the beef and dairy in the US comes from such grain-fed cattle. This creates problems for the animals and for the consumer. Cows literally cannot stomach to eat grains and creates problems that require a constant slurry of antibiotics to resolve. Frankensteer, the documentary dives deep into these problems and is worth your time. When cows eat their natural food source grass, they benefit by living healthy lives and pass on the healthy micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids to you. The constant use of antibiotics and growth hormones that cattle receive get indirectly served to the consumer through milk, beef and cheese. The overuse of antibiotics in any format will undermine their effectiveness over time. Dairy farmers that inject their livestock with artificial growth hormones (rBST and/or rBGH) to increase their milk production put their consumers at risk. The early onset of puberty in children has been correlated to the excessive use of these hormones in livestock. Further research testing is needed to find a causal link. The use of hormones also increases the IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels in milk which has been linked to the increased risk of developing cancer. When we are asked “Is milk bad for you?” we always tell our valued subscribers that it mostly certainly is bad for reversing diabetes.

The problems continue for milk after it is captured from the cow. In the 1800’s the French scientist, Louis Pasteur, developed a technique of heating beer and wine to a temperature just high enough to neutralize the bacteria that caused these liquids to spoil. Pasteurization is the process named for this scientist and it was found to also work on milk to extend the shelf-life. Originally, it was meant as a short-term solution for dairy farms that lacked in cleanliness but was quickly adopted as a cheaper way to produce milk. The major drawbacks from pasteurization include killing off the good bacteria in milk and nearly eliminating the micronutrient content. It also changes the structure of the protein molecules to make it harder to digest and increases the IGF-1, promoting cancerous cell growth. Raw milk is sold un-pasteurized. In the US, it is hard to find raw milk for sale due to stiff regulations, but it is widely sold throughout Europe, Africa, India and Asia. In Europe, you can buy raw milk directly from vending machines. It does not have a shelf life as long as pasteurized milk, but buying in smaller quantities and consuming it quickly can avoid this problem. The opponents of raw milk claim that it can be dangerous to drink spoiled milk, but the reality is that a quick smell test can tell if it’s bad or not. This is a good case of the nose knows.


Cow On Grass meditating on the question is milk bad for you?

Not your mom, not your milk. Humans are the only mammal that drink milk from other mammals.



The list of reasons to avoid dairy are long, but thankfully there are some easier to digest options. Goat milk is one of the best alternatives to cow, if you can find it. It digests quicker and easier since the fat globules are smaller and the levels of lactose are much lower. Goat milk can be digested by humans in about 30 minutes vs 3 hours for cow milk. Lactose is a form of natural sugar (easy to spot since it ends in –ose) which can spike blood sugar levels so it is not good for diabetics, not to mention being the actual part of what forms a dairy intolerance. Goat milk drinkers can also benefit from getting higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and potassium, an important and necessary mineral.

Several non-animal types of “milk” are gaining shelf space at grocery stores these days. Healthier choices include coconut, hemp or almond milk. These all have labels that need to be read carefully since they all vary in how they are produced. The first thing to look for is the amount of sugar per servings. It should be low to zero. The unsweetened varieties are the best for diabetics. Double check the ingredient list to avoid sugar, honey, agave syrup, corn solids or any other added sugar. These sugars, even though they sound “natural”, can and will spike your blood sugar just as quicker as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

So Coconut creamer

Coffee drinkers that like cream have a reason to rejoice. This So Delicious® coconut milk creamer is a great alternative in your daily vice of caffeine. It mixes the best with coffee of any of the non-animal types of milk. While it does have some guar gum in it, the benefits of not consuming cow dairy trump the additives. I was skeptical at first, but now I cannot imagine a cup of coffee without it. This is great to keep in mind when asking if milk is bad for you.

The aisle of non-animal milk does have a few things to intentionally steer clear of. Soy milk can be heavily estrogenic due to the heavy processing it receives and can potentially increase the risk for cancer. Soy does not mix into coffee nor cooking well either. Rice milk should be avoided by diabetics for the same reasons as whole grain rice. It is a grain and will increase blood sugar levels. Some specific brands to avoid include Silk® Soymilk since it has MSG and evaporated cane juice (read: sugar), not to mention it uses a non-organic soy beans. Almond Breeze® almond milk should also be avoided since it also has cane juice and MSG.


Cheese low in lactose okay when asking is milk bad for you.

Goat cheese and other cheeses low in lactose are okay, in moderation.



All dairy will encourage weight gain and that’s working against your best interests. However, there are some forms of dairy that are less worse. Eating some dairy on an infrequent schedule (think: once per week at the most) can satisfy those with cravings for dairy. It’s helpful to keep dairy limited to your once-per-week cheat meal, if you are doing one.

Some cheese can fall into the “less worse” group for diabetics. The goat milk mentioned above can be made into goat cheese, sometimes called chevre, and easily found at Trader Joe’s. It is great on salads. There even exists a few types of cheese made from cow’s milk that are low in lactose. When these types of cheeses are being made, the majority of the lactose is drained off with the whey (<10mg/100g). If you have to reach for some cheese, choose these first:

  • Gruyere
  • Jarlsberg
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Grana Padano
  • Mature Cheddar Cheese

Fermented foods are seldom found in fast food nor the standard American diet. The fermentation process produces beneficial bacteria that can heal your inflamed digestive tract. One of the most familiar forms of fermented dairy is yogurt. Unfortunately, the food manufacturers have managed to make it a toxic food with additives, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Read the labels carefully. The best choices are usually the plain goat yogurt, organic, if available. When buying yogurt from cow sources, try to find one that comes from antibiotic and hormone (rBST and/or rBGH) free cows. Kefir is slowly gaining popularity. It is a type of fermented yogurt-like beverage originating in the mountains of Turkey. Sour cream is widely known in the US, but most people do not realize that it is a fermented food with healing properties. As with all dairy products, only try to buy those without hormones and antibiotics; organic is preferable when available.


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Has this article helped you learn more about whether milk is bad for you? If you enjoyed this article, others may also find it useful. If we’ve earned it, can we kindly ask that you share this article online or through email? A referral is the greatest compliment a customer can give a business and we thank you for helping us spread the good word to the millions who suffer from this troubling disease.


Diabetic Lifestyle Advocate


I am the resident Diabetic Lifestyle Advocate at Five Hour Diabetic. Here I debunk conventional thinking about nutrition and exercise. My purpose is to enable diabetics to take back control of their health. And make simple recipes that honestly don’t suck.

Photos by Fotolia and Flickr user: Chiot’s Run and Michael Kappel.