Why Do We Drink Cow’s Milk?


Maybe we should just cut out the middleman and go right to the source!

A year ago, I took a trip to Thailand. It was a beautiful country full of amazing sights, friendly people and delicious but interesting food. From chicken feet to red ants with their eggs to duck mouths, much of the Thai food we encountered seemed quite adventurous.

So when I asked for a glass of milk, I was surprised by the response. Many of the Thai waiters and waitresses seemed repulsed by my request. This caused a good deal of introspection on my part, and – after careful consideration – I realized that it’s actually really strange that we drink the breast milk of cows. And moreover, why don’t we drink the mammary gland secretions from other animals like horses or even humans?

Milk is weird. Of course, just because milk is weird, it doesn’t mean that it’s unhealthy or that we shouldn’t drink it. So let’s dig deeper.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Harvard professor David Ludwig questions the role of milk in our diets. Indeed, the government recommends three servings of milk per day to promote a healthy lifestyle – but is that really necessary, wise or even true?

It’s true that milk is rich in calcium, vitamin D and has some protein. But that’s not all you’re getting. Most people are surprised by the amount of sugar in milk. A cup of 1% milk, for example, has 13 grams of sugar. It’s not added sugar, but still sugar nonetheless. Most guidelines recommend no more than 40 – 50 grams of sugar per day, and three servings of skim milk would almost reach that limit. And we’ve all seen the link between sugary drinks and obesity demonstrated time and time again.

Ludwig also cites a lack of evidence that reduced fat milks are any less likely to result in weight gain or other health outcomes when compared to whole milk. In fact, Ludwig speculates that when individuals drink reduced fat milk, they feel less full – and then consume more calories in other food. For example, if you’re drinking a glass of whole milk, one cookie may be sufficient. But if you’re drinking a glass of reduced fat milk, you feel less satisfied and may reach for a second cookie.

Yes, milk has some important nutrients – but it’s also entirely possible to get those nutrients from other foods and without all that sugar. And there are plenty of delicious and rich non-dairy alternatives that can serve as healthier replacements to dairy milk.

Questioning what we eat is a good thing and it’s important to occasionally take a few steps back from our diet for examination. While milk may not be as unhealthy as cake, candy or a glass of Coca Cola, it’s also not necessarily the wisest nutritional choice.

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  1. Probably the only thing stranger than cow’s breast milk is moldy cow’s breast milk – which we like to call cheese. If only moldy cow’s breast milk wasn’t so delicious. 🙂

    • Hey Davey Wavey, thanks for the interesting facts on milk. I have wondered why we drink milk, eat eggs, etc… It’s one of those things not many people really think about. And the facts on skim milk?!?! Wow, I really haven’t thought about it, but I guess if you drink skim and go to half n half, I guess that’s where it shows how less filling it is (btw, I love cookies 😛 lol). I’m interested in many of your topics, and after seeing your first web cast, giving nutritional facts and tips, I have been able to maintain a healthy weight and have actually went from a size 34 pant to size 30. I’ll always be a fan, and thank you for your professional advice and opinions.

  2. I’ve been saying this for a while now and I’m so glad someone else is also shouting it. Thanks!

  3. Ed Maltais says:

    ’ve been saying this for a while now too. Commercial Milk is loaded with sugar, and sometimes added additional sugars, plus let’s not mention added synthetic hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

  4. Stephen says:

    But what about milk as a cheap protein? Whey protein, isolates and in many other forms, are found in many commercial protein shakes. Why not skip the commercialization and go right to the udder?

    And we do drink human breast milk, as babies and sometimes as adults. New York City just opened up its first human milk ice cream parlor a few months ago.

  5. Chris C says:

    13 grams of sugar, that shocked me. That, plus my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios… no wonder I can’t burn of the tummy fat.. lol

  6. I mean if we talk about milk, we could also add whey protein. It doesn’t have the fat but still comes from cows’ milk…
    Cow milk has a high GI and makes you easily hungry…
    There are plenty of ways to get your calcium and vitamin D, without going dairy or vitamin supplements…

  7. Matthew Muss says:

    Nice , subject to talk about Dave Wavey , I don’t Drink dairy Milk because i have Lactose Intolerance , that is very common , most people has Lactose allergy or Intolerance , but people just need to realize both things are not the same. And I agree with you , everyone can find healthier options than milk from cows .

  8. I’m strongly against milk consumption by adults. The amount of pus the USDA’s standard allows is 750 million pus cells per liter. Want to guess how much our industrial milk supply regularly goes over that?

    Cow’s milk is designed to cause massive growth—from 60 pounds to a 600 pounds in less than a year for a cow. Human milk could never support that kind of growth.

    The calcium in leafy greens is absorbed much better than from cow’s milk. And there’s a good bit of evidence that milk actually causes calcium depletion in the bones because of the high protein content. Ask yourself why is it that osteoporosis is only a problem in cultures that drink milk? The multi-billion dollar dairy industry does not want you to answer that.

    Not to mention the disturbing antibiotics, hormones, etc fed to dairy cattle to try to keep a handle on the E. Coli, listeria, salmonella, staphylococci, tuberculosis, bovine leukemia viruses, and bovine AIDS viruses our industrial dairy system promotes in cattle.

    We really should not be drinking cow’s milk or eating the products made from it.

  9. But it’s delicious!

  10. Marc Chewy says:

    after what andrew says… i am sticking to no-cow… namaste~

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  12. Russell says:


    As much as I enjoy your videos and read some of your articles, I think that if you’re going to publicly take a side on such a central food/foodgroup, then you should cite more than one article, particularly if you are going to deem it ‘unhealthy’. Humans have been drinking milk for thousands of years, and the obesity ‘epidemic’ surely is not a result of increased milk consumption?

    Whilst there are studies currently investigating the fat absorption as affected by calcium soap formation, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t substantial conclusive evidence to start preaching “full fat is the way to go”, though the satiety of fat is a valid point to make.

    The protein content of milk is not substantial enough to increase calcium output greater than the calcium content in any given quantity, let alone to encourage further bone demineralisation. And to be concerned about the effect of protein, you would have to be conscious about the amount of protein you are consuming with every source of calcium you eat.

    Whilst we are aware of the benefits from calcium, vitamin D, B1 etc, there is still much to learn about many foods, milk included and the other nutrients not yet understood. To exclude a food we have been consuming for thousands of years based on sugar restrictions seems a little ludicrous to me.

    • Just because something is old… Does not make it alright. There are a lot of great studies compiled together on this milk topic. Visit nutritionfacts.org and watch! Pending all of the back and forth on health topics, this has been a staple for myself as it is not for profit and all studies are reviewed to weed out the questionable sources and benefactors.

  13. Milk is a great debate. I have heard arguments for not drinking milk at all. I have heard arguments for drinking a gallon of milk a day. It seems to me to be more natural than other drinks, however I think it needs to be consumed in moderation. Great topic and depate.

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