Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big Milk farms out PhDs to do their dirty work.

Big Milk's onslaught of advertisements designed to look like newspaper articles continued last week with this full page feature in Canwest papers.

I'm sure the Dairy Farmers of Canada were thrilled with Dr. Brian Roy, director of the Centre for Muscle Metabolism and Biophysics at Brock University, who happily perpetuated a dairy myth - that it magically helps with weight loss. Dr. Roy was quoted as saying,

"While it may seem surprising, milk can even help people lose weight. Studies report calcium rich diets can prove effective as a weight loss regime. Those studies have also shown diets rich in milk and milk products provide an extra boost to weight reduction."
Oh really Brian?

Even the meta-analysis penned by Dr. Susan Barr, milk industry stalwart, who according to comments in my blog recently told the UBC medical school class that lactose intolerance was exaggerated and that everyone should drink a glass of milk a day, in a dairy sponsored and paid for symposium concluded,
"the data available from randomized trials of dairy product or calcium supplementation provide little support for an effect in reducing body weight or fat mass."
Want to know who else doesn't think the data on dairy and weight loss are impressive? America's answer to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the National Dairy Council (the heavyweights responsible for the milk moustache and Got Milk? ad campaigns), who withdrew their assertion that drinking milk would help with weight loss when the Federal Trade Commission threatened them. Under the FTC's glare the Council stated they'd refrain from the ads,
"until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss"
That was in May 2007. Looking at Medline since May 2007 there has only been one study published that specifically looked at the effects of dairy consumption patterns on weight loss. That study's conclusion?
"Our results do not support the hypothesis that a higher dairy consumption protects against weight gain and development of metabolic disturbances in a Dutch elderly population."
So to summarize. Big Milk itself admitted to the Federal Trade Commission that to date the suggestion that dairy contributes to weight loss is preliminary at best - a point agreed upon by Dr. Susan Barr, and a point the vast majority of studies on dairy consumption and weight conclude is in fact false as they demonstrate no benefit, yet here we have an advertisement published in the Canadian Press that includes a statement by a misinformed professor that the industry itself knows isn't even remotely conclusively true.

I guess if pressed they could state that, "he said it, not us".

Like I said before, if you're a physician or a researcher and Big Milk comes a'knockin' don't answer the call and if you see an "article" about the benefits of Dairy that calls itself a "joint venture", remember it's just an advertisement and given Big Milk's track record in advertising, it should be read with tremendous skepticism.

(Brian if you're reading this I know you're partial to Zemel's research as you cite it a great deal in your review on chocolate milk as a recovery drink. To learn more about Zemel have a gander as the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's report on him and his patented, yes patented, research)

Barr SI (2003). Increased dairy product or calcium intake: is body weight or composition affected in humans? The Journal of nutrition, 133 (1) PMID: 12514301

Snijder, M., van Dam, R., Stehouwer, C., Hiddink, G., Heine, R., & Dekker, J. (2008). A Prospective Study of Dairy Consumption in Relation to Changes in Metabolic Risk Factors: The Hoorn Study Obesity, 16 (3), 706-709 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2007.93

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  1. Anonymous9:53 am

    How would you rate skim milk in tea, in coffee, on cereal and in cooking homemade soups and chowders?
    I use skim milk and figure I get protein and nutrients.
    Is all milk bad or is it the fat and and added sugar that's bad?
    (I avoid non-skim milk, chocolate milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream)

  2. Personally I too use skim milk as a condiment for coffee, cereal and cooking.

    Right now the state of the evidence would suggest that milk isn't magical. It would also sugest that it's not terribly harmful for you either (at least not in skim form - I'd be staying away from liquid chocolate bars like chocolate milk and the fat and calories associated with higher fat milks).

  3. Anonymous11:10 am

    I don't think there is anything wrong with 1% milk for those of us who think skim milk tastes too much like water and is, frankly, gross. The calorie difference is 20 calories and the fat difference is 2.5g. This is not a "diet-breaker" if you are only using it in coffee, cereal and/or cooking. Let's not pretend it is still the 90's where we are all terrified of a little fat.

    And milk and chocolate milk are excellent recovery drink alternatives to other sports drinks. Their carbohydrate to protein ratio is ideal for muscle re-fuelling after a workout.

  4. What are your thoughts on kids and milk? I'm no fan of Big Milk and buy only local, organic, pasteurized milk from pastured cows. Don't feel the need to drink much of it myself but for the slick of it I BYO to the barista to add to the morning macchiato. However, my 2.5-year-old son -- a picky eater -- likes milk and will readily drink it. No weight issues with either of us, but are there more nourishing alternatives for children?


  5. Anonymous3:37 pm

    What sort of doctor recommends that lactose-intolerant people drink a glass of milk a day?! The lactose-intolerant people I know would spend their life in the bathroom (in pain) if they did that.

  6. Heather,

    I'm not anti-milk, I'm anti deceptive, misrepresented, magical milk marketing and I'm anti high calorie milk (high from either sugar or fat).

    If your son loves milk and it's not sweetened or whole/2% I certainly wouldn't discourage him from drinking it.

  7. Anonymous6:39 pm

    While growing up, I was always battered with the idea that milk was good for me. I really, really enjoyed milked and thought it was good for me no matter what quantity I drank. It was not until one of my meetings with Dr.Freedhoff that I was made to understand the quantity of milk I was drinking in a year and the amount of sugar that I consumed. Up to that point, I would drink 4L of 1% milk in a three day period. Now, my maximum daily intake is 1.5-2 cups a day and it certainly has helped with my weight lost. When drinking milk, I never considered that I was drinking sugar. It is like everything in life, moderation is the key.

    Duane Leon

  8. Anonymous10:18 am

    Raw, unpasteurized dairy is actually very nutritious. Wise traditions have been consuming dairy for thousands of years. Raw milk is especially good for bones, muscles and overall health. It's the commercial milk, that fat free garbage and the plastic "cheese" products that people eat today that are detrimental to health. I'm a 29 year old female and I eat dairy with most of my meals but it's all raw, from grass fed cows. I'm healthy and slim and strong.

    Quality matters.