Monday, September 28, 2009

Got Milk?

I am not an expert in nutrition, and don't have any plans to become one. But since I have gotten involved with a nutritional supplement business I have tried to become better informed and educated on nutrition issues. Talk about drinking from a fire-hose! I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture on preventing and mitigating cancer through diet. The speaker was Susan Silberstein, Executive Director of the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education, and the talk focused on the important role that nutrition can play in cancer prevention and treatment. I am sure it was packed with useful and interesting information, but when I left the room an hour or so later all I remembered was the Powerpoint image of a milk carton with a skull and crossbones "poison" warning emblazoned on it.

Milk? Poison? Who knew?? Apparently a lot of people. And yet it was the first I had ever heard of milk and dairy products doing anything more than building strong teeth and bones. (If, that is, they are fortified with Vitamin D. But that's another story.) How could milk, literally the poster food for healthy eating, be bad for me? And if it was, how is it possible that I'd never heard anything about this before?

As hundreds of thousands of Americans literally die from what they eat each year (according to the WHO, as much as 60% of all cancers and 90% of diabetes cases are diet related), this is a perfect illustration of how difficult it can be to get reliable, unbiased, actionable nutrition information. On the one hand we have the $27B (2005) US dairy industry, various industry supported research organizations and the US Food and Drug Administration telling us everything is fine. On the other we hear the $14B (2005) US organic food industry, alternative wellness advocacy groups and numerous academic studies warning of the dangers of rBGH, IGF-1 and other scary sounding things found in milk.

Unless nutritional research is your career, and maybe even if it is, there is just too much conflicting information. It doesn't help that large segments of the nutrition industry are essentially unregulated. Or that nutritional labels are so intentionally misleading. If you can't trust milk, what can you trust?

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